Oswego, N.Y.

“A citizen working on Sunday morning in the victory garden he has made on the edge of the street,” Oswego, New York, June 1943, by Marjory Collinsvia Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (all photos here).

“Reports estimate that by 1944, between 18-20 million families with victory gardens were providing 40 percent of the vegetables in America,” according to Smithsonian Gardens.

Showing his wife vegetables as she starts on her way to church.

The Sunday porch: Montgomery, Alabama

“Early dwelling, 222 S. Perry St.,” Montgomery, Alabama, 1939, by Frances Benjamin Johnstonvia Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The porch woodwork pattern is echoed in the little attic windows. Click to enlarge.

A huge vine is growing beside the steps, but it seems to go up into the tree on the left, rather than onto the porch.

The sidewalk is tiled in a simple geometric pattern. The effect, with the arches of the porch and basement windows, is a little Moroccan/Andalusian.

The house no longer stands.

Bus stop meadow

On a weekend walk in the southern suburbs of Stuttgart, I paused near a bus stop to admire the long uncut grass between the sidewalk and the street.

(Click on any of the thumbnails above to scroll through larger versions of the photos.)

Many public green spaces in the area have been left unmown this spring, and they could hardly be more beautiful.

Sumer is i-cumin in—
Lhude sing, cuccu!
Groweth sed and bloweth med
And springth the wude nu.
Sing, cuccu!

[Summer has arrived,
Loudly sing, cuckoo!
The seed grows
and the meadow blooms
And the wood springs anew,
Sing, cuckoo!]

Anonymous, from “Sumer is i-cumin in

ADDENDUM:  I just realized that today this blog is four years old.  Thanks for visiting!

Our garden: cutouts

My question here in Stuttgart is a common one: “how to make a garden without much gardening?”

Our backyard is  an enclosed  strip of lawn that runs the length of the back of the house and wraps halfway around on both sides. There are two large trees and a concrete patio outside the center door. In one far corner is a small, oval-ish planting bed with a few shrubs and perennials and a lot of weeds. About 5′ beyond the fence are mature woods.

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And when I say ‘lawn,’ I mean moss, clover, dandelions, plantains, buttercups, lawn daisies, sprouted trees, an assortment of other low creeping plants, and some grass.

I have no desire to dig the planting beds (or buy the trees and shrubs) that would improve this dull (except for the woods) space. We want to spend our time in Europe getting out and about.

But I do want to have a garden that’s a little more pretty aesthetically satisfying to sit in during the long daylight of summer.

My solution (at least for this year) has taken inspiration from several different sources.

pillow cover 3, enclos*ure1) The “wonky” log cabin patchwork pillows I made for the living room.

Hohenheim lawn 8, enclos*ure2) The front lawn of the 18th century schloss (palace) of Hohenheim (near our house in the southern suburbs of Stuttgart) — it’s part of the University of Hohenheim, which specializes in agriculture and natural sciences.

Hohenheim lawn 2, enclos*ureThe grass is cut short, except for five or six unmown islands.

Hohenheim lawn 10, enclos*ureNo doubt, the university is also trying to add some pattern and texture with low effort and cost.

Plienigen-Stuttgart, enclos*ure3) The public “hell” strips and other intermediary spaces along streets and sidewalks in nearby towns.  They have been left uncut and have grown into really beautiful urban meadows.  The area in the photo above was sprinkled with blue forget-me-nots a week ago.

4) Paths and patterns cut through long grass —  and labyrinths.  Here and here are a couple of images of a garden by Mien Ruys.

This is what I did about a week ago:

our yard 7, enclos*ure

Using my antique reel mower and some clippers, I cut patterns through the grass, which has only been mowed once this spring.

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I just “free-handed” it, starting with a patchwork-type design on the north side.

Then, I mowed a border around the patio and made a short path to the back gate.

our yard 17, enclos*ure

On the south side, my main concern was the planting bed, the shape of which does not even rise to that of a kidney.

our yard 2, enclos*ure

First, I mowed around it, enlarging it and cleaning up the edges (weeding it will come one of these days — it’s not really in our line of sight when we sit on the patio).  Then I matched it by making a similar shape on the other end of the same side of the yard, under one of the trees.

our yard 4, enclos*ure

I put our old table and chairs there (painting them is another chore for the future).

our yard 3, enclos*ure

Then, I mowed two curvy paths out from each oval, so they cross in the center.

our yard 30, enclos*ure

Then, I sat down to rest and admire my work.

Admittedly the results are, let’s say, “understated.”  But I have made my mark and I’m happier about the place.

The wheelbarrow is entirely ornamental.
The wheelbarrow is entirely ornamental.

For the rest of the warm months, I just have to mow the paths from time to time. I may plant some bulbs in the grass in the fall. And I’ve thought of wrapping the tree trunks in fairy lights.

In late fall (or should I do it in late winter?), I will need to knock down the long grass — which I’m afraid will involve me and a pair of long shears. There is always something. . . .