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Bountiful Gardens to Inspire Your Spring Planting

by Quelcy Kogel

10 Gardens to Inspire Your Spring Planting via Design*Sponge

Statistically speaking, I live in a city that has more grey days than sunny. So when those first sunny spring days emerge, I feel antsy and jittery, like a kid or a sheepdog that has been cooped up for way too long. All I want to do is soak up the sun and lay in the grass.

I recently tried to work through one of those perfect spring days, since I had a lot on my plate, but my output was pathetic. My to-do list remained largely unchecked, and I should have just embraced my restless need for outdoor time. My sunshine fail had me daydreaming of having a little backyard garden spot where I could both work and reduce my Vitamin D deficiency, or alternately, where I could ignore responsibilities and dive fully into those rare sunny days.

In addition to providing respite from the doldrums, gardens have the power to bring people together, whether through a backyard dinner party or providing a space for a community to gather. Here’s a roundup of garden inspiration for green dreams of all scales. Happy gardening! —Quelcy

Image above: Last time I was in Philadelphia, I asked a few food purveyors for leads on local farms and urban agriculture projects. Rightfully so, everyone told me to check out Farm 51. When it comes to using a garden to build community, florist/farmer Andrew Olson and photographer Neal Santos are shining examples of grit and heart. The lot next to their West Philly Victorian home was a prime example of urban blight, but the two have turned it into a community space where they sell fresh produce, honey, and flowers, in addition to hosting Filipino pop-up food events.

10 Gardens to Inspire Your Spring Planting via Design*Sponge
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Oh to take a midday siesta in Linda Hutchins and John Montague’s atrium garden. The pair worked with architects to transform a former Portland, OR warehouse and auto repair shop into a bright and airy live-work space. Photo via Dwell.
10 Gardens to Inspire Your Spring Planting via Design*Sponge
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What I want most from a garden is to feel transported, and this tall black fence, with its geometric ivy, feels like it would block out the world in the best possible way. I just want to sip lemonade and read in a corner of Megan Pflug’s lush space.
10 Gardens to Inspire Your Spring Planting via Design*Sponge
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Interior designer Kriste Michelini’s personal garden, designed in collaboration with Esther Suzuki Arnold, is a lesson in form and function inspired by the Getty Museum. The two designed a simple vegetable garden for Kriste’s California backyard, with raised vegetable boxes that add a sculptural element to the backyard, so they look stunning all year long.
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I remember wishing there was a “Pin-All” feature when I first saw Karen Regan’s design for a South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, which included this bar. Vintage elements, wooden structures, greenery and black paint combined to completely transform a blighted spot into a neighborhood attraction. How great would it be to sit here with friends, toasting drinks in the summer months?
10 Gardens to Inspire Your Spring Planting via Design*Sponge
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I live in Pittsburgh, a city known for its Three Rivers, and yet, it’s not a city that offers a lot of interaction with its rivers. That’s why I was thrilled to discover Steve and Jody Choder’s home, the former lock & dam master’s residence. Their beautiful riverside landscape includes a potager garden, chickens, ducks, koi ponds and this meditation hut. Jody was instrumental in pushing for new zoning rules for raising chickens & bees in the city, and the couple is trying to push past restrictive zoning to offer their home as a bed & breakfast. It’s proving to be a red-taped challenge, but I’m grateful this couple is going to such great lengths not only to green my city but to open and share their riverside home with the public. You can see my very relaxing staycation recap here.
10 Gardens to Inspire Your Spring Planting via Design*Sponge
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When I first saw Martha Stewart Living's feature on Jan Hoffman and David Woodward’s historical home in rural East Berlin, Pennsylvania, I nearly began charting a road trip. Artisan furniture makers and antiques dealers, the couple has created a homestead steeped in history and sustainability. They save seeds, raise chickens and use kitchen water to irrigate the garden. Check out the full story, and then maybe you’ll be road tripping to East Berlin with me.
10 Gardens to Inspire Your Spring Planting via Design*Sponge
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Whether or not you’re planning to get your hands dirty and dig in the dirt this summer, your support for urban garden projects can go a long way. I’ve seen firsthand how little support can come from city officials and just how tiring it can be to run a community oriented operation, but these city-based green spaces, like the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, are increasingly important. Thanks to crowdfunding, MUFI is in the process of creating a first-of-its-kind agrihood. It will include a community center, a healthy cafe, intern housing, an orchard, and at its core, this sprawling garden which helps to bring neighbors together and alleviate the strains of a food desert.
10 Gardens to Inspire Your Spring Planting via Design*Sponge
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I’ve long associated Bette Midler with Beaches, but it turns out, her name is tied to several gardens, too. She is the founder of the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), which revitalizes neglected urban green spaces. In its 20 years, NYRP has acquired 52 community gardens in underserved communities, enabling neighbors to grow together both literally and figuratively. The gardens offer impressive design solutions like this Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn garden where permeable paving replaced concrete. Now rainwater is absorbed by the ground instead of burdening the overtaxed sewer system. Photo by Rob Stephenson for Architectural Digest.
10 Gardens to Inspire Your Spring Planting via Design*Sponge
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I can’t talk about gardens without talking about the "Gangsta Gardener," aka Ron Finley, who transformed a lot in South Central L.A. into an urban oasis, a true oasis in the sense that it brings sustenance to a food desert. The city tried to shut him down for growing food on the sidewalk, but he fought back. Recently, the owners of his property tried to push him out, but he fought back, along with several high-profile supporters. Ron’s message is filled with poetry, art, conviction, generosity and vision, “To change the community, you have to change the composition of the soil.” On that note, go forth and garden! Photo via LAist.

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