Monday, May 12, 2008

Living Art Celebration and Art Exhibit

Living Art Celebration!
We’re having a celebration of a new Living Art environment on Saturday, May 17. From 4-6 pm will be A Taste of Gardening workshop, followed by food, garden tours, “meet the worms” program and kids’ activities from 6 – 9 pm.
All activities are free and open to the public.

Grounded Photo Fiber Art
If the Living Art environment appeals to you, you may also be interested in Grounded, my solo exhibit of photo fiber art at Individual Artists of Oklahoma gallery, 811 N. Broadway in Oklahoma City. It’s on exhibit May 2-30, with an artist’s reception on Saturday, May 17 from 6 -9 pm. For more pictures and info, go to eliawoods.com.

Living Willow Cove


In early spring, we dug up seven local willow saplings and transplanted them to this location. As the willows take root and break dormancy, we are weaving the branches together to create a domed cove, with an open doorway facing the center of the garden.

Spiral Wildflower Path


This photo shows our spiral wildflower path after we had cut the sod (later used to build earth chairs) and planted seeds. This path is the backbone of the living art environment, and leads people from the street into the garden. Wildflowers border the path on both sides. By mid-May, the flowers will be knee-to-waist high, and will bloom all through the summer and fall, offering a wildflower immersion experience for all who enter! We planted both annual and perennial flowers; the annuals will bloom this year, and the perennials will gradually become more dominant by year three.

Earth Chair


First in a series of earth furniture! Years ago, Allen saw an earth chair at a community garden in Portland, Oregon. He told me about it, and I’ve remembered it ever since. In March, a group of us made our very own earth chair, a first for all of us. We used the sod leftover from cutting the spiral wildflower path, and piled it up to form a chair shape. It turns out to be quite comfortable. We’ve now added an earth love seat, and have plans for an end table or two. The little kids across the street want to make an earth TV, which I think is a funny and ironic twist to the current debate on how much time kids spend inside plugged in.

Recycled Metal Edging


Our artist/welder friend and neighbor Bill Byrd is making the most artistic edging a garden could ask for. We picked up some rusty metal at the scrapyard, and Bill is bringing his own unique vision to it. The edging serves as terracing along Shartel where the ground drops off rather steeply, and in certain areas we use it to keep the Bermuda grass from invading.

Living Art Environment

Last year, I began to dream of transforming one area of the community garden into an ongoing art process, with plants as the medium and people as participants rather than just viewers. A collaborative process has emerged involving children and adults from the neighborhood and students from the local high school. Elements of our living art environment will include a spiral wildflower path, earth chairs formed from leftover sod, a living willow cove, a human sundial, a visitor-friendly worm bed, and an herbal “smelly path.” This has been one of the most satisfying and inspiring projects with which I have ever been involved. It’s amazing what can happen with a handful of seeds!
My hope is that this will be a place where people can experience directly the beauty, complexity and healing power of the living world.

Me, Too!

Are you interested in participating in our community garden, or starting one in your neighborhood? We have a diverse community garden, which includes individual vegetable beds, communal beds, areas for individuals and groups to sit and talk, and our Living Art pocket park. Residents in the area can request a bed in which they can plant their choice of vegetables and/or flowers. There is no fee, but we do ask that everyone pitch in occasionally to help with overall care of the garden. All parts of the garden are cared for by organic methods, which insure that this is a safe place for kids, adults, and the beneficial insects that we depend on for healthy and productive plants. The east half of the garden is our Living Art environment, a biologically rich pocket park for relaxation and exploration. If you’d like to join us, call (405) 524-3977 or drop by for our group work events on Sundays at 4 pm (cooler part of the year) or Sundays at 7 pm (summer).

To learn more about other community gardens in OKC or the rest of the country, check out:
Urban Harvest, a program of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, assists in the development and ongoing needs of community gardens. Go to regionalfoodbank.org/communitygardens or call Bruce Edwards at 972-1111 ext. 108.
American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) at communitygarden.org or 1-877-ASK-ACGA

A Community Garden is Born


The Central Park Community Garden began in the mid-90s when Elia Woods, Allen Parleir and Brian Hearn, all residents of the Central Park neighborhood in Oklahoma City, decided to start a community garden as a way of bringing neighbors together and improving the neighborhood. We found several trashy, overgrown, vacant lots on the corner of NW 31 and Shartel that we deemed to have great potential. After confirming that these lots had already been repossessed by the county, a plan was presented to acquire these lots for community gardens. The county agreed and gave the lots to the city. The city donated the lots to the neighborhood association with the stipulation that they be turned into community gardens for the benefit of the neighborhood. Neighbors immediately began working together to clean up the area.

A major initial challenge was discovering high levels of chlordane contamination in the soil. Chlordane, which is now banned, used to be a commonly used termiticide. Allen researched biological methods of remediation, and after three years of adding compost and planting cover crops, the chlordane levels were down to zero. Since that minor miracle, we have gone on to work together with many neighbors to create compost piles and plant vegetable beds, dwarf fruit trees, perennial shrubs, and flower borders.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What's Bloomin'?


Pictured here are the first wildflowers to bloom in our spiral wildflower path. These sweet little Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila insignis) are a hardy annual, native to California, but easily grown throughout the US. I bought the seed from Wildseed Farms (wildseedfarms.com) in Texas. They offer a Texas/Oklahoma wildflower mix which has done very well for us. Also blooming now are dainty toadflax (Linaria maroccana) which look like miniature snapdragons, lovely baby’s breath (Gypsophila muralis) and African daisy (Dimorphotheca aurantiaca) in neon yellow and orange. We didn’t get the seed planted until March, which was pretty late. Planting in the fall, which I prefer, means you don’t have to water it as much, and the flowers will get established and bloom earlier.