A special thank you to Tim Matsui for letting us use his photographs in this post.

My school, Colby College, had Jan Plan. Jan Plan was great. For one month in between semesters you could do just about anything you wanted as long as you learned something. You could take a class somewhere else, learn to play the guitar, or go on a school-sponsored trip to London to study theater.

One year I went on an Earthwatch trip to Montserrat in the West Indies. Originally it was supposed to be an architectural dig but hurricane Hugo put the kibosh on that, so Earthwatch turned the trip into a hurricane relief project and asked all who had signed up if we still wanted to go. We all did.

In the main town of Montserrat, Plymouth, there had been a very old tree that marked the unofficial town gathering spot. People would meet there during the day as they went along their daily routines and at night to socialize.

The hurricane demolished the tree but people still gathered around the spot where it had been. To them this was a social routine that was not going to end because the tree was gone.

The Pomegranate Center, founded in 1986 by artist and community organizer Milenko Matanovic, is dedicated to working with communities to create public gathering places. The people of the Pomegranate Center believe their, “… time tested approach to public space building creates a foundation for healthy community development and can be a critical first step in bringing communities together to work for a healthier, more sustainable future.”

Recently the Pomegranate center completed a project in Sumner, WA that turned an alleyway into a community space.

To the left is a picture of the alley before any work was done. Not very inviting or practical as a community space.

But with hard work from Pomegranate staff members and the community this alley was transformed into the beautiful space you see below.

But with hard work from Pomegranate staff members and the community this alley was transformed into the beautiful space you see here.

Redefine Your Idea Of Lawn

February 24, 2012

When I was working in Brooklyn a lot of my clients had young kids and many would say the same thing to me, ‘I want something low maintenance. I’d love to have a lawn for my kids and some roses.’ Let me explain why these things are mutually exclusive.

Read the rest of this entry »

On The Therapeutic Landscapes Network blog Naomi Sachs writes about Michelle Parkins, a veteran and self-proclaimed Army brat who wrote her Masters of Landscape Architecture thesis on the therapeutic value of gardens and gardening for veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and other combat related issues.

Michelle, in collaboration with Annie Kirk, created Therapeutic Gardens for Veterans. You can visit the group on Facebook and LinkedIn. You can also join ongoing discussions about therapeutic gardens at their Land8Lounge page.

For the full article, more information about Michelle and a link to her completed thesis plus a beautiful photograph she took herself go here.

CInder Block Vertical Wall Planter

THE ONCE A WEEK POST FOR FEBRUARY 22 2012

I found this Vertical Wall on Urban Garden‘s site and chose it for the first Once a Week post because, well, not only do I love it, but it is made from cinder blocks which can often be found at construction sites; it is easy to build; won’t cost a fortune and is cool looking but not so hip it will make the rest of your garden look immediately out dated.

Zac Benson built the wall (and took the beautiful photographs of it) in his California home. He is a succulent collector and felt this would be a great way to display them.

You can read the full article here which has instructions on how to build it but it’s not that difficult. Plus, with this design you can start small and add on; either up or out.

Victory garden poster, World War II

In an interview on Garden Rant, Michelle Owens talks to David Wolfe, a plant scientist and  expert on climate change at Cornell University.

Wolfe brings up a point which I thought was very interesting; Victory Gardens as a litmus test for climate change.

During World Wars I and II people planted vegetable gardens to supplement their food supply and help ensure troops would have enough to eat. The smallest spaces were used to grow food. People grew lettuce on their windowsills. The gardens were truly a country wide effort.

You can read the entire Garden Rant interview here but the part I found really interesting was this:

Q:  In The New American Landscape, you recommend “cautious exploration” with less hardy plants on the part of gardeners.  Why not wild experimentation? 

A: Actually, gardeners can lead the way here, figuring out how we can take advantage of the opportunities offered by a warming climate, because it’s not their entire livelihood at stake, as with farmers.  Maybe we need Victory Gardens in a new context, that of climate change.

I think this is a wonderful idea. A lot of people think you need a good size suburban backyard to have a vegetable garden that will give you anything substantial. To that I say three things. One, Pshaw. Two, Not true. You can grow more than you think in less space than you thought possible. And three even if you only get four tomatoes and two cucumbers that’s four tomatoes and two cucumbers more than you would have gotten if you hadn’t had a garden at all. And let me tell you you haven’t REALLY had a tomato until you have had a tomato straight from the garden.

One way to ease into a Victory Garden is to add some edibles into your ornamental garden. Here are two sweet potato vines planted in a small raised bed around a Honeysuckle shrub. Most of the Sweet potato vines with pretty foliage don’t produce potatoes but these do. And they are tasty.

Plus remember my post about Living Walls? You can do that with edibles as well as ornamental plants. At Woolypocket you can buy products to create a Living Wall of vegetables, herbs, ornamentals or any combination thereof.

Urban Gardens also has some very interesting and sophisticated Living Walls you can take a look at here. There is one with lettuce and strawberries.

As far as figuring out where to begin with your new Victory Garden there are a number of books dedicated to vegetable gardening in small spaces. Two of my favorites are Joy Larckom’s Creative Vegetable Gardening and Designing the New Kitchen Garden by Jennifer R. Bartley.

Joy Larckom is a Garden Writer and Horticulturalist. She is a master at creating interesting and unique looks for an edible garden. The way she combines different colors, textures, vegetables, herbs and edible ornamental flowers is just short of, dare I say, brilliant. This is a link to a wonderful article she wrote for The Guardian in the UK.

Jennifer Bartley is a Landscape Designer and garden writer. The underlying theme of her book is that it is rewarding to feed your body from your garden but twice as rewarding to feed your body and your soul; something you can do by creating a vegetable garden that is not only functional but is also en expression of your creativity and beautiful to look at day after day.

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