Updates from the Understory | July 2018

Dear Design Wild Friends & Loved Ones,

It is definitely summer in the city. Have you noticed? Its been hot and humid for the last month. Ugh...I can feel temperatures AND tempers rising. Have you noticed folks fighting over crazy small things? On these hot steamy days, I’ve witnessed so many people get into arguments; over a parking space or their place in line. Even my own internal dialog veers towards the grumpy - "get out of my way" and "you're walking too slow."  But in the midst of all these small hot moments, I keep wanting to cry, "with SO many things wrong with our world, lets be kind to each other!!" or as our favorite song of the summer says ‘be careful with me!
Kindness is a practice towards others AND towards ourselves and first resides in our own thoughts. (It is not to be confused with those calling for civility. See Maxine Waters for that). We need to save our indignation, not for the lady blocking the sidewalk with her groceries, but for the people kidnapping our children on the border and stealing our healthcare and our democracy. We need energy and spirit to build up the alternative and when we practice kindness with ourselves, our loved ones and with perfect strangers on the subway, we build that capacity; we feed each other and grow stronger.

And this wouldn’t be Design Wild if we didn’t remind you that we have allies in this work: Our plant relatives, our tree elders, they are always ready to give kindness, whether you’re in need of shade, a breath of air, or a moment of beauty - our plants are always ready to help.

So the next time you’re hot and grumpy, go tell an oak tree about it, smell a rose and get ready for the revolution!

See you in the garden,



Bringing Gardens to the Stage

This spring Design Wild had an amazing time partnering with The Actor's Fund and Breaking Ground, two groups that bring affordable housing and great services to performing artists across New York City. We designed a rooftop garden for the Dorthy Ross Friedman Building on 10th Ave with a focus on space for residents to relax, eat, commune and enjoy the spectacular views. During our installation day, a brave group of residents and staff joined us to plant this space in the rain!  We know that a shared investment and working side by side always brings stewardship and love to a previously underutilized space. Visit our website to see more images and some great video of our intrepid volunteers.


A Lush Heaven in Hell's Kitchen

Our latest public space project has brought life and flower-filtered air to the very, very busy streets of Hell's Kitchen. This June found us planting thousands of plants in a block of 36th Street called The Canoe. Design Wild brought our plant magic and teamed up with the Hudson Yards Hell's Kitchen Alliance to transform this space from one of the busiest, hot, concrete blocks dominated by traffic, into a flowery heaven. If you work or live in the area, grab a moment away from the chaos of the streets and visit the flowering roses, catmints, and milkweeds in the little parklet just west of that intersection. You may still see traffic but you could also spot a butterfly or two! To see more images and our plants in action, visit our website.


Growing Shade

We've been busy this spring and summer waking up our gardens and watching them come to life. This East Village backyard is one of our favorite shade gardens where we love to experiment with interesting plant choices, textures, and colors in beds, between stones and on top of walls. The early rains this spring propelled this garden into full lushness and it's been popping ever since.


In these current times, there is an even greater need to stay AWAKE, INSPIRED and JOYFUL. We are paying special attention to people, places, and work that lift our spirits and we wanted to share some of them with you. Here are just a few of many:

"Anti-black racism, deconstructing patriarchy through a feminist lens, and looking at the intersectionalities that create food deserts"... BAM!! Need we say more? Well, we will anyway: Tanya Fields (also known as Momma Tanya) is the founder of a food justice organization that has created an urban farm BLK Project and established a mobile food market. She is a fierce lover and supporter of low-income/working class Black moms and is an unapologetic radical Black feminist. She's ALSO working on Mama Tanya's Kitchen where she shares how to have "caviar taste on a SNAP budget" always asking "You hungry? Real food. Real talk. Real life." Yes! We def hungry for more.


One rainy, misty afternoon this summer we took a field trip to Old Westbury Gardens for some inspiration and time with some tree elders. If you ever have an extra hour or so in Long Island, a stop here is well worth it.  Shout out to the staff there doing a tremendous job. See more photos on our wild log.


This Spring at the Just Food Conference we got better acquainted with Woke Foods, a "women-owned cooperative that taps into the healing traditions of Dominican food to create recipes, host cooking classes, offer meal planning and cater events." These badass ladies are doing innovative healing work using food to model what we want our future to look like - bridging culture, plants, food, and the new economy. Check out Woke Foods!


We can't stop gushing over our newest book crush, The Overstory by Richard Powers, which gracefully blends tree science, spirit, complex human and plant characters, and exquisite writing all into one epic novel. We are still turning the pages, but couldn't help share our excitement to anyone who hasn't had the pleasure yet of picking it up.