It’s rare that I run into GW gardeners who say they’re in it because they love gardening. More often than that I hear “It shows people who live in the suburbs that we can have beautiful gardens, courtyards, and patios in the heart of the city,” or “Creating urban gardens and participating in Garden Walk helps revitalize neighborhoods,” or “I need a quiet, secluded place to a) get away from it all, b) meditate, or c) drink with my friends."
(Most coyly say they like “relax “ in the garden; drinking is usually not directly mentioned. Though I did see a few emptys around. And one guy offered me a glass of wine at 10:30 a.m.)
Anyway, there is an extent to which I am down with this. Undoubtedly, creating attractive front yards improves the look of a neighborhood, and, indeed, may shame those who neglect their properties into cleaning up their acts. It is also certainly true that Garden Walk brings the suburbanites in—and I’ve seen many of them taking great interest in whatever “For Sale” signs they see along their way.
Where I stop playing along is when I see people pretty much forcing their neighbors to be on the walk, or signing them up without their knowledge. And though I appreciate the generosity and hard work of those who create gardens for others, I don’t see it happening on our block. To me, a garden will always be an individual thing; it should express your personality, aesthetic, likes, dislikes. (Another problem with the whole “native” thing. Wouldn’t everyone in a certain area be growing pretty much the same stuff? Boring.)
Gardening, like everything, is to some degree a political act. And the personal is political, like the sixties-era feminists used to say. But for me it will always be more about expression, creating an environment that expresses my aesthetic, and having fun messing around with plants.