The Perils of City Planting

Plant a garden in the country and risk its being decimated by deer, bunnies, or other furry creatures.  Plant a garden in the city and risk having it dug up by city workers repairing a water pipe, peed on by the neighborhood’s ceaseless supply of dogs, or besotted with black dust when your neighbor has her roof redone.  The last thing just happened to me.  Parts of Chicago, mine included, got nailed by a crazy hailstorm back in June, and the damage to homes has brought all sorts of opportunistic contractors to our doorstep:  “Have you found anyone to repair your house yet?”  We were told by insurance adjustors that the damage to our roof will take 10-15 years off its lifespan, and we don’t doubt it, but we’ve been reluctant to go ahead and have the work done because of just what we’re experiencing now – a lovely fall garden saturated with black dust.

lady's mantle in my parkway, usually a green plant except when debris falls all over it

nicotiana in my front yard, you know it looks horrible

Truth be told, I know that I’ve escaped many city gardening disasters that could be much more devastating.  One of my friends used to work her behind off acquiring and planting gorgeous shrubs and perennials at a Chicago park district property only to have the roses stolen by folks in the area and the Liatris dug up by unknowing volunteers.  I know people who have had to replant their entire parkway after the city needed to dig it up to access water pipes.  They were informed in advance of this, so they were able to salvage most of the plants, but no garden enjoys being completely uprooted just as no gardener wishes to to uproot it.  And that same hailstorm that brought on the roof repair over here wreaked havoc on the annual vegetable gardens of many of my friends to the east.  Of course, hail is hardly limited to urban areas, but the close plantings required by a city gardener seem to exaggerate its ill effects.

The good thing about the recent dust is that it gives me the courage and fortitude to get our own rooftop redone.  We’ve been postponing the inevitable, but as long as the plants have this black coating now, there’s a part of me that says we may as well get it over with and subject them to being doused once again before winter covers them up with a snowy blanket.  Then in the spring I can work on keeping them clean and healthy, at least until the siding needs to be replaced.


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