Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Christo and Jeanne-Claude project - in my garden

When I got to the garden one day last week here's the scene I found:
A large part of the garden had been covered with various tarps and fibrous sheets. What was going on? Well of course we knew that it wasn't really Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

A power line runs through the forest just behind our allotment, and one of the power towers is just off our back border. The city recently began renovating the towers, i.e. cleaning, sanding, and repainting them, for the first time in almost 50 years as my garden neighbors reported. The first ominous sign that our tower was also up for maintenance was the removal of all trees, shrubs, and underbrush within meters of the tower. Before they did this, it looked like this:
There was such dense growth around the tower behind our fence that we enjoyed a lot of privacy from the hiking, riding, and dog areas beyond the allotment. The clearing now made it seem open and exposed. So we'll be putting up willow screening until things grow back.

But what I was really worried about was possible damage to the garden. I'd already watched them working on the next tower down, further away from the allotments. It had looked like they were sand-blasting, causing large clouds of debris and hours of noise. But as I was standing dismayed in the garden surveying the number of trees and shrubs that had been removed just outside of our lot, the foreman of the maintenance crew approached and explained that they would do all they could to not damage the garden, including covering everything with protective sheets and tarps, and that the workers would all use umbrellas to catch falling debris. Also, in our case they would forgo sand-blasting, instead scraping the decades of moss and dirt off by hand.

And indeed that's what they did. Here they are working on the tower with upside-down umbrellas:
And here a view of some of the workers on their way up:
I'm very grateful to the whole crew for taking such care. It seems they know that gardens are the apples of their owners' eyes. The only damage done were a few bent rose blossoms. And the tower should be good for another 50 years now!


  1. dear Barbara, What marvellous workmen. how good to hear a cheery tale rather than one of dismay at workmen with no regard for personal property or plants that one has nurtured. I am amazed at the upturned umbrellas, it gives the men a rather Mary Poppins look!

  2. Edith, you're right - it was a joy to have workmen who paid attention to such things. And those umbrellas were an amazing sight. I was thinking of expressing my gratitude to the city of Mannheim for the care taken.

  3. Now I know my words will cause controversy but the Germans respect property and gardens so much more than most cultures so I'm not surprised they took such good care. That would never happen in Tennessee! Ha! I know firsthand. Actually they try if the homeowner says something but they'll only go so far and only if the homeowner is watching will the workers take care. They put in a water piper in front of my home last year so I know all too well how they work here. How wonderful they did not sandblast!

  4. Barbara, you must have some special powers to convince them not to sandblast your tower, and the care they took, amazing! You are all set now for the 50.

  5. Reading this post about what great care the German workers took with your garden does not surprise me at all. I lived in Germany for 6 years and if I learned anything at all in my time spent there, it is that the German culture respects other people’s property! I noticed that Tina pretty much says the same thing above in her comment!

    I have enjoyed strolling down and going through your posts and especially the Schwetzingen Gardens. I passed them just about every day as I lived in Bruhl right next door. Can you believe I only visited the gardens one time? I know, that is crazy with them being so close. I went elsewhere to explore thinking I could explore those gardens any time with them being next door. Ha, I wish I could go back and live my days over in Germany. I enjoyed the friendliness of the people, the Sunday family days, bike rides, our garten in Oftersheim and Voksmarches. Not to mention the wonderful friends we had there. So unlike our life here in the USA...

  6. Barbara, how wonderful that the workers were so considerate and aware and deemed it important not to disturb too much; it restores my faith. ;)

    Have a good weekend; we are supposed to warm up a bit; hopefully our tomatoes will respond.

  7. I am glad that the workers were considerate and that your garden did not suffer any damages, and also that people appear to have such a positive opinion of our culture with regard to respect for property and being considerate... :)

    Also, I absolutely loved the title of this post - My parents are big fans of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's work, so I was told a lot about them early on.

  8. What fun to be getting regular posts from you again. And a window into a half familiar world to me.

  9. How nice! In my neighborhood a lovely and quite large oak tree was removed when a repair person couldn't get his "cherry picker" close enough to get to the top of a telephone pole right beside the tree. He could have climbed the pole the old fashioned way - there are foot rests up the pole. But no - they were within their rights and they took the tree down. So sad. Nice to hear of more considerate workers!

  10. Tina and Skeeter: I also appreciate that aspect of German culture, and agree with you. In fact the workers were not Germans, as is so often the case here now - they were Russians and Poles. But I suspect the city of Mannheim negotiated with the garden association about how the work was to be conducted.

    Skeeter: We often ignore sights on our doorstep. I've lived here for almost 30 years and have been to Schwetzingen only twice. Must go more often, especially since a good friend lives in Brühl. You must come back for a visit! I agree that there's good quality of life to be had here, especially right here in the Mannheim-Heidelberg-Ludwigshafen area with the nearby Palatinate wine country and Odenwald.

    Deborah: I think it helps to be friendly and respectful to people doing their jobs rather than automatically hostile. I was thinking of providing the traditional case of beer to the workmen, but then thought twice about it considering the climb up that tower!

    Country Mouse: Another aspect of German culture in the same vein is the attitude towards trees. I wrote a post a while ago about the endangered plane trees in Mannheim's main historical boulevard. Rather than simply chop them down, the city conducted a series of citizens' meetings to explain their plans and hear peoples' opinions. I went to one and came home comforted and relieved that everyone was doing the best they could to save and/or replace the trees.

    College Gardener: I can't walk by a scaffolded building without thinking of Christo!

    Diana (of Elephant's Eye): Thanks for your words - I've long suspected that you also speak German?

  11. Thank heavens for that. My heart sank at the beginning of the post for it seemed it would be an account of disaster. Instead it turns out to be about a surprising thoughtfulness. So glad.

    Esther Montgomery

  12. Dear Barbara, I am so glad you are back posting regularly. This is a heartwarming story, especially that the workmen used umbrellas! Enjoy your Autumn season! Pam x