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The Doyenne of Dirt:
Ketzel Levine is Talking Plants

November 18, 2000

Maybe youíve stopped by because you heard me whining to Scott Simon about my garden in inner city Portland, Oregon, or you're here to see if the garden is as bad as Iíve said. Perhaps you've come to look at the proposed fence, or to give me grief for not counting my blessings and being grateful that I even own a home to complain about. Tell you what: send all complaints to Katherine Harris (by 5pm today, please) and all niceties to I might also suggest you check back regularly, since Iíll be posting more pictures and fence drawings as the process unfolds. On another note, we're thinking of holding an "Ugly Yard Contest" and would like your feedback. Think it's a good idea?

  • See week two of Ketzel's search for a fence.

  • Here's more on the radio from Ketzel Levine


    Mind If I Block Your View?
    Mind If I Block Your View?

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    Don't let the picket fence fool you; the atmosphere here is very short on charm. When I first moved in I liked the idea of playing off all this urban tension (you know, yin, yang, blah, blah.). Alas, now I'm ready to wall myself away. But because that's not a very friendly thing to do -- I may be crabby, but I'm not unfriendly -- I think the solution is a tall fence. The challenge here is to design one that a) screens me from the commercial building on the left and the busy street in the background b) gives me privacy without saying, "Keep Out" and c) doesn't cost me a horrendous amount of money to build. My friend John Forsgren, an architectural designer far too talented for a job such as this one, has come up with a fence drawing. See what you think.

    Doyenne Does Derelict
    Doyenne Does Derelict

    If the parking strip outside my house could talk, what would it say about me? I shudder to think. Certainly the possibilities here are unlimited; unfortunately, most of them involve gardening! Not something I relish doing on the corner of a very busy street. You might argue that a groundcover would be an easy solution, but you'd be wrong: too many high schol kids en route to and from the cafť next door trample the area and leave their wrappers behind. One solution I'm toying with is dividing the strip into several sections, and alternating expanses of brick with planting squares for small trees. That way I need only sweep the brick to keep up appearances, though I haven't yet figured out how to water the trees without dragging hoses out to the street.

    Before Shot Begging For After
    "Before" Shot Begging For "After"

    From the first time I saw this side yard (there is no backyard), I knew it could be fabulous: A courtyard with a stucco wall (washed indigo blue), a small pond with a fountain and a swirling mosaic floor. Like it? Great! Wanna pay for it? Me neither. Plus, what you don't know about this would-be hideaway is that it's not easily accessible. You've got to go out the front door and around to the side of the house to get there. Well, after several months of studying this problem, it's become stunningly clear to me that the solution is to link the house to the garden. All I've got to do is knock out the dining room wall, put in glass doors, build a small balcony, and off the balcony a set of steps. That's it! Instant access! So now you know why I'm still looking at "before". And please don't tell me to grow ivy up the wall and forget it! One of the first things I did when I bought the house was tear all the ivy down.

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