Bursting out of their flowerpots, North American suburban homegardens have gone beyond tomatoes on the patio. There are persimmons in the roses in Falls Church, hops growing up chimneys in Annandale, pumpkin-filled front yards on the corner. Can sububurban agriculture be more pioneering and political than its urban cousin? Land, shifting demographics, local food sensibilities and fewer or no zoning policy limitation make suburban gardens possible, the intrinsic creativity and culture-in-your-mouth aspects of koo gua in Vienna make them delicious. The “what’s old is new again” greenbelt idea of small-scale local food produced for cities make may make them powerful.
Mary Quant said, “A girl is only as young as her knees.” She meant coltish and clattery, all pretty divots, well-hewn angles, and mostly one color, presumably, between an elegant shin and a saucy mini. Scrabbling in pajama bottoms on all fours, mug of coffee in one fist, I’m shoving my glasses up my nose, behind the azaleas of my front yard, ripping out hanks of stiltgrass like hair, saving the orchard grass, violets, and fleabane. I’m preparing to plant a meadow in this small pool of dappled, autumn light under a persimmon where I buried a cat named Doc. Who was dead and liked this spot – to lie in last year’s thin sun, baking the pain in his spine to a drone, when he wasn’t lying on my chest, peering into my face, willing me stop saying, “Oh, you handsome cat,” and do something.
On my knees in the fescue consulting Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins, it’s surprising to know: “meadow” means “mowed land” – not coming from the word “mead,” that ancient, honied-summer Bacchus quaff at all. “Mowed land,” maybe, but I’ve let this grass, a 10-ish by 15 foot blob under Doc’s persimmon, never well groomed (the blob, that is; the cat, quite dapper), grow to see what would happen to a grass-centric ecology loosed from grass-centric management: fleabane rosettes arrived immediately – green in February and flowering by March, crawling through it now on my scuffed and purpley knees at the end of summer, there’s grape, poison ivy, something I always thought was spiny anoda, poke, persimmons both rotting and rotted – or maybe slurped hollow – just purple husks like sea urchins left, and violets. I’ll mow it now and, with honied summers and orange cats in mind, I’ll plant clover.