PHYLLIS ODESSEY

Top of the Heap: Fritz Haeg

Fritz Haeg
Edible Estates:  Full Frontal Gardening
From The Ground Up:  Garden Re-Imagined Series
New York Botanical Garden
March 26, 2010
Fritz Haeg is a…
1.  Garden Engineer
2.  Garden Designer
3. Garden Provocateur
4. Garden Philosopher
5. Garden Therapist
 All of the Above
The compost pile is a metaphor for everything right with the world: at least in the world of Fritz Haeg.  This decaying organic matter is the engine of the garden and as such deserves an honored place.  In elevating the compost pile to an object of beauty,  I believe  Haeg, would agree with Cole Porter, “I’m a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop, But if, baby, I’m the bottom you’re the top!…”
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Haeg wasn’t the first person to jump on the grow your own food, think global, act local bandwagon.  Alice Waters has been at it for years.  It’s true that Fritz has put a new twist on the movement by convincing people to grow food on their front lawns in suburban neighborhoods.  The Edible Estates, project and book, were the subject of Haeg’s lecture at the New York Botanical Garden.
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Haeg is like the Descartes of the garden world.  He is full of questions and philosophical dilemmas.  After showing an aerial view of Levittown,  Haeg ask the audience “I am interested in what we do with what we have inherited.  What are we gonig to do with these spaces now? “
a
What are we going to do?  Haeg gives us a brief history of the lawn.  “It’s all about isolation.”  The lawn symbolizes the American dream: comfort, prosperity:  it demonstrates to the community that you are doing well.  When reconsidering the lawn, Haeg suggests we are reconsidering our value system.
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Ultimately, Haeg is about engaging in dialog with each other.  Make a garden on your front lawn with a space to hang out in.  Everyone has their own little town green.   Ask yourself and your neighbors, how you want to live NOW!  Question your idea of beauty.  The Edible Estate gardens are not magazine gardens.  The idea is that anyone can make a garden.

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Oddly enough, the current  economic downturn may be just the thing.  Maybe we are all going to slow down, plant some seeds and enjoy the fruit of our labors.  Or maybe, we are just going to start a conversation.  And that’s ok with Fritz Haeg.

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