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(CG) NYTimes.com Article: The Blog Generation Takes Up Its Trowels

  • Subject: [cg] (CG) NYTimes.com Article: The Blog Generation Takes Up Its Trowels
  • From: "Lisa Rose Starner" <mixed_greens@hotmail.com>
  • Date: Thu, 6 May 2004 14:12:48 -0400
  • Thread-index: AcQzYewmFOB8tuEPRiuSqKh2g2kK2QAM661A

The more the merrier!!

~~Lisa Rose

Lisa Rose Starner, MPA
Mixed Greens: A Children's Vegetable Project
1440 Holborn NW
Grand Rapids MI 49504

The Blog Generation Takes Up Its Trowels

May 6, 2004

AS the manager of an indie-rock band fronted by an
accordion player, Camille Acey, 23, is used to uphill
battles. So when Ms. Acey and the band, Movers and Shakers,
decided to build a "rock garden" on the roof of a loft
building in Long Island City, Queens, they solved the
obvious problem with 175 pounds of neutral-tone buttons
from a company that donates surplus materials to artists. 

Ms. Acey was a contestant in a "gardening challenge"
sponsored by ReadyMade, a Berkeley-based do-it-yourself
magazine for those who are young, hip and inclined to turn
their soda empties into camp stoves. The participants,
chosen by the editors, had to remake a 100-square-foot
space, relying on found objects and the landscape's
existing features, all within a $200 budget provided by the

"Creative reuse was the central thing for us," said Ms.
Acey, who writes a Web log and has sought gardening advice
online from other bloggers. "I'm not a high-end person
who's going to go spend $200 at Home Depot." 

Ms. Acey may not fit the traditional image of a gardener,
but she shares a passion that is blossoming among a certain
segment of culturally plugged-in urban 20-somethings and
early-30-somethings. They may not own backyards, but they
are determined to make things grow. Many quietly cite
Martha Stewart as an influence, while making clear that
they disapprove of her "commercialism," as one of them,
Briana Drennon, put it. And like 1960's hippies, some see
what they are doing as an act of protest against the
degradation of the environment and the spread of

"I'm thinking about gardening as a radical political act,"
said Fritz Haeg, 34, an architect who teaches in the
environmental design program at the Art Center College of
Design in Pasadena, Calif. "It means completely questioning
the way we live, the way we get our food, the way we use
and abuse natural resources, the way we occupy public
space." Mr. Haeg plays host at a monthly salon that draws a
young, flamboyant crowd. Events are themed - "avant-garde
knitting" was a recent topic. 

While gardening has yet to reach critical mass among this
group, it is beginning to make an impact. Peter Bosselmann,
chairman of landscape architecture and environmental
planning at the University of California, Berkeley, said he
has seen a bit of a shift among applicants for the graduate
program over the last four years. Traditionally, students
came with experience in horticulture, but now, Mr.
Bosselmann said, they increasingly have art-related

"It's pretty clear that young people are decidedly
interested in or concerned about the landscape," he said.
"Most perceive it as chaotic or in need of care and health,
in need of introducing ecological principles, in need of
being more artful, more structured." 

Ms. Drennon, 27, who calls herself "a typical L.A. indie
walking stereotype" complete with art degree and tattoos,
said her gardening habit began with "a pot of rosemary on a

"Everything just sort of rolled from there," she said.
Lured by a 2,000-square-foot yard, she moved from a funky
Koreatown loft to leafier Venice. She also joined You Grow
Girl, an online gardening site that says it "speaks to a
new kind of gardener." The site, at www.yougrowgirl.com, is
the brainchild of Gayla Sanders, 30, a graphic designer in
Toronto, who started it out of frustration with other
online gardening communities. To her, they all seemed aimed
at an older suburban audience, with a significantly higher
disposable income. 

"There definitely is this stigma that gardening is
something that women who are housewives do, or something
that only goes on in the country," Ms. Drennon said. 

On an April morning, seed packets spilled across her
40's-diner-style kitchen table. The seeds, for flowers and
vegetables with names like papaya pear hybrid squash and
Flaro-French flageolet, were booty from a seed swap
organized by You Grow Girl. She said that members send
around a big box of seeds they aren't going to use. Each
takes what she wants, adds her own leftovers and mails the
box to the next person on the list. "It's like Secret Santa
in April," Ms. Drennon said. 

Lauren Smith, another ReadyMade challenge participant,
turned her yard in Brooklyn into a kitschy urban
campground. "We took the legs off our barbecue and built a
campfire pit," said Ms. Smith, 28, the assistant to the
fashion designer Todd Oldham. "We put down mulch and took a
bunch of bandannas and stitched them together to create an

Ms. Smith and her boyfriend, Derek Fagerstrom, 28, the
editorial production director at Esquire magazine, have
mapped out a border of annuals around the campground and
recently planted a cherry tree in the yard. The appeal of
gardening, Ms. Smith said, "is that your concerns are: `How
will I stake my tomato plant? `How can I get these bugs to
stop eating?' It's a total escape. You don't think about
your e-mail or your job." 

Many young gardeners say they are cultivating patience
along with plants. "It's such an obvious antidote to
multitasking, to sitting in front of a computer, to the
complicatedness of our lives," said Amy Talkington, 32, a
filmmaker who has planted a Japanese maple, lantana,
verbena and jasmine outside the bungalow she rents in the
Little Armenia section of Hollywood. 

Kerry Tribe, 31, grew plants in window boxes in New York,
where she lived briefly and worked as a bike messenger,
among other things, before moving to Los Angeles. She began
gardening obsessively during graduate school at the
University of California campus there. Her inspiration was
a project she devised, taking literally what she called the
"hothouse" vibe of the master's program in fine arts -
"prowling collectors and dealers coming around to see what
was new." Ms. Tribe transformed her studio into a
hydroponic garden, growing plants solely for their names,
like Celebrity Tomatoes and Early Wonder Beets. 

"They were all qualities we were expected to cultivate in
our art," she said. "People would say, `Where's your
stuff?' and I'd say, `This is it - maybe we can have a
conversation about gardening or something.' " 

Like Mr. Haeg, at the Art Center College of Design, Ms.
Tribe sees a political side to gardening: "It's a private
act, but also a public act of resistance to the sprawling
L.A. wasteland and the toxins in the air." 

A similar spirit motivates Alexis Rivera, 26, a music
critic and club promoter, who gardens with native plants
and a certain amount of attitude on a hillside next to his
apartment in the rapidly gentrifying Echo Park section of
Los Angeles. "I don't have much money, so I steal stuff,"
said Mr. Rivera, adding that he once took a large fern from
a fancy Beverly Hills hotel. 

Gardening at rental properties carries its own challenges,
like negotiating with landlords and reconciling your own
transience with the relative permanence of the trees you
plant. Amra Brooks, 30, a writer who rents a house in
Atwater Village, near the concrete channel of the Los
Angeles River, said she has spent at least $500 on her
garden. She planted native perennials to attract birds and
butterflies and several fruit trees. She has a mission that
extends beyond her lease. 

"With all the native stuff, you feel like you're giving
back to the environment," she said. "That feels cool.
Whether I live here or not, hopefully that tree will always
be here." 



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