Sunday, September 11, 2016

My Other 'Other' Garden

I'm almost always blogging about our home garden, with all of the troughs, the cramped front yard, the over-stuffed garden between the house and garage, and the backyard behind that.  A few times I've blogged about my 'other' garden at work, where I colonized a section outside of our Newark warehouse and made my own little version of the High Line, the famous public garden just outside of our Manhattan office.  I must confess that I have a third garden that I'm responsible for at my son's elementary school a couple blocks away.  Above is one side of the front border that we've been working on for a couple years.  Below is the other side.  The garden continues on the side of the building as well.

I have a real love/hate relationship with this garden as it's hot and dry, like all three of my gardens.  The expectation is that the PTA parents, with me as the chair of the gardening committee, will provide funds and volunteer hours to beautify the school grounds.  It works...mostly.  I love having an annual budget for plants and equipment, but I'm not great at gardening by committee.  I'm a dictator I guess, or to put it more kindly, I'd say that I have strong opinions.  I've always had help on the committee with the social parts of the garden like Facebook announcements about volunteering, organizing watering schedules, and such.  

The last couple years I've been trying to direct our plant purchasing to material that thrives in dry, hot conditions, because watering is a chore that few want to do while school is closed for the summer.  I've also tried to focus on plants that bloom in spring or fall, when the school is actually open.  This front border is planted with a mix of pre-existing Knock-Out roses, iris, lilies, barberry and juniper,  to which we've added miscanthus, pennisetum, various sedums, asters, mums, catmint, phlox, rudbeckia, coneflowers, Russian sage, bulbs, etc.  The list reads like a rogue's gallery of tough customers.

Right before school opened I redid the plantings in the pair of urns near the entrance.  The purple scaveola was left over from our spring scheme of pansies, ranunculus, and daffodils.  It loved the neglect of the dry summer.

The toughest part of this garden for me is still the fact that it's a public garden: plants often appear in it with no notice (but more often plants disappear), kids run through the beds in the elation of dismissal from the building, a lot of trash gets thrown into it, and the recently-retired school custodian would sometimes hack things back without conferring with anyone on the garden committee.  

It's definitely a labor of love.  When I get discouraged I remind myself that volunteering for the school garden is much more preferable to me than almost any other type of PTA activity available!

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