In my mid-teens I began growing tomatoes, basil, and green beans for my mother. My father had been doing it previously but had since lost interest. I wasn't very good, losing tomatoes to wilt half-way through the season. Answer -dump miracle grow on them. Plants still lost. Hmmm.
While in college, I worked at a retail greenhouse and occasionally doing various landscaping jobs. I started reading Organic Gardening magazine. After graduation, I spent a couple of years building decks and planting gardens on rooftops and in backyards in Manhattan. I read Sara Stein's Noah's Garden in just a few days.
In those restless years I moved to Portland, Oregon. There I took up work with a landscaping company and had my first yard garden. I let the lawn grow tall just to see what would come up (neighbors hated that). After moving back to NYC, I began gardening for a couple in Great Neck, NY, and worked with a deck builder in Manhattan.
In 1997, I went to graduate school in New Mexico to earn an Master of Fine Arts. I had a yard garden and container garden, and spent time helping many friends with gardening problems and picking up some garden work. I earned a minor in landscape design while there and also designed and installed a home landscape for the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. I started reading J.B. Jackson and other cultural geographers.
Two views of my small, L-shaped New Mexico garden in 1998
After graduate school, in 2000, I came back to NYC, and begun work at a summer-only artist residency program in Maine. I gardened when and where it was possible. Around this time I stopped reading OG magazine, felt it was repeating itself. In 2002 I began work on a large lot-sized private property in Brooklyn. That project took a parking lot and transformed it into a garden -it took nearly two years. Unfortunately, it has since been sold and is under the wrecking ball. During this period I began creating gardening and nature motif art projects.
Greenhouse I built and tended at Socrates Sculpture Park in 2001-02
In 2004 I decided to turn the soil strip in front of my apartment into a garden after my landlord removed some old telephone poles from the area. Also in 2004, after a year of house renovation work, I had enough resources to rent a studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I began painting steadily again. After a rent increase, I moved my studio to a shared sublet in Dumbo, and after an increase there I moved again, and hopefully finally, to Sunset Park. In 2007 I began this blog and also began reading Paul Shepard's writing.
I do have a personal garden design approach, that of a strong hardscaping structure softened by abundant plantings, and a fundamentally organic approach to gardening practices. Organic, for me, is not a political stance, but just plain practical. My gardening prefers the hardy over the temperamental, rain over irrigation, compost over fertilizer, creatures over pesticides. Yet I will from time to time indulge in things that may require special attention. In other words I have a philosophy, developed over many years of experiments and failure, that is open but principled.