July 6th, 2012

Pleasant Street Gardens

by cgindy

by Kyle Ragsdale

I live on Pleasant Street in Fountain Square, and I love to garden. When we moved into our house the lot, had been just a weedy pit for many years. The ground was hard and full of rocks, glass and thick clay soil. Some of the weeds were like trees. Needless to say, every inch of the garden has been a struggle, as the weeds have thrived here for many years, but this was my first time to own a little land and I was eager to learn.  I have had many gardeners help me find my way from identifying weeds and teaching me how to space out plants. From the beginning I have had many friends give me plants. Some have thrived and multiplied. Others were too shocked to move from fertile Meridian Kessler soil down to Fountain Square. One friend walked through her lush garden near Arsenal Tech and showed me many varieties of plants I had never seen, and then she gave me a truckload of cuttings to bring home. I named one painting “Legacy Bouquet“ because I was thinking of Francoise and her goose neck flowers, and in the same bouquet there also are perennials that came from my friend Jill’s beautiful garden. Each season I have continued to peruse garden stores with my friend Paul, and I perpetually am buying seeds in hopes of finding the perfect flower. I do love zinnias because different bloom colors come from the same plant and also because once they get going, they just keep going through the summer on in to the fall. I am also a big dahlia fan. Last year I forgot to dig up one of the dahlias, but I think because of our mild season it came right back from last season; thus, I named it “Resilient.”

A  few years ago I saw Alex Katz’s mammoth flower and landscape paintings in New York and was inspired by the simplicity and economy of the brush strokes and the vibrancy of color. As this City Gallery show came together, I was doing a commission that had a wildly expressive passage of peonies and reflective neon and metallics over thick paint. I decided to keep going with that idea. In this show I wanted to combine both the wild happy paint and the beauty of a really homegrown flower garden.

I do love bringing beauty to our block, and I enjoy having a garden that provides cut flowers throughout the seasons. In our family, we cut flowers on Sundays that can go to my wife’s office, and sometimes we take flowers as a hostess gift to a party or to church. This has been a difficult year because of the dry conditions. I also have had a plant thief that just yanked a blooming zinnia right out of the ground.  Another person (or maybe the same person) stole an Allium last season. Sometimes I get discouraged—plants that thrived last year just shrivel in the heat, and the neighbors’ construction workers decimated a shady fern garden. But I also feel like it is important to bring a little natural beauty back to our little part of the city. I hope that as visitors and neighbors drive through our street they see that there are folks trying to bring back this neighborhood’s former glory. I also hope that as people walk home that my garden makes their walk a little more pleasant.