Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Greenest Block in Brooklyn judging in progress

Vanderveeer Place, Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is big. A city of cities. Vanderveer Place was new to me.

The semi-finalists in the competition vary widely from lush blocks to streets where the odd pot plant stands bravely on a stoop in an asphalt and concrete desert.

Why a block enters is a whole story, a long one, that I might be able to get into one day. And what they do once they have entered, is part of that story. The consensus seems to be that there is less interest this year. I have heard this from organisers and participants alike; that is ironic give the groundswell of support that the vocal local and green movements seem to be enjoying.

It doesn't take a competition to green one's house, either, so it's interesting that so often streets are entirely barren of green initiative and spark. I mean, we live here!

Vanderveer Place is on board, though. They have been winners twice, I believe.

Almost every house on the block had something going on, and, more importantly, they had taken it to the sidewalks. I don't think I have ever seen such happy portulaca. A brilliant choice for dry, sunny conditions. I saw it nowhere else.

Parking signs were adorned with hanging baskets.


...and I loved these potatoes growing in windowboxes.

You have to enter the competition as a block. Two sides of street, between two crossing streets.

The idea is to involve all houses.

This house was definitely the official embassy of the Greenest Block Competition.

I liked the oxblood red stoop.

And this house was the one that entered the block in the competition, officially. It said so on our printed forms, where we did our scoring.

There are three judges driving to see about eight blocks every day, as this round is scored. You might see the Greenbridge SUV cruising your block today...

After we tallied our numbers at the end of the day we discovered that I was consistently the lower of the three scorers, though ultimately we agreed on the best and second best blocks. But the highest scorer was consistent too, and the middle one.

Interestingly, we were also encouraged in our briefing pep talk to discuss our views afterwards, before handing in our final tally; and advised that we could decide that the block with the highest numerical score overall could possibly be bumped in favour of another, less obviously lush block, if it seemed that extra effort or initiative was being shown in the latter. In other words, encourage newcomers. The reason for this is to reward participation, obviously, as well as interest, and effort.

The same was true last year but I admit I voted conservatively, choosing one that just sang out to me, rather than one that was trying very hard but wasn't, in my opinion, there yet. My choice did not win.

This competition is a wonderful concept, and could benefit from hugely beefed-up publicity before registration closes for the competition in June. I saw nothing major in the press. Human interest stories abound, not even counting the horticultural and botanical angles. There is plenty to write about.

Around March neighbours should start mobilising to perk up their stoops, railings, windows, sidewalks - anything to make the street come alive.

Very few upmarket hoods enter, and in general the best green blocks tend to be the repeat performers. And then there are the barren wastes.

If you live in Brooklyn, consider entering next year. This makes an incredible difference to the streetscape and is wide, wide open to interpretation. It could be edible. It could be herbs. It does not have to be expensive. You will have to speak to your neighbours. You will have to get your hands dirty. You will have to water. But if nobody told you before...

It's FUN!

Contact Geenbridge at the BBG for more info, tips, street clinics and advice.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. sorry there, blogger having comment issues...

  3. Thanks for the info Marie, you and your blog make it so compelling to move into the city. But this comment was to share a link that you might already be aware of: Buffalo Gardens Walk. BGW is all about the neighborhood gardening experience and how they market it, maybe you can pass it along to the organizers of the Brooklyn contest and to the BBG.


    And off topic, I also enjoyed your post on purslane and am ready to take another look at it since so far we have seen it as a weed here in our NJ garden, and although I know we in Mexico eat it, I never tried it! So, will be trying your recipes, and I might even try to decipher the one at the NYT. Thanks!

  4. This is such a wonderful idea and I hope more blocks become involved.
    It's definitely a city thing and makes the city sing.

  5. Hi Frank - yes, those were from my favourite, Vanderveer Place(this year), but there will be many more blocks judged in the coming days by other judges. Yes, everyone says it's hard times for plants, too, though I think that resourcefulness and initiative are sorely lacking in a general sense, with obvious exceptions - this is why I'd like to see more media attention given to the subject...

    Hi Maria - Yes, well aware of GWB, and was supposed to be there for a garden bloggers meet up and sort of preview last week, but could not make it, very sadly. I am sure that the BBG is also well acquainted with Buffalo's success story, but perhaps reiterating it could not hurt.

    Welcome back to the Internet, Hen - instilling a gardening culture is harder than it seems, for some reason. I blame the TV's.

  6. I saw the judges walk by on my block. They loved my potted herb garden in pots.

  7. LOVE IT!

    Thanks for posting. It's not only the beauty of the photos (and you do a great job), it is the fact that you shared this one, noble concept.

    A thing of beauty is a joy forever.


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