gardening in shoes

July 18, 2008 at 3:48 am 2 comments

By “gardening in shoes,” I mean the garden is in shoes (not necessarily the gardener)…

There is one pair of hightop sneakers in Green Zone. Discarded shoes are yet another symbol of our consumer culture. I’ve seen several shoes used as plant containers, including a pair at Southside Community Land Trust’s City Farm.

Weeks after I installed Green Zone, a friend pointed out the sneakers and reminded me how empty boots symbolize a fallen soldier. Using military gear as memorials goes back at least a century (note: I’d like to find some specific citations). The “Battle Cross” consists of a soldier’s helmet atop the rifle with bayonet stuck in the ground; sometimes dogtags or empty boots are included as well.

In recent years, the boots themselves have become a potent war memorial. For example, in 2007, the American Friends Service Committee launched a traveling exhibit about the human cost of the Iraq War. Titled “Eyes Wide Open,” it includes a pair of boots to mark each American military casualty and a field of shoes (and wall) that pays tribute to Iraqis killed.

Besides the empty boots, flowers have long been used as war memorials. Red corn poppies are commonly found in Europe, particularly in disturbed soil, such as battlefields. During World War I, entire fields bloomed red–red with poppy flowers and red with soldiers’ blood. The poppy was adopted a symbol of fallen soldiers, most famously by Canadian serviceman John McCrae in his poem “In Flanders Fields” (1915). The opening words read “In Flanders fields the poppies blow | Between the crosses, row on row…”

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Entry filed under: consumer waste, gardening in shoes, gardens, Green Zone Garden, Iraq War, war memorials, wartime gardens. Tags: , , , , , .

Siting Green Zone: gardening at Firehouse 13 Hi neighbor! -or- Companion planting

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kate  |  July 20, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Sarah–have you looked at Kirk Savage’s book Standing Soldier, Kneeling Slave? I don’t remember if he specifically discusses soldier’s gear, but he does analyze the changing nature of soldier’s memorial after the Civil War. On a related note, I was just at the Robert Gould Shaw memorial in Boston, and the woman floating above his and the soldier’s head is carrying poppies.

    Reply
  • 2. greenzonegarden  |  July 21, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    I haven’t, so thanks for the recommendation. And you’re saying that poppies predate WWI as a war memorial flower? I’ll have to check that out. There’s a whole symbolic language of flowers, and I know there are a handful of additional flowers that represent soldiers and war.

    Reply

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