Complementary Gardening – Gardening Without Borders

PurpliWhiteTip

“Tulip Behind Borders” – The Garden Table – Wilkinsburg, PA – This garden is a vacant lot that happens to be located in a rather high traffic location… I am actually planning on installing a fence and gate this summer… Something I said I would never do…

It is a long-standing practice in gardening to use a border to define the edges of our gardens. My preferred border material is bricks, they are plentiful in my neighborhood, have historical value, and help me keep my personal gardens neat and orderly. Borders are basically a line used to define where the lawn maintenance ends, and where the meticulous garden maintenance begins. Without borders, the neighborhood children would not know where my garden started… They also wouldn’t know the point at which I start yelling… Though… The kids are very good about not stepping in my garden…

As a garden installer, I spend a great deal of time thinking about garden borders… But as an artist/environmentalist… I also spend a great deal of time thinking outside my garden borders… To start this article off, I want to answer a simple question… What is a garden? A garden is typically defined as a collection of plants… In most cultures… To dream of paradise… Equates to dreaming of a garden… Or a lush landscape at the very least… This collection is typically contained within the confines of ones own yard… It just makes sense… Plants cost money… Why would you put them someplace you don’t own?

As my journey through the gardening world has progressed… I have found myself constantly looking to nature for inspiration… Over the last few years, I have left the borders of my garden… And gone in search of other gardens… My search has taken me into the forest in search of spring ephemerals… Into the fields to look for Echinacea… And up into the mountains to look for ginseng…

I have spent a great deal of time seeking out, and observing plants in their natural settings. Over time, my hobby has blossomed into an obsession. Now that I have been doing this for a few years, I have developed a bond with many of the plant patches I find… I have actually developed an emotional attachment to them… Oddly… I recently realized that I feel the same way about the woodland wildflowers I regularly seek out, as I feel about the plants in my garden…

Keystone1

“300 Acre Garden” – Keystone State Park – Westmoreland County, PA – Can an entire state park be considered a garden… I believe it can be… A sunset photo of my newest garden…

Walking through trillium along the side of a mountain… I stopped to pick up some litter… It was at this exact moment that I realized my garden no longer had a border… Standing on the side of this mountain… I realized I was the only person who would ever pick up these plastic bottles… The Trillium certainly couldn’t do it… Not the jack-in-the-pulpit’s… Not the tasty Morels… Without me stopping to pick up those bottles… They would have been there for a really long time…

In order to garden, an individual must have an affection for plants… In my own experience, this rarely dies, in most cases it blossoms into an addiction and before you know it… You have more plants than you know what to do with… Some see this as a bad thing… But I personally see it as a good thing… It is at this point most people start looking outside of their own garden to scratch the gardening itch… When a gardeners mind finally steps outside of their own property… Only then does nature truly see a benefit… This is when the journey really begins…

Our gardens are a direct connection between ourselves, and the environment that surrounds us. Bees for example, collect pollen from the flowers blooming in your garden, although this pollen is then transferred among the other plants in your own garden, it is also spread to the plants surrounding your garden. This everyday transfer of genetic material is just one way plants communicate… The plants you plant in your own garden, affect the next generation of plants that will grow in your surroundings…

TroutLily

“Trout Lily” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Frick Park is a place I have been spending a lot of time in… I consider it an urban garden… And I will care for it as such…

Although we will go to great lengths to keep animals and birds out of our gardens, nature always wins. Many seeds have evolved to survive digestion, after consumption, these seeds are then spread through “natural processes”. I have followed plant-covered deer trails through the woods, these trails can be hotspots for finding early spring wildflowers… I have followed trillium trails for miles… Likewise… The old ginseng hunters used to follow deer trails when foraging for medicine…

Humans have been pushing nature away for hundreds of years… We cap the earth in cement… Trap and kill anything we consider “wild”… We eliminate ecosystems… Then replace them ad-hoc in the places we deem suitable… We create gardens full of food in the middle of exotic monocultures of chemically dependent monocots… Organic vegetables growing among a sea of garbage… Food labeled as organic… Hiding behind a ten-foot fence… Taunting the deer… Torturing the rabbits… But in desperation… Will not stop a single one of them…

Man and nature can live in harmony… In fact… Nature only requires a small amount of compensation… I laugh when I hear stories of people living in these new plans of McMansions… Entire ecosystems have been destroyed to put these plans in… Yet the inhabitants still cry foul when their cheap landscaping shrubs get devoured almost immediately… If you tore my hundred-year old house down… And built a fire-hazard on top of it… You better believe… I am going to do more than eat your shrubs…

Living in western Pennsylvania, I am asked more questions regarding deer… Than any other garden pest you can think of… Everybody wants a magic bullet… When I answer by saying feed them… Most people scoff… But I stand by my word… The goal to keeping nature from eating your share… Is to compensate… More simply put… You need to make other food sources easier to acquire than your own… Depending on your situation… This is often as easy as a simple fence around your vegetables… And a feeder and salt block somewhere else… This isn’t really a secret either… Any old-time farmer will tell you this…

