Do you play Jeopardy?

I’ll take Urban Renewal for 200, thanks Alex.

Answer: The world’s smallest urban park.

GreenEggs:  What is … Mill Ends Park?

YES!  On my cyber travels I happened upon one of the strangest things I’ve ever happened upon … in a gardening sense, that it.  The World’s Smallest Urban Park – can you believe it?  Mill Ends Park, a diminutive two-foot circle and only just big enough for one plant, sits in the middle of a median strip on what is now SW Naito Parkway, in Portland, Oregon.    It also happens to be home to the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland, although that point seems overlooked by the Guiness Book of Records.  Can’t imagine such a place?  Here’s a picture.

Mill Ends Park, Portland OR.  The smallest park in the world and home to the only leprechaun colony West of Ireland.

Mill Ends Park, Portland OR.

The story goes that in 1948 the site was prepared for a light pole to be installed on busy SW Front Avenue.  Time passed and the lightpole never arrived, yet weeds and nasties sprung up as they do when a plot of ground is left unattended.  Dick Fagan, a columnist with the Oregon Journal planted some flowers on the site, declared it a park and named it after his column in the paper, Mill Ends.  The park was officially dedicated on St Patrick’s Day, 1948, as “the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland”, according to Fagan.

From Wikipedia:

Legend

Fagan told the story of the park’s origin: He looked out the window and spotted a leprechaun digging in the hole. He ran down and grabbed the leprechaun, which meant that he had earned a wish. Fagan said he wished for a park of his own; but since he had not specified the size of the park in his wish, the leprechaun gave him the hole.[4] Over the next two decades, Fagan often featured the park and its head leprechaun in his whimsical column. Fagan claimed to be the only person who could see the head leprechaun, Patrick O’Toole.[3]

Fagan published a threat by O’Toole about the 11 o’clock curfew set on all city parks. O’Toole dared the mayor to try to evict him and his followers from Mill Ends, and threatened a leprechaun curse on him should he attempt to do so. Subsequently, no legal action was taken, and the leprechauns were allowed to stay in the park after hours.[5]

Evolution

Fagan died of cancer in 1969, but the park lives on, cared for by others. It was named an official city park in 1976.[2]

The small circle has featured many unusual items through the decades, including a swimming pool for butterflies—complete with diving board, a horseshoe, a fragment of the Journal building, and a miniature Ferris wheel which was delivered by a full size crane. On St. Patrick’s Day, 2001, the park was visited by a tiny leprechaun leaning against his pot of gold and children’s drawings of four-leaf clovers and leprechauns.[2] The park continues to be the site of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The events held here include concerts by Clan Macleay Pipe Band, picnics, and rose plantings by the Junior Rose Festival Court.[3]

Mill Ends Park in 2004 before remodeling.

Mill Ends Park in 2004 before remodeling.

I love the absurdity, I love the leprechauns and I love the teeny tiny park!  But it is not all roses and hollyhocks though.  There is a contender for the title of World’s Smallest Urban Park and they are not going down without a fight!  Prince’s Park in the Staffordshire town of Burntwood, UK is challenging Mill Ends Park in the teeny tiny park stakes, claiming that Mill Ends isn’t really even a park to start with!  Prince’s Park is a full 15’x30′ in size and boasts home to the first and only World’s Shortest Fun Run, a full 55 strides around.

Not far to go now!

Not far to go now!

In 2003, nearly 400 people showed up to race around Prince’s Park completing the race in just 7 seconds flat!  Awesome!

So, which do you think has the best ‘small park spirit’?  Are you Team Portland or Team UK?  I can’t get past the cute factor of Mill Ends Park but the World’s Shortest Fun Run at Prince’s Park is a really fabulous community event.  I’m torn but leaning towards Team UK.  You?

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Urban Gardening Inspiration

North Londoners Have Got It Going On!

During my recent blog surfing I came across the most extraordinary tale.  It started back in 2009 when Islington Council in North London offered free wildflower seeds to local residents for use in the ‘tree-pits’ on their streets, the little spaces of soil at the base of each tree squished in by the pavers around it.  Inspired by the free seeds and the concept of beautifying their little part of the world two neighbours, Naomi Schilinger and Nicolette Jones of Finsbury Park, joined forces to start something of a gardening revolution.

Planting tree-pits

Planting tree-pits

Together they created the ‘Veg Growing Project’, a community initiative that supplied materials, trained, and encouraged their own neighbours to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers in their front gardens.  But that’s not where they stopped!  Folk were encouraged to think creatively and maximise whatever space is available including spaces in the pavements, in the tree pits, and in window boxes.  Before long over one hundred households (100!) in the neighbourhood had joined together as a community to grow, to produce, and to beautify their area.  They have won awards and much acclaim for their initiative but best of all they have created a more tightly knit community.  From Naomi’s blog Out of My Shed:

Not only have our gardening activities greened up our streets, but by spending time in front gardens and organising ‘Cake Sunday’ get-togethers, neighbours have got to know one another, really building a great sense of community and belonging.

outofmyshed.co.uk/btg/

The grow pots here have corn, runner beans and squash all growing together.  Known as the 3 Sisters , growing the three crops together is a Iroquios tradition that seems to do well in North London too!

The grow pots here have corn, runner beans and squash all growing together. Known as the 3 Sisters, growing the three crops together is a Iroquios tradition that seems to do well in North London, too.

(Swoon!)  Who doesn’t love that?  Just amazing.  And so inspiring!  Their Cake Sundays sound amazing.  I wonder if my neighbours would join with me to do a Cake Sunday?  Sigh.  I miss that kind of neighbourly connection.

Don't they look divine?  I'm totally eyeing off those sweet little fairy cakes with the blueberry centers.

Don’t they look divine? I’m totally eyeing off those sweet little fairy cakes with the blueberry centers.

One of the other big deals (to me, anyway) is that now the program has been up and running for a while the organisers are able to collect seeds from their own plants, year over year, to give away for next year’s plantings.  So not only beautiful, productive and community enriching but self-sustaining and economical, too!

Gorgeous hollyhocks grown from seed collected the previous year.

Gorgeous hollyhocks grown from seed collected the previous year.

There is just so much fabulosity here I can’t stand it!  I’m totally looking up flights to London where I will track down the amazing Finbury Park neighbourhood and start door knocking until someone lets me in just so that I can bask in all their reflected awesomeness.  Yes, it is a little stalker-y and for that I apologise in advance.

To the good citizens of FInbury Park, North London I give you mad props and snaps!  You guys are amazing!

Does your community get together to eat cake and garden?  I’d love to hear about it if you do!  You can continue to follow this amazing story on Naomi’s blog Out Of My Shed.  They have also published a book, Veg Street Book, that cronicles their community gardening adventures.