Thursday, April 12, 2007

Covering Ground at Lawndale Art Center

2600 Fulton

This was the last of our gardens, and strangely we deliberated over its location more than any but the first. We drove around northeast Houston for an hour or two, but ended up heading back toward 45 and settling on this spot, which was one of the first places we had considered.

Joel looking manly fierce with the thatching rake.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

3839 Griggs (off Scott St.)

Eric and I began the day with a trip to Buchanon’s. Then we travelled across town to a vacant lot on Griggs Street that looked like it needed our mark. As evidenced by so many pictures of me, Eric was the cameraman for much of the day. -e.s.

Stocking up at Buchanon's Native Plants (above).

Traveling on...(above)

23rd and Durham

This was possibly my favorite of our gardens. Maybe it was just the sun that day or all of us being together or I don't know what, but I had a lot of fun working on this one. This was the first garden in which I really felt like we knew what we were doing. The tools seemed to work for us, not against us, and the soil was rich and malleable. We found the bricks at a nearby construction site that Joel and I explored before we left. We climbed as far as we could up a wooden town home skeleton, and shot video of downtown and of Emily through the trees. The battery in the camera ran out just as we found the perfect angle, but it didn't matter. We had seen it, even if no one else had. -Eric

Along the way...

After meeting up, we headed from the Lawndale Art Center area toward the Heights area and a new day of planting. This is when our paths crossed with that of Dennis Wilson. I barely saw him out of the corner of my eye as we drove along Main Street past Dennis Street. I demanded we go back to see if he and his garden were real or a dream.

Dennis cultivates his gardens (he has others around town) through a system of ritual, chance, and instruction from Mother Nature. He began by planting aloe vera, and whenever a plant went missing from his garden, he replaced it with a cactus. He has since moved on to planting palms and plums and placing objects such as bangles, rocks, oranges, bricks and a toothbrush in the garden. He even inserts earring studs into the cactuses where their prickles have been lost. Along with the plants, the garden nurtures the objects Dennis finds or is lead to find by Mother Nature. Before we moved on, he showed us a secret area where we could leave him messages.-e.s.

We had an interesting discussion after meeting Dennis about whether or not he was insane. Emily and Joel insisted he was just eccentric, while I contended that he was completely bughouse. This past week, though, we've been cutting together video footage, which includes about fifteen minutes of our experience with Dennis, and I found much of his frenetic monologue fascinating and inspiring. We went back again recently to take some more photos. He wasn't there, but the garden was almost completely different. Every section had some new sprout, arrangement, or minor addition. I noticed how delicate the entire thing was, how much care had been taken with each and every detail, and I was finally able to see what Emily and Joel had seen all along. The work of a man who truly loves what he does. -Eric

Emily, Joel, Dennis and Dennis's garden on the corner of Dennis and Main St.

Waugh and Fairview

We planted this long rectangular flowerbed in a vacant lot near Waugh and Taft. Corozon's provided us with water for the garden, and they were interested in this positive use of the land. -e.s.

Corozon's with black Honda.

This was the most practically difficult of the gardens we built. The soil was a clumpy clay and full of rocks, which made raking and tilling more than frustrating. The owner of Corozon's across the street told us they had several times tried to landscape the area, but the existing brush just kept returning. He said it had even grown into the sewer grate and flooded the street a few times. This garden was also interesting because we were working on it during rush hour on a Tuesday. People would stop at the light and ask us what we were doing or heckle us a little or provide a soundtrack for our work.