by Bruce Camber, First posted in 2014, most recent update: June 2020
The GardenGarage was part of our home in New Orleans. For me it was a place to cultivate plants that were growing on the property when we arrived in August 2009. It was a place to contemplate the nature of things; and in many ways, it inspired and complemented our work being done on these sister sites:
- http://81018.com Our research and development site for major questions in academia
- http://IllHaveItMyWay.com Hattie’s website to address end of life decisions
- http://SmallBusinessSchool.org Our television series from 1994 through 2012
- http://bblu.org Secondary school site, Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics (STEM)
- http://centerperfection.com One of our umbrella organizations
All of those plants were among our many teachers.
Our very first priority of the GardenGarage was to cultivate the little-but-ever-so determined Mondo grass. Sometimes called monkey grass and formally known as Ophiopogon japonicus (pronunciation: oh-fee-oh-POE-gon jah-PON-ih-kus), this grass has also been called Nana, Japonica, Dwarf Lilyturf, and Kyoto.
It is a shade plant that we cultivated for full sun! The secret was a watering system that kept the water flowing in the hottest and brightest of days. The deep roots were moist.
The second priority was the Japanese Yew, part of the Taxus cuspidate family. These forgiving plants are ever-so-hardy and can grow over 30′. Yet, if trimmed they can make a very formidable hedge! We grew them together in tight clusters of three and calling them Christmas Yews (these should be lighted during Advent). They can be ribboned together rather tightly.
Other plants were also cultivated; various strains of liriope and Jasmine, including Confederate and Star Jasmine (Jessamine Trachelospermum, jasminoides of the family Apocynaceae).
Then came all the others: Acanthus, Alphonse Karr bamboo, Blue Daze (Evolvulus), Grape Ivy, Indian Hawthorne, Maiden Hair Grass, Pampas grass, Mahonia, vascular plants including Christmas ferns and Lady ferns, and Horsetail (Equisetum ) ferns. We planted locally grown wisteria and grapes vines and two olive trees to the left and right of the front door. In the tree family there were an Ornamental Pair, Date Palm, Lemon and and even Live Oak trees. One of our guests brought Parsley Hawthorne. There are many other kinds of plants on the property, many in the weed family, that will be cultivated and studied!
Another goal of the GardenGarage was to be a place to share insights about developing one’s own GardenGarage, a Secret Passageway, a Mississippi Mud Mining (native potter’s clay) initiative, a water remediation system, and a self-sufficient property.
We invited friends and neighbors to become part of our GardenGarage family. The initiation process proved to be more difficult than we imagined.
To become part of the family, one had to answer a simple question, “What is the most important insight you have about life?” When you have an answer and come for a visit, I’d have a gessoed cedar board (oil paints provided), so you could “write” (paint) that insight on the board, signed by your first name only and your age. A sweet assortment of boards were displayed along the walls of the Secret Passageway to Universal Knowledge, Insight and Wisdom.
The front entrance of the GardenGarage measures just 20 feet across and it is about 20 feet deep. That’s rather small. Those large aluminum gates are the front entrance. I spent a good part of each day behind those big gate doors working with the plants, the watering system, and the clay harvesting. Simply yell out, “Bruce.!?! and if out there working, the GardenGarage gate on the right would quickly open.
If not, I encouraged people to walk through the Secret Passageway (on the right) and come into the backyard. There still is an entrance to the Garden Garage by coming in through a backyard porch (it was once a very small porte cochère) and a parking spot! It had become a porte cochère for walkers, extra wide baby carriages, bicycles, and motor scooters (when the Secret Passageway was closed for work).
The picture on the right above displays two nine-foot by 4-foot doors. The one on the left is the active door and opened more easily. It was always a bit sticky in humid weather. If I was nowhere to be found (sometimes I’d be working away with a stereo headset blasting music quietly into my ears), there were other options. People were encouraged to go back around to the front door of the house and ring the doorbell (on your right). I never did install a buzzer for the GardenGarage. The plan is to have it ring the doorbell inside our home and my home office.
People who knew us also knew that the plants on the workbench were there for our friends, family and neighbors to replant on their property. We were always encouraging people to feel free to take a plant home (only those from the top of the workbench). My experiments were going on on the shelves below.
It was a good home and we enjoyed our time in New Orleans.
Our next stop along the way was Austin, Texas. -Bruce Camber