Welcome to Manhattan: No backyard, no garden & no grill?

When I need a shot of greenery or a flower and planting overdose, I visit the 91st Street Garden in Riverside Park.

I visited family in New Jersey this past weekend. Gigi and Jeff own a cute 1930s house on a cul-de-sac with a small landscaped backyard. The first floor of their three-story nest is bigger than my entire NYC apartment.

Located about 40 minutes outside of Manhattan in Radburn, their home would seem luxurious at this point in my space-constrained world (after living in a less-than-1000-square-foot flat since 2007), and I should be incredibly envious. But in reality, I think that I’m most jealous of the garden. If I had any sense, I’d long for the cute downstairs powder room (with an exhaust fan!) and the huge laundry/mud room with a Bosch washer and dryer. But instead, I really envy the yard, the garden — and the grill — I really miss owning a grill, especially after cousin Gigi told me that she grills in the snow.  How fun does that sound? It rarely snows in Georgia, so grilling in the snow was never a possibility.
 
After five-plus years of living in Manhattan, what I miss most is a backyard, garden, and grill? Most New York City transplants would miss a list of other amenities such as a car, a walk-in closet, wider aisles in their grocery store, or full-size appliances in their kitchen. But for me, it’s a backyard, garden, and grill?

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t miss tending to it, working in it, weeding, raking leaves, watering it, and digging up dead plants, or better yet—watching plants die. (It took years for my thumb to turn from black to green.) I just miss gazing at it on a daily basis, and buying the plants. I loved weekly trips to Home Depot or Lowe’s to pick out plants. I bought plants that I knew would never survive more than a week, but the happiness those plants brought for that brief week until they died cannot be described. Not all all logical, I know.

I miss the proud feeling that used to come over me each time I looked out the windows of my Victorian bungalow, knowing the pile of dirt that lived there before, and what had come to life since. I miss watching things flourish and grow.

You know what’s funny? I didn’t even plant that entire garden myself. I did some of it, but I had plenty of help along the way. All of those people who tilled, dug, planted, fertilized, watered, and weeded should be the proud ones. I really shouldn’t care one bit. But I do. They probably never went back to look at it again either. Even I haven’t been back to my house in Atlanta in years. For all I know, the new owners haven’t watered it and the whole thing is dead by now. No real reason to miss it then, is there? Or maybe if it’s dead, I should miss it more.

But lucky for me, even though I don’t own a garden now, I’ve got plenty to visit in NYC. When I need a shot of greenery or a flower and planting overdose, I visit the 91st Street Garden in Riverside Park. It’s about a ten-minute walk from my Upper West Side apartment, and it’s lush and beautiful, just like in the movie, “You’ve Got Mail.” Corny, I know. But this is the best kind of garden in my opinion. The Garden People (a volunteer organization) dig, plant, water and maintain it. It’s a group effort, kind of like my garden, but just a whole lot prettier.

The result is creative genius. It’s a melting pot of textures, colors, bulbs, evergreens, annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, and just about anything else that has roots and will grow if watered and given half the chance. It’s an absolutely beautiful patch of horticultural diversity.  
 
Each year in the spring when I walk Bogey through Riverside, the air is starting to turn slightly warmer, I see the dedicated gardeners emerge from hibernation, and begin nurturing their spots. Within weeks, it seems as if the two famous planted patches explode and reach new heights, only to evolve and bloom through the summer and into fall, until cold returns and another season comes to an end. The garden sleeps for a few months, and then the miraculous process begins all over again.
I observe those gardeners day after day during my daily walk until the plants take hold and begin to thrive. And each summer, the 91st Street Garden appears to be a little different, a little more lush and colorful than the year before.

As I miss my own garden more with each passing year that I live in Manhattan, I grow to appreciate this garden more and more at the start of each spring. It’s like my own personal flowering parcel, minus the money and labor required. It bears most every plant that I love, and some that I’ve never seen nor know the names. It’s not in my own backyard, but by New York standards, it’s pretty darn close.

You could say that I’m one of many secret admirers of the 91st Street Garden in Riverside Park. It’s my little slice of landscape heaven in the concrete jungle. Now if only I had a grill.
For more about life in New York, follow me on Twitter, or on Tracy’s New York Life.
 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Woman dies when run over by bus at…

A woman at the Burning Man arts and culture festival in the Nevada desert died on Thursday when she was run over by a bus carrying participants.

National

Texas parents sue day care center for duct…

By Marice RichterDALLAS (Reuters) - A Texas couple has filed a lawsuit against the owners of a Fort Worth-area day care center seeking $1 million…

National

Santa Fe city council votes to decriminalize marijuana

By Joseph KolbALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - Santa Fe on Wednesday became the latest U.S. city to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, with lawmakers in the…

International

Egypt queries Mursi over documents "leaked" to Al…

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt is investigating jailed ex-president Mohamed Mursi in connection with documents that judicial investigators say were leaked to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…