Spring is (finally) in full bloom and we’re ready to explore all that the season has to offer. If you’re as excited as we are then join our Farm Fellow, Jessyloo Rodrigues of Parcel Apothecary, for a free Downtown garden tour on the last Sunday of every month. “Foraging Downtown Providence” is a series of six free monthly walking tours exploring the three Avenue Gardens that Jessyloo is growing Downtown, as well as other nearby urban greenspaces and plant life. Tours meet at 11am on May 27, June 24, July 29, August 26, September 30, and October 28 in front of The Dean Hotel (122 Fountain St.).
The Avenue Gardens are three perennial gardens planted at prominent intersections around Downtown. These gardens are a unique addition to the artistic, social, and environmental landscape of our city center. The intent is to create a model of sustainable urban gardening for Providence and other major cities across the country. Each garden contains a permanent concrete sculpture pad that displays a rotating series of works by local, national, and international artists. In essence, each garden functions as a mini-sculpture park, bringing a burst of nature, color, and creativity to an otherwise hardscaped urban environment. The gardens are located at LaSalle Square, Emmett Square, and the intersection of Fountain and Dorrance Streets.
Jessyloo has been working with us since 2015 to develop these gardens; she also works on the urban farm located behind our headquarters in South Providence. She is an experienced urban farmer and herbalist with an extensive knowledge of local fauna and sustainable gardening techniques. As an herbalist, she is also an expert in the potential food and medicinal uses of many plants.
The tours will showcase the seasonal evolution of the gardens and other Downtown greenspaces, telling an ongoing story of nature’s place in an urban ecosystem. Jessyloo will teach you about the plants, as well as the functionality of the gardens, which help divert rainwater, filter pollutants, and provide a place for various pollinators (bees, birds, etc.) to visit throughout the growing season. “These tours will help folks have a sense of pride and stewardship in Downtown. One way to really feel this place is to get to know these small parts of nature that exist there,” explains Jessyloo. “There’s actually living earth Downtown. Instead of just walking by it, I want people to really know what’s going on there.”
The Avenue Gardens were planted with native species of perennials, plants that return to grow year after year, because they are more sustainable and suited to the urban environment. They are better for the soil, and a properly planted native perennial garden becomes a mini-ecosystem that essentially maintains itself.
In addition to providing beautiful, sustainable greenspace in our city center, The Avenue Gardens also serve our larger vision of public art Downtown. These aren’t simply plant life; they’re landscape art. They are constantly changing visual companions to the sculptures displayed within them. “We’re using plants to create art,” says Jessyloo. “The height of the flowers, the different colors and bloom times all shape the area. Instead of a flat, dusty corner these gardens are multilayered, colorful pieces of art that display the talents of local farmers.”