Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rabbit-Proof Fence (St. Paul Remix)

As it has become common for city folks to plant vegetables and other edibles in their front yards, I've wondered what would happen when neighborhood aesthetics clashed with garden practicality. The amount of sun needed by vegetable plants is often not found in urban backyards, while the front yards and boulevards are more often sunny, especially after Dutch elm disease ran its course.

The Pioneer Press reports that just such a clash is brewing on historic Summit Avenue in St. Paul.

Church in the background of the garden and its fence
This season, the House of Hope Presbyterian church installed a large, front-yard community garden, whose purpose is to provide produce for the Neighborhood House food shelf.

I had to see the fence for myself, so I stopped by today. Not only do I like it, I think the presence of such a thoughtful garden will inspire the many passersby -- both in terms of the beauty possible in a vegetable garden and fact that such a garden is needed in this land of plenty.

Sign next to the garden telling how the produce will be given away at the Neighborhood House food shelf
The garden is thoughtfully designed by Paula Westmoreland, director of the Permaculture Research Institute - Cold Climate.

Landscape plan for the garden, showing how thoughtful it is
Part of the design is a rabbit-proof fence; a necessity in this haven for furry creatures.

According to the PiPress, Westmoreland researched both practical and aesthetic criteria in designing the fence, but it still doesn't meet the approval of some residents and members of the Historic Preservation Commission, even though the HPC approved the fence and garden.

Close up of the fence, showing the cedar posts and top rails and galvanized wire grid below
I can see both sides of the argument. There are 11 other churches along Summit Avenue, which is the longest stretch of Victorian homes in the country. What if every one of them put a garden out front with whatever type of fencing they wanted? And what if homeowners got in on the act?

That worry seems a bit overblown to me, though. The HPC saw this fence design, and while it's not made of wrought iron or stone, it's tidy and well-proportioned. The cedar material will weather well without paint. Churches and home owners on Summit build and maintain their yards within a set of restrictions maintained by the HPC, and that will continue to be the case. Any other fence that meets the standard of the House of Hope fence should be welcome.

(Those are potatoes growing inside the wire-mesh towers.)

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