Pocket gardens planned for Noble neighborhood
Can concentrations of pocket gardens help rejuvenate neighborhoods? That’s the question a coalition of Cleveland Heights partners is trying to answer. They are working with neighbors on Langton Road, just off Quilliams Road in the Noble neighborhood, to install 10 pocket gardens this spring. The gardens will consist of either native perennials or a tree surrounded by Russian comfrey and other plants that suppress weeds and provide extra fertility.
“We want to provide sustainable beauty,” said Barbara Sosnowski, who heads the beautification committee of Noble Neighbors, a local activist group. “That means that any garden we plant should look as attractive after four years as it does after one.”
If the effort succeeds, the group intends to take the Langton Road model and apply it elsewhere in the neighborhood. “The exciting thing about this project,” Sosnowski added, “is that it is intended to be scalable. If we succeed with 10 private residences, we can succeed with 50, and so on.”
Noble Neighbors’ partners in the effort include the Home Repair Resource Center (HRRC), Cleveland Heights High School, Rust Belt Riders and Green Paradigm Partners. HRRC will provide classroom space and instruction for the Langton Road neighbors, high school students will provide paid help with construction of the garden plots, Rust Belt Riders will provide specialized compost, and Green Paradigm Partners will provide landscape design and community organizing help. Funding will come from grants and crowd funding via IOBY Cleveland. Look for the Noble Neighborhood pocket garden project at www.ioby.org/campaign/cleveland.
To address the problem of long-term maintenance, the group has devised a three-pronged plan. At the horticultural level, the group has selected plants that grow well in Northeast Ohio. It will test soils for mineral deficiencies that attract noxious, high-maintenance weeds, such as bindweed, and then add mineral amendments to correct those deficiencies. Compost with high fungal content, which reduces the need for watering during droughts, will be applied.
At the immediate neighborhood level, the beautification group is asking homeowners to take a two-session course at HRRC on plant selection and care. The intention is to bring immediate neighbors together on a common project and create a greater sense of neighborhood spirit and purpose.
At the broader neighborhood level, the support and participation of Noble Neighbors and Heights High, among others, is intended to raise the project's community profile and foster its success. “We are employing a number of approaches to community revitalization,” said Brenda May, a leader of Noble Neighbors. “We see this project as one way to make pocket gardens a signature of the neighborhood, thereby enhancing both local identity and property values.”
The effort has attracted wide support. Cleveland Heights Mayor Carol Roe, herself a Noble resident, called the effort “an innovative approach to building community spirit that comes at just the right moment of upswing in the Noble neighborhood.” Kay Carlson, president and chief executive officer of the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, said, “We find the project’s combination of cutting-edge biology and creative community involvement promising and likely to have much wider application.”
Watch for more information as the project progresses.
Tom Gibson, a resident of Cleveland Heights since 1980, is a former president of Heights Community Congress, a board member of Reaching Heights, and a founding board member of Heights Arts. He is the principal of Green Paradigm Partners, a community organizing and landscape design firm.