Last spring, when I got the chance to create a garden on the cement behind my co-op on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I jumped at the chance. I had become passionately interested in gardening and was tired of being a voyeur of other people’s greenery and creative designs.
The initial budget was small: $1,000. So I started collecting planters at yard sales and plants that people threw away. I found garden furniture on the street–it’s astounding what people throw away on West 83rd Street.
The first few months were challenging, especially since we had no hose to water the increasingly growing collection of flowering plants. Nevertheless, I and the long-suffering sweetie endured; poor man had enough of gardens from his years in suburbia, but indulged me by waiting patiently in garden centers as I oohed and aahed over the selection. Then he got to carry all the plant pots from the car into the garden.
And yes, that’s a fig tree in the foreground.
Now in its second year, the garden has given me much joy. What a thrill to see the perennials re-emerge from seeming death to become elegant plants, hardier than the year before.
I eat most of my meals out there, carrying my plate through the laundry room to enter the garden through a longish alley. I hear bird song and the hum of air conditioners coming together in their own particularly urban polyphony.
It surprises me that so few people in my building take an interest in the garden. I observe some folks sitting in the laundry room watching their clothes spin when instead they could be admiring the dahlias.
But I’m also pleased that so few people sit in the garden; I can be found there often and alone, usually in a gardener’s reverie, watching the leaves unfurl and hovering over every little bud as if this garden were my very own.