I guess what I am trying to say is this… Gardening is a skill that requires us to learn how to work with nature… In order to do this properly… We must think outside the borders of our gardens… We must allow our minds to seek out answers beyond the confines of our own property… The insects and animals surrounding you have no respect for the borders in your gardens… They do not see property lines… They do not know where nature ends… And where the garden begins… And that is my point… Nature doesn’t see where the wild ends… Animals don’t know where the garden begins… And neither should we… The entire earth is a garden… A paradise… Every square inch of it deserves protection… As gardeners… Our gardens have no borders… And Nature… Well that Is in fact… What we do…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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The Black Sheep

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Black Shroom” – © chriscondello 2013 – Keystone State Park, PA – I know… It’s not a black sheep… But it is a black mushroom… Guarding its pasture of moss… Waiting…

Green thumbed vagabond… I am the black sheep…
Writing this poem while the rest of the world sleeps…
No clue where I’m going… Only goals and dreams…
At one time my thoughts were nothing more than schemes…
I opened my mind… Opened my broken soul…
Told the gate keeper to go fuck his toll…
I’m completely prepared to storm the walls…
I’ll only stop when the empire falls…

Peace will one day be the law of the land…
Nature will be on the same level as man…
We will no longer harvest her organs and blood…
Stop trying to control the necessary floods…
When we talk about peace… We forget about the earth…
We are essentially at war with the place of our birth…
Actions on one land… Can affect the next…
A fact that leaves people completely perplexed…

I am a black sheep… I lay out my sin…
I have yet to find a place I feel I fit in…
Not smart enough for the non-profits… Prophets a joke…
If I had the authority… Their balls I’d revoke…
I don’t have a resume… That’s why I write this blog…
Hoping one day it will get me through the fog…
And give me a reason to live… Ground to stand…
Hold my head up high… Because I did something grand…

Maybe sell a few photos… Make a living from this work…
Finally see something that could be considered a perk…
I know that this black sheep is on the right grass…
Perfectly acceptant of my place in the lower class…
But not afraid of the call if it comes… They’ll find…
Upper middle class dreams in a poor mans mind…
But what this poor boy lacks in the girth of his fold…
I make up in spirit… Worth my weight in gold…

plant black petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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I have photographic prints available to purchase online… You can find them here – www.society6.com/chriscondello –  It is by no means a requirement… But it helps… If you have a few minutes to check them out… Please do…

The Last Week Of May – Effortless

ZLeaner

“Effortless” – © chriscondello 2013 – Sculpture of Stone – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – I had a crowd this morning… From the bench they quietly cheered me on… They told me I made it look effortless… Hence the name…

Stacky

“Settlement Pond No. 3” – © chriscondello 2013 – Sculpture of Stone – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Nine Mile Run begins its Frick Park journey by traveling through several man-made settlement ponds… The purpose of these ponds is to allow litter and pollution to sink to the bottom before being carried to the Monongahela River…

Belly

“Sewicide” – © chriscondello 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – I regularly see kids playing in this creek… I always see dogs swimming… I wouldn’t throw my enemies in this water… I build these sculptures because I understand… I understand that nature can not always watch out for itself… Sometimes… It needs a little help…

Relic

“Relic” – © chriscondello 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Built by a few neighborhood kids that have now moved to the beach… This teepee is a reminder to me that this park is making a comeback… I thought that someone would surely destroy this… But nope… Someone is maintaining it…

Insect1


“Public Display” – © chriscondello 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Photo from the weekend… I found this Wild Geranium pretty early in the morning… The sun was not in the right place… So I waited for about 45 minutes until the sun was just perfect… As I was setting up my shot… This damn insect landed on the flower… Slowly turned its head toward me… And stared… As if I was the asshole… So I settled…

Condammed

“Popular Opinion” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – I guess not everyone is a fan of peace… Or 100-year-old Victorian homes… Or art…

PghPetunias

“Plant Petunias” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – When in Pittsburgh… Expect to see a bunch of petunia photographs this Summer…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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I’m Not A Starfish

Guerrilla

“The Robbery Ramp” – © chriscondello 2013 – Guerrilla Garden – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – At the end of our street is the East End Busway… This ramp takes you up to the Hamnett Place stop… For a while people were getting robbed here pretty regularly… Hence the nickname “the robbery ramp”… I filled these beds with daylily two years ago… Sadly… People refuse to use the sidewalks and regularly step on my plants here… Needless to say… This garden does not do well… 

You don’t need a name like Starfish…
To be a green motherfucker…
Stay away from the trendy people…
They are just hippy suckers…

