Monday, January 19, 2009
This is my contribution to the Garden Blogger's Design Workshop for January on Labeling and Record-Keeping.
Left: one of the many signs used to label the Harry Potter Garden. If they weren't labeled, you'd have no idea how dangerous these plants can be.
I only take the time to label things in the yard the morning of Garden Walk each year. Garden Walk is our big garden tour (largest in the country!) with over 300 urban gardens open for viewing. Last year, we had around 2,000 people coming through our yard. That figure comes from my neighbor, who had his kids count visitors. I can be caught running around looking for tags that haven't been written on too much, minutes before crowds start coming, labeling only the plants of which I'm sure of their names. No Latin. No spell-check.
I only label for the benefit of these visitors. Any other time of the year nothing is labeled. I do keep plant tags in a plastic pot in the garage. They're more for looking up plant info for the blog, or the occasional person asking about a specific plant. Trouble is they're just thrown in there and many of the labels are of plants that have gone on to meet their maker in the big compost pile in the sky. Someone should really go through them and clean 'em out.
I do also label some things of interest to people that aren't all that into plants. Specifically the husbands that get dragged around from garden to garden. I've designed a lot of interpretive signage for museums over the years and I've enjoyed doing the same around my yard for the Garden Walk visitors. One is a sign about the fact that MTV filmed a TV series in the house just behind me, on the other side of my fence.
It was the 2003 season of Fraternity Life. Sounds like it'd be a loud madhouse of pranksters & bawdiness–but we hardly knew they were there. I had no idea it was going on until I saw a guard wandering up and down their driveway one day from my bathroom window. Later that day I saw the same guard on a TV news segment on MTV being in town to film this series. That's how I found out.
It was very quiet the fall they filmed the show. The only way we knew they were there was something going on was the bright lights set up around their back yard. It was so bright that at night, it would light up my hallway–jarring at 1 a.m. when I'd get up to go to the bathroom. (And at 3:30 a.m. And 5:00 a.m., being over 40 sucks.)
The show, when it aired, held our interest for two episodes. We couldn't bear watching more. It was cool to see our house though (from the back, and only the top half, and only rarely, and blurry) on TV. Turned out fine though. My wife and I went to college with the Executive VP and GM of VH1 ( and former Executive VP of Music Programming for MTV). We emailed him just to let him know that they were filming in the house behind us. He sent us a big basket of wines and cheeses in return for our troubles (which were none) and we were invited to the wrap party (which we politely declined).
Left: the sign highlighting some of the architectural details of the house.
Another sign I put together was for the architectural style of the house. Buffalo's a living architectural museum with houses running the gamut from high-style Stick Victorians, Sears & Roebuck mail-order bungalows, Prairie Box classic four-squares and Dutch colonials–and that's just my street! A few blocks away you can find Civil War-era cottages, H.H. Richardson-designed towers and a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed private home. I wanted visitors to appreciate the architecture of this 112-year-old house of which I am lucky enough to be the current steward.
Other signs I put up are for the Harry Potter garden, which I've posted about here. I've also had labels made for my espalier and climbing vines.
To date these signs were printed off my computer onto photo paper. Sucks if it rains, I have to reprint. This year, if it's in the budget, I may get them printed to be permanent. Next year, I will add labels for my lightning rod, an original piece of artwork by a a local sculptor, and the formal vegetable potager garden.