Beautify America: Eat your vegetables!
Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon's ambitious plans for vegetable gardens outside City Hall, outlined in my story in The Sun today, made me think that perhaps we should be planting edible landscapes around all our public buildings: libraries, schools, courthouses and firehouses - for the benefit of the poor or for those who work and learn in those buildings.
And it is evidence that the pendulum has swung from the 1960s, when Lady Bird Johnson inspired the nation to plant wildflowers along highways and on other public land. Beautification was the watchword then. Food safety and healthy eating are the anthems now.
Flowers vs. vegetables. It is an old rivalry. Especially since the ancients found so many uses - medicinal and food - for flowers.
I like what Roger Doiron said in today's news story. The edible landscape advocate said that these kinds of projects can make cities rethink their ability to feed themselves, that urban areas are not condemned to poor nutrition and hunger just because the earth is paved over there.
I wonder, too, if this sudden explosion in interest in vegetable gardening will make flower gardeners like me feel guilty. Like we aren't contributing to the common good with our hydrangeas and our coneflowers. Like we are wasting our land and the sun and the rain that feed it.
And I wonder how the nation might have reacted if Lady Bird Johnson had urged us to plant corn or soybeans along the highways and in the median strips, instead of waves of colorful wildflowers.
Photo courtesy of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center