Gardening in public can be so interesting.
I have grown most of my food in my hellstrip for about 5 – 6 years now, since my backyard is the domain of an Evil Gopher Warrior King and my front yard has grown too shady for most edibles to thrive. I grow in 3 large, round corrugated metal beds I made for easy assembly and easy dismantling, should the powers that be decide that my growing food in that particular space would warrant a huge fine or jail time (don’t laugh – these threats happen!). Most people are worried about food theft – for me, it hasn’t been a very big deal. Sure, I get an occasional thief, but mostly I just get nice comments and great snippets of conversation while I am watering my beds. So in general, my public food growing antics have been well met, and I the only complaints I get are when the beds run fallow because I am too busy to plant in a timely fashion. Or so I THOUGHT.
I walked outside the other day to water, and saw something that made me FURIOUS. Really, really ANGRY. I think I even stood on the sidewalk and had very loud argument with the imaginary perpetrator of the crime that enraged me. I have a faint memory of waving my hands and shaking my finger in air, and of kids crossing the street so they didn’t walk by the crazy lady berating a figment of her imagination.
What was the garden crime? Was everything uprooted and thrown on the ground by hooligans? No. Did someone spray paint their gang tag all over the metal beds? Not this time (but it HAS happened). Was every single ripening vegetable taken, leaving nothing behind for me? No, it wasn’t that.
Someone pinched back my basil.
They saw that my basil was flowering, and they pinched it back, leaving the flowering stems they cut off behind in a neat little bundle, so I could see how helpful they had been.
I was SO MAD!!! The Helpful Garden Sprite had cut back my African Blue Basil – my very favorite basil because it keeps its flavor while it blooms, and it blooms beautifully, almost all year long, and those bloomspikes are powerfully attractive to bees. I was taken aback. I tried to put myself in the mind of the Interloper, who might have thought she / he was doing me a favor. But then why deadhead only ONE plant? I have 4 others; none of them were touched. It had to be a message – take care of your plants, lady. THE NERVE!!! All of my Basilico ‘Genovese’ are properly bushy, my B. ‘Red Rubin’ may be a little floppy, but nothing to be ashamed of. The basil that I plant specifically for its blooms got cut back in my hellstrip beds by someone who thought they were schooling me. I don’t think they were really trying to be helpful. It was a left-handed nicety. A subtle jab. This made me angrier than anyone taking a vegetable that I was just about ready to harvest. It seemed so passive-aggressive!
Think about it – if an unidentified stranger painted a 1′ x 1′ square of your house a slightly different color than the one you chose, would you consider that a kindness or a weird controlling, passive-aggressive move? If they cut down the blooms of your phormiums (that you’d waited all year for) because that is what THEY do in their front yard, what THEY prefer? Yes, I grow in a public space, and I expect more “input” from the community at large than if I grew in a private, sheltered back yard – but in my (maybe a little paranoid) mind, this gesture was equated to an anonymous snide remark, from someone who wants things done THEIR way; the “proper” way.
I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy – I’ll entertain that possibility. Maybe this person was genuine – they saw my basil was flowering, they bent down to help out in the traditional spirit of gardener awesomeness (never imagining I might have wanted those basil flowers), and then they went back to their daily walk. What, am I expecting them to do ALL my garden work for me?
But I suspect a darker motive – one born of “Neighborhood Beautification” and “Community Standards” and “Rules of Gardening” – things that I am not a big fan of.
What do YOU think? Am I crazy? Do you want someone anonymously tending to your garden, doing things differently than you? If you garden in your public/private spaces, do you give up some of your rights to do things the way YOU want to?
All input welcome!