The good news: last week, contractors scooped up most of the gravel left over from the recent sewer work on Kimball Avenue. The bad news: they also scraped off the top layer of the parkway, leaving behind crusty, compacted soil and myriad plants in unknown condition.I’ve been working the sunny corner of McLean and Kimball for a few years, planting mostly natives and spring bulbs, adding a layer of leaves each fall, and adding the little mulch my purse is willing to spare. Chicago’s notorious clay soil was slowly loosening up. Now I feel back to square one. Forget about tilling. This stuff needs a jackhammer! Tending public spaces can be a Sisyphean project. Last year, another section of parkway was dug up for water main work. The year before, the City planted a tree, thereby compromising my long term vision of a rustling spot of prairie.* And, it takes just a few greedy, meany fingers to pick or destroy the one and done blooms.**
It’s not like I don’t have enough work to do in our own back yard, or even the parkway in front of our house. Nor should I spend as much time as I do gardening in general. But I love being outside and talking to appreciative neighbors and passersby who often express interest in learning about the benefits of native plants. The garden adds color and texture to a busy, high visibility corner in an area dominated by parking. It is a sign-post, guiding us down Kimball and around the corner to our home.
The good news: the deed was done before much was coming up. I was going to take out the tall asters anyway, because they don’t look good next to the tree. I planned to pry off the groundcover of strawberries, because construction debris and heavy traffic is probably not the best growing medium for edibles. The Mystery Grass and Sedum near the street were untouched. Plenty of tulips are drilling though the rubble. Coneflowers are easy to replace. I’ve been meaning to transplant the Baptisia that is cramped and hidden in my back yard. It deserves a larger stage and audience. I mostly mourn the Rattlesnake Master, but maybe it will come back.
But sorry to say, I am not going to drop big bucks for a thick layer of compost and mulch. Who knows what the City has in plan for the future. Well, maayyybe if we get a nice tax return. . . .just don’t tell my husband.So many possibilities!
*I am embarrassed that I am mad about that tree, a Sweetgum apparently, and have even considered cutting it down. But I won’t. It is a gift that will persist if we move (not any time soon), or I lose energy for gardening near it.
**I am also a little embarrassed about how territorial I got about the flowers, especially the Allium. Some were likely picked by kids for their moms (at least that’s what the kids I once chased down said:), some by squirrels. Some were probably stepped on. It is the *public* way after all. My solution was to plant a whole bunch of bulbs in our back yard so I don’t cling to what grows out front.