Volume 19 Issue 53 | May 18 -24, 2007

Downtown Express photo by Lincoln Anderson

Lynn Vaag installing a piece of a branch for a “rustic fence” in her garden on Sullivan St. near Spring St.

A pirate garden invades a run-down ribbon of soil

By Lincoln Anderson

While an earthen strip held by a low retaining wall on Sullivan St. might have struck most as just a sorry sliver of dirt, Lynn Vaag always saw its potential. A few weeks ago, on the day before Earth Day, she started transforming it into what she calls a “guerilla garden.”

The attendants at the Mobil gas station that used to be just west of the spot said it was fine with them if she wanted to cultivate the dusty patch. But the gas station was torn down a few months ago, and a real estate developer now owns the property. A new building is expected to materialize there.

“I’ve heard from people in the neighborhood that lot is not part of the plans,” Vaag said of the 6-foot-by-60-foot strip. “And I don’t think they would kill these two gingko trees,” she added of two 20-foot-tall inhabitants of the otherwise mostly barren plot.

On Wed., April 25, Vaag, who has lived across the street for 26 years, was installing what she called a “rustic fence,” using small branches for poles. Her vision for the project began to take shape last year.

“In November, I went to Forrest Park in Queens right after a big storm. I wanted to harvest,” she said of the branches.

Between the branch-poles, she strung medium-weight hemp rope she had purchased that morning down on Walker St.

Everything in the garden will have a country feel — there will be nothing modern looking — she said.

“If you Google ‘Backyard Habitat,’ you’ll see what I’m trying to do,” she explained.

“Garden Freshly Seeded Please Keep Off,” read signs attached to the gingkos with loops of rope.

She has planted morning glories and moonflowers — “because they grow well in construction debris,” she said. “It’s terrible soil, that’s why I’m planting what I’m planting.”

She made a foray at planting the strip last year, but only one rose bush survived.

“You should see it when it blooms,” she said. “It’s smoky purple.”

Noting, “I have a woodpecker in my backyard,” Vaag said she hopes the garden will also become a bird sanctuary.

She realizes she has no official approval for any of this.

“I think I’m going to call it the Pirate Garden — and fly the Jolly Roger,” she said, “because it isn’t really legal.”

Her Soho neighbors, though, have been giving her an enthusiastic green thumbs up.

“Oh, you’re putting a garden in here? Good,” observed a passing woman with a smile. “It’ll get lots of sun here.”

“Good for you,” commented another woman.

“It’s a nice use of the space,” stated one man approvingly. “I’m used to seeing indigent people sitting here, drinking beer and carrying on.”

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