age 50, began gardening when she was a kid in Australia, helping
in her mother’s vegetable and flower gardens. It didn’t
prepare her for the vicious politics of community gardens in New
After I’d been in New York for a couple of years, I mentioned
to a friend, “I really like it here, but I miss getting
my hands in the dirt.” And she said, “You should join
a community garden.” And that was that, and I’ve been
working in this garden for 12 years.
We have a whole long list of criteria about what you have to do
to become a member of the garden. What often happens is that people
walk in, and they go, “Oh my God, it’s so beautiful
in here. I’d love to garden,” but they’ve never
worked in a garden before. They have no concept about the work
involved. So we try to weed those people out.
The downside of it all is the volunteer group dynamic thing: you’ve
got this disparate group of people, and no real leadership, and
you get a power struggle. We had this member who basically wanted
to control the whole garden to control what was planted here and
how it looked. He was voted out, and he wasn’t allowed in
here. So he’d come to the fence and mumble curses at us.
And he actually physically attacked me at the front gate one day.
He licked my face. I mean, he wasn’t supposed to come in,
and I stood in his way, and rather than push me or hit me, he
came up with the novel idea of licking me all over my face like
a dog. And it worked: it totally shocked me, and I stepped back,
and he pushed past and got in and started pulling plants up, cursing
So we got a restraining order. But it’s run out, and he’s
allowed to come in on Sundays. But he hasn’t been back.
He lives right down the block. He’s a professional landscapist,
but his people skills are nil.