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Garden Visit: Mindful Neglect in Lindsey Taylor’s Rambunctious Cinderblock Garden

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Garden Visit: Mindful Neglect in Lindsey Taylor’s Rambunctious Cinderblock Garden

July 14, 2021

“You have to be a tough to be allowed in.” Lindsey Taylor is explaining how she decides which plants to grow in her cinderblock garden, which is located in an old mechanic’s lot that she’s transformed into a thriving urban garden in Newburgh, NY. “I don’t have a lot of time to care for it, so it’s a bit of a survival of the bullies,” she continues. “Drought-tolerant is important—no heavy drinkers. And I have a thing for tall plants and umbels. If you’re an umbel, you get a free pass!”

Ornamental grasses and deep-rooted prairie plants like rattlesnake master make appearances, as do seasonal blooms: bulbs in early spring, poppies and valerian and lots of self-sowers like Ammi majus, Orlaya, Nigella, Scabiosa, Clary sage, Verbascums, and Asters for the fall. They’re all contained (barely) in raised cinderblock beds, a nod to the squat cinderblock garage on the property. On the other side of the garden is a a three-story brick factory that’s now home to Atlas Studios, a compound for creative professionals co-owned by Lindsey’s husband. (See Industrial Revival: Atlas Repurposes a 1920s Abandoned Factory into a Creative Hub.)

“Aesthetically it made sense to use the cinderblocks to create raised beds, and the cost was right. We already had a lot of cinderblocks in the yard,” she notes. ” And the raised beds are very functional as they help to keep dogs out of the planted areas.”

The beds keep the rowdy plantings in check, too. “I like a bit of madcap-ness in my garden. Plants are allowed to mingle but the clean edges of the cinderblocks and the groomed gravel paths (I try to keep them tidy) help hold it all together, like a wonderful huge crazy wild arrangement.”

Photography by Dana Gallagher, courtesy of Lindsey Taylor.

The cinderblock garden abuts the parking lot for Atlas Studios. Lindsey purposely chose higher-than-normal raised beds and tall plants so that the garden can be admired from inside the building.
Above: The cinderblock garden abuts the parking lot for Atlas Studios. Lindsey purposely chose higher-than-normal raised beds and tall plants so that the garden can be admired from inside the building.
Lindsey working in the garden. In these beds are Valerian, Russian sage, Mexican feather grass, Guara, Verbascum, and plum poppies. &#8\2\20;I weed selectively—after a rain is easiest. I let certain plants like Orlaya, bronze fennel, and Nigella stay, but I consider how much I leave. You don&#8\2\17;t want to leave it all or you’d just have a mess.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: Lindsey working in the garden. In these beds are Valerian, Russian sage, Mexican feather grass, Guara, Verbascum, and plum poppies. “I weed selectively—after a rain is easiest. I let certain plants like Orlaya, bronze fennel, and Nigella stay, but I consider how much I leave. You don’t want to leave it all or you’d just have a mess.”
Instead of patchy grass, gravel now fills in the space between the beds. Standing tall in the left bed is Verbascum ‘Christo&#8\2\17;s Yellow Lightning’. The blue shipping container is accessed from the parking lot and acts as Lindsey&#8\2\17;s gardening toolshed.
Above: Instead of patchy grass, gravel now fills in the space between the beds. Standing tall in the left bed is Verbascum ‘Christo’s Yellow Lightning’. The blue shipping container is accessed from the parking lot and acts as Lindsey’s gardening toolshed.
&#8\2\20;When we had an outdoor market a few years ago, we added the awning which creates some shade for the makeshift table with stools for anyone at Atlas Studios to hang out, eat lunch, etc. I always wanted the garden to be a place for the community and many do use it and enjoy seeing what&#8\2\17;s blooming,&#8\2\2\1; says Lindsey. A volunteer wild grape vine frames part of the awning. The hornbeam tree, with a volunteer poppy “skirt,&#8\2\2\1; will grow to eventually provide more shade one day.
Above: “When we had an outdoor market a few years ago, we added the awning which creates some shade for the makeshift table with stools for anyone at Atlas Studios to hang out, eat lunch, etc. I always wanted the garden to be a place for the community and many do use it and enjoy seeing what’s blooming,” says Lindsey. A volunteer wild grape vine frames part of the awning. The hornbeam tree, with a volunteer poppy “skirt,” will grow to eventually provide more shade one day.
A volunteer Verbascum, variegated agave, and chamomile grow in planters.
Above: A volunteer Verbascum, variegated agave, and chamomile grow in planters.
The teahouse was made by Yoshihiro Sergel and Diana Mangaser of YSDM Studio, early tenants of Atlas Studios. &#8\2\20;It was originally part of their RISD thesis project and was only for the indoors. Since we had the space, we all decided they should recreate one for the outdoors.&#8\2\2\1; (The teahouse was recently relocated to the grounds of Manitoga, the home of American industrial designer Russel Wright in Garrison, NY.) The chair is by Hannah Vaughan, another Atlas tenant.
Above: The teahouse was made by Yoshihiro Sergel and Diana Mangaser of YSDM Studio, early tenants of Atlas Studios. “It was originally part of their RISD thesis project and was only for the indoors. Since we had the space, we all decided they should recreate one for the outdoors.” (The teahouse was recently relocated to the grounds of Manitoga, the home of American industrial designer Russel Wright in Garrison, NY.) The chair is by Hannah Vaughan, another Atlas tenant.
The teahouse was handmade with cedar, string, and paper. &#8\2\20;They had beautiful events around it, like a traditional tea ceremony and an Ikebana floral workshop,&#8\2\2\1; says Lindsey.
Above: The teahouse was handmade with cedar, string, and paper. “They had beautiful events around it, like a traditional tea ceremony and an Ikebana floral workshop,” says Lindsey.
Cinderblocks and a slab of bluestone become a makeshift bench. A profusion of thyme, strawberries, and Clary sage animate the bed just behind it. Stray bronze fennel sprigs dot the gravel.
Above: Cinderblocks and a slab of bluestone become a makeshift bench. A profusion of thyme, strawberries, and Clary sage animate the bed just behind it. Stray bronze fennel sprigs dot the gravel.
The original cinderblock garage can be seen in the back, right. It&#8\2\17;s now a gym for Lindsey&#8\2\17;s husband.
Above: The original cinderblock garage can be seen in the back, right. It’s now a gym for Lindsey’s husband.
&#8\2\16;Laurens Grape’ poppies play among Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’.
Above: ‘Laurens Grape’ poppies play among Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’.
Nigella seedheads dance in front of Mexican feather grass.
Above: Nigella seedheads dance in front of Mexican feather grass.

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