To Usher in a New Era of Urban Agriculture
A Romanesque bed: welcome to the cathedral of soil.
In a presentation
last week at the Claremont Colleges I declared that a new era of gardening is upon us, that food production is making a cautious but steady return to our lives in the city. More and more people are rediscovering the pleasure of planting crops in their landscape with a real, tangible return. And they learn to love cooking with the fresher and superior yield from a well-tended home garden, delighted to host a transparent personal food supply right outside their kitchen window.
But to be granted a full re-invitation to the city, this new era of gardening calls for a reboot of gardening aesthetics. We need to uproot the cynical and condemning connotations of gardening. I suspect that many people assume of gardening that it must be sloppy, or counter-cultural, or Luddite, or hobbyist, that it is unkempt and if it is to be done, it necessarily belongs out of sight behind the shed in the side yard. Gardening is an after-thought if not a nuisance. How many legal battles have we seen lately over whether food production is an "appropriate" use of the landscape?
I want gardens front and center. Farmscape is about making a landscape out of food production, we sponsor bold, farm-forward landscaping. In this spirit, we need to build a new gardening aesthetic to break people's assumptions about how much can be grown in a garden, about how productive their own yard can be, about how "appropriate" gardening is for the city, about how beautiful and fulfilling it is to host a garden in the urban landscape. We need to turn stigma on its head... with art.
So I worked with an illustrator to mock-up some audacious, cosmopolitan-chic (dare I say haute?) garden beds. Bed designs to collapse people's mind's eye association with the word "garden," where they might picture a "grandma's garden" beside a bed of roses planted all in neat rows, or they might imagine "Uncle Steve's Experiment in Mad Maxian gridless living," a semi-maintained and half-conceived tangle out beside the bomb shelter.
No, these designs are not that. These beds are for the metropolis. Highly-productive, but self-aware, garden beds that are conscious of the full sweep of Civilization's past and future. Gardens that have read the classics and also the post-structuralists, they are big fans of David Finscher. Gardens that know that Mahler's sixth symphony is his best, but on weekend nights they listen to Glitch Hop. Gardens with a secret affection for Kanye West. Gardens thinking deeply about the Nash equilibrium as well as the plight of privacy after Facebook. Gardens pondering the fate of the American dream. Gardens that would breakdance, if only they had limbs. Above all, gardens that critique your underestimation of them. Behold:
A raised-bed garden as might be built by Antony Gaudi, fit for the landscape of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
And for my generation: a Super Mario Brothers bed to keep you pulling up turnips all winter. [Recommended planting for the pipe: Petey the variegated agave americana]
We at Farmscape welcome this new era of gardening, trowels in hand. Moving forward, I will try to play more with bed design and post more images like these.
Illustrations by Angela Vogt: http://angelavogt.com/