There are so many different ways of looking at things that it's hard to find agreement about how to grow a garden. Some gardeners have stable, set ways of thinking and so pretty much know how they want their efforts to turn out; to them beauty is aligned with simplicity - "I know what I like, case closed." I'm more interested in change myself, and so end up with what may seem a chaos of conflicting desires; gardens I've started have often been blooming jungles of surprises. Do you want beauty or peace or productivity or learning to be the product of your garden? Do you want food or medicine from it? Do you want your garden efforts to result in a friendlier neighborhood?
Maybe you just want a garden to be a place to be alone in and let nature heal with its sounds and smells and comfort. A healing garden might combine medicinal with aromatherapy plants - a place where some can harvest plants to make salves and soothing or invigorating teas while others find the sights, sounds, and smells all the cure they need. Maybe you want a garden that's a place for people to get together, or a place of memories.
Everyone's Garden (at the corner of West Elizabeth and Lytle Streets) is, true to it's name, a little bit of everything, the creation of many people. I used to be strictly a food plant person - only interested in growing something if some part of it was edible; but relationships with other gardeners have opened up my mind and heart a bit. Neighbors planted iris and several other plants I still don't know the name of, but which yearly come back and add to the beauty. People complimenting the garden have led me to more often slow down and smell the roses. Bee balm is in flower inside the little circle of salvaged bricks where Fran Soltesz is remembered.
I yearn to produce great quantities of food, but this garden is ideal only for introducing various food plants to people; real production will have to take place where more controlled conditions are possible. It's a wonderful thing to be able to show children food plants and how to harvest and what parts they can take home to eat; but picking something before it's ready (and sometimes just for kids to throw around in a food fight) just can't be allowed in a working food production garden. Everyone's Garden is a public amenity similar to our parks; it isn't fenced in to keep out either wildlife or wild people. So rabbits and raucous neighbors are free to eat and/or trample plants there. Someone just walked off with our three pairs of hand clippers.
Learning for me has been partly via the School of Hard Knocks, which I notice quite a few others are alumni of. The work-in-progress appearance of Everyone's Garden is the result not only of my learning but also having to consensus with others with other goals and opinions. All in all, I'm grateful for the opportunity to work together with people producing satisfaction and community as best we can.