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Plants & Gardens Blog

A Year of Community Greening

As I write this, I am entering my second growing season as director of Brooklyn Botanic Garden's community greening programs. What better time to reflect on the ways in which this year has been a season of growth for me?

For most of my career, I’ve had the good fortune of working at BBG in various capacities: gardener, teacher, and administrator. And for nearly 30 years, my work has lived within the world of BBG’s wonderful 52 acres (a place that admittedly has come to feel like “my own” garden!). This past year immersed me in the world of community horticulture beyond BBG’s fence, and I’ve had the chance to see and appreciate Brooklyn—from its Greenest Block winners to its community gardens and well-tended street tree beds—in a whole new light.

I’ve met countless passionate gardeners, ranging from those with decades of greening experience (both here and in other countries) to newbies incredibly eager to learn. All are facing the challenges and reaping the rewards of greening an often harsh urban environment. And they do it with an excitement rivaling that of a kid in a candy store! I am a better horticulturist thanks to the wealth of knowledge, insight, and experience these gardeners have so generously shared.

One instance I won’t soon forget is the Community Garden Alliance plant giveaway last May. An unexpectedly frigid night had left some of the plants badly frostbitten. We labeled them “In Need of TLC” and set them out with hopes that a few would be taken. As it turned out, they were often among the first to chosen, and by the end of the day all had found loving homes. A few months later, an Alliance gardener could barely contain her enthusiasm as she showed me how her TLC plants were thriving. Such dedication and care are humbling.

One of the most profound things I’ve witnessed is how gardening strengthens communities. I’ve seen people of all ages and backgrounds talking and working together, finding creative ways of doing things—like upcycling unexpected items into planters and creating eye-catching signs to get the greening message across with a smile. Neighbors are doing whatever they can with the resources they have to make the city a better place for all of us.

I am inspired by and very proud of Brooklyn—both its plants and its people! As we all know as gardeners, seeing what is growing on the other side of the fence brings curiosity, excitement, and learning. This has indeed been a very special year.

Mark Fisher is director of Horticulture at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

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