Wednesday, September 8, 2010

FoodTrek: The Vie Garden Project

There's often talk of urban garden projects, but I wanted to share one that I thought was particularly notable. Nestled in the downtown area of the city of Bellevue, towards the back of City Hall, there's this really lovely oasis of public art. It's a little spot that I don't think people notice beyond the dog walkers, who clearly use the green lawn space as a pee-break area (don't think I don't see those little brown patches on the corners!), but it's actually quite pretty and worth a look if you're wandering downtown. Right now there's an installation called the Vie Garden Project that's been growing away for the last few months and will be coming down in October, so sneak a peek if you have the opportunity to do so.

The Vie Garden Project in downtown Bellevue - check it out before it's gone! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

The wonderful thing about outdoor installation art is that one of the ideals behind the overall concept is to have it evolve with its environment. The way colors can look different in the changing light or the artist may intentionally use a material that's meant to weather or break down in the elements -- sometimes change and transformation can be as much a part of art as the original piece itself. With that in mind, it's both brilliant and practical to have an urban garden set up right in the middle of a busy downtown area. Surrounded by concrete and asphalt, the Vie Garden Project is a little pathway lined with PVC pipe towers filled with potting soil and overflowing with vegetables and herbs.

The art spot where installation pieces come and go - and urban dogs go to piddle - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I found it on a sunset walk one night, heading back to my car, but didn't have my camera with me. I vowed to return with the proper gear and managed to snap several photos of it in its full summer bloom during a hot sunny afternoon. I have to say, aside from the artful appreciation I had for the project, showing how space-savvy these inexpensive planters were, I had much Garden Green Envy! Full tomatoes growing on the vine, squash blooms developing its elongated bulbs of squashy goodness, eggplant starting to fruit up, giant "Feed me, Seymour" Audrey II-looking heads of cabbage just sitting out there -- oh the shade of envious green I turned! And white strawberries -- I didn't even know there were such things, yet there they hung, like little albino droplets on curling vines.

Summertime garden goods grown from PVC pipe towers! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

So, I managed to get over my sinful envy long enough to finish the photo-taking and just sit back and marvel at such an inspiring project. Planters made from basic hardware items; tall towers with a small footprint in terms of space, making it an easy thing to keep on one's apartment terrace; easy watering without much evaporation loss -- this is a win-win argument for making it easy to grow one's own food, removing the excuses of "I don't have a yard" or "I only have a concrete balcony." With a little effort, anyone could grow their own basic greens to make a salad every week during the warmer months. If anything, I was kind of disappointed it wasn't in a more prominent area where people could marvel at the ease of growing one's own food. Although I think that would have meant passerbys would be snagging a tomato or three, and the point of the project is to grow all this food and donate it to a local food bank. So if you do happen to visit the Vie Garden Project, do as teacher would say back in the field trip days: look with your eyes, not your hands!

It's been a few weeks since I've taken these photos and I'm sure the vegetables look different, but I think that's the point. Gardening is an ongoing process. It changes and as a keeper of a garden, one must shepherd this transformation. Even looking at my own non-envy-worthy garden, I already see signs of fall coming in, plants starting to die out, but also the final push of greens like lettuce and herbs rejoicing at the cooler nights and return of rainy days.

Green with envy yet? - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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  1. Neat! I wonder how the garden looks right now. There's an urban garden on the lawn strip right next to our place: tomatoes, basil, a variety of root veggies and flowers. I just read yesterday that permits for urban gardening on the lawn strips (if that's what they are called...) are on the rise, and the city of Seattle has decided to not charge any fees for simple gardening on those strips near sidewalks. That is really cool.

  2. I want my very own garden next year!!

  3. Haven't been, but need to go now that you've tempted me with such stunning images. Love the evolution with the environment over time concept- we'll see what that means for DT BVue though:) Spectacularonimous words and pics as usual, my uber-talented amica.


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