City life offers vibrant energy, sensory stimulation, and endless variety. But where are we to find the 'yin' for all this 'yang'? Where are our opportunities for serenity, reflection, and just slowing down? The answer may be that we have to create such environments ourselves.
An urban garden space can be an oasis of calm, a place of colorful beauty, and even a source of fresh vegetables. An urban garden can transform a disused or unnoticed space into a place of beauty and community. Almost any space that receives six to eight hours of sunlight a day, has a nearby water source, and won't get trampled by foot traffic is a candidate for transformation into an urban garden retreat.
Unnoticed space is often available on rooftops, balconies, ledges, and back porches. Often, there is a small but important swath of space leading up to the front door of an apartment building. Too often, these small strips of land are enhanced only with a neglected fringe of sparse grass, or worse yet, a jumble of weeds. These tiny green spaces should be treated as precious opportunities.
Ground-level garden spaces can be developed using container plantings, terraces, hardy perennials, and small trees. Spruce up the approach to your apartment's front door (and increase your property value!) with buoyant flowers and an elegant solar fountain. The sound of flowing water in a solar fountain enhances the sensory experience of your garden space, and the water itself appeals to songbirds and butterflies. There are few naturally-occurring habitats for these beneficial creatures in the city. Urban garden spaces serve as important sources of food, water, and shelter for birds and butterflies. Without these gardens, they would have to find distant habitats or die out.
For smaller spaces such as balconies, ledges, and back porches, utilize wall-mounted and hanging planters to make maximal use of available space without crowding. Choose your own theme for the garden space. Break with the city around you by utilizing traditional clay pot planters, rope hangers, and floral patterns to invoke an image of the countryside. Or merge with the available urban landscape, utilizing planters with smooth-fired bold colors, adventurous shapes, or human-made materials such as metal or concrete.
Save room for an eye-catching sculpture or a solar fountain in your balcony garden. Solar fountains come in a variety of styles from the traditional to the whimsical, and operate entirely on free solar energy. Any space that has enough sunlight to grow plants --six to eight hours per day- has enough sunlight to power a solar fountain as well.
One of the greatest pleasures of city life is the sense of involvement in a community. Disused lots and other larger areas of vacant land are beckoning for a leader to start a community garden. Often, community gardens are designed as a set of plots, which individuals or groups can plant with flowering plants or vegetables, and herbs. In addition to providing fresh produce, community gardens offer an opportunity for enhanced friendships and informal conversations among community members. It has been said that more problems are solved in community gardens than at town hall meetings.
One exceptionally special type of community garden is a school garden. Many inner city schools are incorporating gardening into the school curriculum. While working the soil alongside their mentors, students learn biology, geometry, history and social skills. The produce from school gardens can go home with the students to help feed the family. Alternatively, the schools can sell the produce to local markets or the general public to raise money for school programs, or use the produce in the school cafeteria.
A creative eye will see endless opportunities for urban garden spaces in otherwise unnoticed corners of the city. Urban gardens are a sanctuary from the bustle of city life, a habitat for birds and butterflies, a source of fresh produce, and a location for community assembly.
Cecelia Brown is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who primarily works with psychiatric patients in a hospital setting. She has a special interest in stress management and solar products. Please visit her website: http://www.AllSolarFountain.com to find out more about solar garden fountains.
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