"Cologne" Docu2001's Profile
It’s that time again, when the air is warm enough to walk outside in your shirtsleeves. At this time of year, the park below my window is more often than not filled with city folk anxious to spend an hour or an afternoon, anywhere but inside their apartments. The winter is long and dark in this part of the world and Spring is much anticipated. This weekend many of the neighbors have shuttled off to the mountains for a final fling on the slopes, while others are at the shore hoping against hope for a warm day by the water.
Me, I don’t have anywhere I want to go other than into the garden, to putz around in the dirt, in the mini-world of withering daffodils and regal tulip stems and greening rose bushes. Nearly every morning I fill the wheelbarrow with garden tools and watering cans and roll over to the two flower beds I have husbanded through the winter to see what has sprung up or blossomed overnight. Gardeners will know what I’m talking about – the rest of you will think I’m a bit daft – but the world of the garden is a world of its own. The trick is to tighten your focus, think small, and get down into the dirt for a spell.
A garden is filled with life and none of it talks back to you or gives you attitude about not being able to conjugate the German version of the verb “to be” in all its various and completely mind-numbing variety. The inhabitants of the garden are grateful for your attention, happy to see you each morning when you feed and clean and water them, when you pick the broken shards of last-night’s beer bottles from between their leaves, or remove the soggy, half-filled containers of take-out Chinese food from under their stems, or rake away the piles of cigarette butts that singed and burned them through the course of the night as the local revelers sat or stood or collapsed drunk upon their leaves and blossoms.
Being a gardener in the city presents special challenges. It’s one thing to have a garden on your balcony or in your back yard – it’s another thing entirely to tend to your little green universe when it sits smack dab in the middle of the city, in a public park, in the most favorite late-night drinking spot in town.
I’ve been looking forward to Spring. I don’t know how many more dull, gray days with occasional afternoon or evening showers I could have taken. At the same time, the gardener in me was anxious. With the sunny days and warm nights comes the inevitable migration of the barbarians. Like many of us, they have spent the winter hold up in front of their TV sets, lusting after Germany’s Next Top Model, and counting the days until they can once again do their drinking out in the streets where it belongs.
For the city gardener these first warm days mark the start of the body count that will continue through the Spring and into Summer and late Fall when once again folks will retreat back into their homes to fatten up for the coming year. Every morning when I roll that wheel barrow home, it is filled with the casualties of the previous night’s entertainments. A handful of tulips that will never see the light of day, branches and stems and seedlings that barely had a chance to green before they were trampled or bathed in stale beer or Jagermeister.
There’s no rhyme or rationale to it – some perish and some survive. Even the flowers stuck deep in the garden away from the perimeter, the ring of death, where the revelers plop down each night, aren’t necessarily safe. A wine bottle tossed back into the green can be a deadly missile, tearing off body parts or crushing the very young.
But there are also survivors, like this one small, wild rose, which for some reason has withstood season after season of the onslaught more or less intact. It is a straggly thing, with branches shooting here and there, it’s a mess really, but I am reluctant to prune it or do anything really other than give it a drink now and then. I don’t want to mess with its Mojo.
The sun is up and another Spring day is about to begin. It’s also the weekend so I’ll have a little more time than usual to tend to the plants. I don’t know what I’ll find when I go out there this morning - how many casualties from the previous night. But chances are most of the garden will have survived to see another day. It’s Springtime after all and the flowers are happy for the extra hour or two of sunshine in which to bathe and grow and live another day.
The garden has changed a bit since the original post, but not dramatically. There is more of it now, and that is a change. In addition to the beds in the photo, I’m caring for another bed now, at the rear of the Platz, with lots of sun and space and different challenges and rewards.
I spend as much time as I can in the dirt. There is something about the digging and planting and even weeding, that I truly enjoy. Part of it is just being outdoors, and part of it is making a plan and then seeing it come to fruition – or close.
I work in an urban garden, in the center of the city, and this creates a range of challenges and rewards. The challenges come mostly from the visitors who come to the Platz at night and often leave a trail of dead plants and destruction in their wake. Dogs, and their owners, present another challenge.
Taking care of plants on a public square requires recognition that some folks feel they can do just about anything they want in a public space. But the flower beds were entrusted to a small group of us by the city a few years back. The German word is “Patenschaft” and is means sponsorship and it is also the word for Godparent. In return for having the right to plant just about anything we want in our beds except for trees, we also have the responsibility to care for the space, to husband it. So we work the garden spaces, pay for the plants and equipment and the city gets a unique and relaxing oasis in the middle of the city – free.
Yesterday I had a few words with one of the locals whose dog was doing his business on some newly planted Lavender. At first I tried to shoo the dog away but the owner stuck his head through the bush I was pruning to say it was a public space and his dog was just doing his business. We went back and forth a bit about the public-private nature of the flower beds and he grudgingly conceded that the flowers were private and then he cleaned-up after his dog and shrugged away.
On the other hand, the garden is a wonderful way to meet your neighbors and others who like plants. There are a few families in the area who bring their small children by regularly. The kids plant flowers and water and dig – I enjoy it and they enjoy it. One afternoon recently a group of women were standing by a corner of the bed, one of them reaching over to touch a plant while talking to the others in the group. When I approached them later, she explained that she was showing them the medicinal plants in the bed. I wish I had been able to hear her explanations earlier.
I inherited this bed from the founder of our group and it is filled with plants, many of which I don’t recognize. This is my first spring in this garden so I am being careful not to remove too much; this first year I want to see what comes up. That’s part of the fun of gardening too.
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