Be true to what you believe in…
Don’t wear it on your sleeve…
Always keep a low profile…
Expect to be misconceived…

Ten dollar an hour internships…
Go to recent college grads…
Pretending to help the poor…
While following the fads…

Taxpayer funded grant money…
That’s meant to help the hood…
Shouldn’t pay another college grad…
To act like they’re doing good…

You need to hire the local people…
Instead of asking us to volunteer…
How about paying for labor…
Before we disappear…

Instead of paying another recent college graduate… From out-of-state… To tell us what to fucking do…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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Nature Over Man

AssToMouth

“Ass to Mouth” – © chriscondello 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – If you have taken a shit in the East End of Pittsburgh during the last 100 years, there’s a chance it flowed through here. From the ass of the East End… To the mouth of Nine Mile Run…

Have you ever wondered, where do the storm drains on my street go? If you live in the east end of Pittsburgh, they most likely end up here. Nine Mile Run ran through Wilkinsburg before they culverted it over and built the borough on top of it. The sewer lines that run over this culvert are a hundred years old, seapage from these sewers regularly contaminates this water. This sewage, coupled with industrial wast has wreaked havoc on this ecosystem.

The scent of this area can only be described as peculiar, both organic and chemical. Sharp rocks have snagged countless plastic grocery bags. The bags 15 feet above me in the branches of a tree tell me this is not always a smart place to stand. All around me lay trash that went down the sewer, a harsh reminder that trash does not just disappear.

NineMileRun

“Nine Mile Run” – © chriscondello 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Hard to believe this is the same creek as above… But it is… And it is beautiful…

Frick Parks watershed, Nine Mile Run flows into the Monongahela River via a 2 mile creek bed, at one time this was beautiful forest and meadow land destined to be an extension of Frick Park. Starting in 1922, the Duquesne Slag Company systematically, and questionably purchased the land on either side of the watershed. Over the next 50 years they would dump 200,000,000 tons of slag over an area roughly 200 acres, the slag is piled 120′ high in some places.

When you stand in the creek bed, the slag piles rise hundreds of feet on either side of the creek. The creek is now locked in place by concrete walls that run the entire length of the slag heap, they look like they have been in place for 50 years. A secret of this nasty wall is the sewage that spews from it when it rains, a tenth of an inch apparently creates a fountain from the manhole covers that secretly channel the sewage from several communities down the stream… Coupled with the toxic runoff from the slag heap, I am amazed that anything survives at all.

PghMeteor

“Pittsburgh Meteor” – © chriscondello 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Slag is a toxic byproduct of steel production, Pittsburgh has mountains of it.

As I climbed the slag pile, I couldn’t help but notice the pour lines on the side of the hill… They literally formed steps going up the side of the slope. Intermittently between layers, I noticed layers of brick and glass. Names like Pittsburgh Brick Co. and New Kensington adorn the faces of the bricks, I stopped to inspect whether they were manufacturing rejects, or the bones of buildings… I couldn’t find mortar on the bricks so I would assume they were rejects…

The color of the slag in some places is an otherworldly hue of baby blue, this material is sharp like glass and easily cuts skin. The red material is soft like sand, the wind would pick it up and move it like a dust cloud… I found signs of this red material clear down to the Monongahela River… In some places I found massive black glass deposits that reminded me of volcanic glass nodules, no matter what I tried, I could not free a piece to take home.

About 100 feet up from the creek is the newer trail built to the river, this two-mile trail was carved into the side of the slag pile. I followed this trail toward the river when I noticed what appeared to be a large landslide, technically it would be a slag slide… But who’s taking notes anyway… I’ll tell you who… This guy… – I pulled my way through some understory growth only to pop out directly under a crumbling cliff of slag and bricks, I could actually hear it crumbling as I stood underneath of it.

NatureOverMan

“Nature Over Man” – © chriscondello 2013 – Lower Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – This tree was growing on the edge of a massive slag pile, I have always thought that the trees just rooted in the shallow layer of soil on top of the slag. As you can see from this photo, the roots of the tree grew about 20′ through the slag; eventually splitting a massive chunk off exposing the root for me to find.

At the top of the landslide stood a single tree, its tap-root had grown 25 feet through the slag face in front of me into, and below the slag I was standing on. The tree had managed to crack through the man-made toxic crust to find the water below. I assume this tree found water, because the root grew to the point of splitting a massive chunk of slag off the heap.

As I stood in awe… I became in tune with the extremely powerful energy that was present all around me… The ground that I was standing on was ground zero of an epic battle between nature and man… I had goosebumps… A small victory for a brave soldier… A victory that will most likely cost this soldier its life… But it won’t be in vain… New life will sprout from the decaying tree and Split another chunk of slag from the heap… Repeating… Until it’s gone… Or burried…

Nature ALWAYS conquers man… That’s why I call perpetual dibs on natures team… Because she always wins…

peace – chriscondello

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