Potato Vines and Other Things that Don't Grow in Paradise

A Florida suburbanite finds that in green cities, environmental awareness starts with the garden next door.

| October 2005


Sometime in the middle of November, I was perched on a ladder cutting a dying potato vine off a trellis. Below me was the flower garden at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, or what was left of it, at least, since at that point whatever plants had not been snipped down were swiftly browning. Admittedly, it was an odd time of year to begin working for an organic gardening company, odd to learn the names of those dying perennials that I probably would not even recognize by the time they would blossom. But it was also a relief to stand atop a trellis overlooking a garden in Minneapolis.

Before moving to Minneapolis, I had passed three consecutive years in New York City, a place where Fall is not something one sees but something that is felt in the body. One does not anticipate leaves with drastic colors, such as those that line the Mississippi separating the Twin Cities, but the consistent drop in temperature recounted in weather reports and felt on the skin. Winter is another dreaded drop. The air becomes still, and as we cut through it, our steps become brisk. We can hear summer ending in them.