Grass is okay.

Where would Andrew Wyeth be without grass?

If you didn’t know, the Christina of Christina’s World had to stay low to the grass – she had polio and preferred crawling to a wheelchair. True.

Is grass only for the country, as Wyeth depicted it? Increasingly, no, since landscapers are wild for it. This isn’t exactly the country, where I’m working, although there are animals like the fat one I nearly tripped over this morning.

Or the flock of seagulls that descended where we were planting, much like the many we saw in the wild at Jones Beach summer. One took a bite out of some thing lying in the middle of Grand Concourse and flew off vigorously. Proudly.

A lot of plants have been organized for the northbound median.

Including grasses. Know what this is? Don’t peek.

Sporobolus heterolepis. Prairie dropseed, for those not schooled in Latin.

I remember a few years ago I had to attend an arborist sales conference where we learned about grasses from a Colonel Sanders-type guy who knew everything on the subject. His specialty was Lawn, and he was famous in the company for his great knowledge. Around 30 of us sat in horseshoe formation for his class, and he passed around pieces of different grasses. Little nuggets of grass, really, bits of soil attached to a few spears each. We were asked to write down the name of each grass bit that came our way. Everyone was examining and pulling apart the pieces they were handed, sniffing them and crumbling the soil they were stuck in or that they grew in, and writing down their names on exam paper. Colonel Sanders then revealed the answers, and asked how many got 100%, how many got 50%, and so on. A pleasant smirk came over his face when I raised my hand, still stained with dirt – I was the only one he had ever seen get a zero in grass class, apparently. Later in an elevator we had a laugh over my failure. But I don’t think Andrew Wyeth knew the names of the grasses in Christina’s World! I was an arborist, a tree person, not a Lawn expert. I continue to believe that everybody should leave their yards splendidly weedy.

Prairie dropseed on the Concourse finds itself interspersed with shrubs.

Of the plants selected for the medians, I prefer the honeysuckle. When I was a teen, essence of honeysuckle was the first perfume I got for myself, so I’m a sucker for it.

A young man from the New York Department of Transportation, the entity in charge here, tells me when I ask what part beautification places in a road project that it’s been proven plants by the edges slow traffic. “Traffic calming” is a thing.

Researchers found that  “simply viewing nature in urban settings has a strong restorative and calming effect. These findings also have applications on the road, in particular for preventing emotionally charged confrontations known as road rage. A healthy roadside tree canopy can help offset angry and aggressive reactions by keeping drivers calm and reducing stressful responses. A 2010 report revealed that drivers who view nature as opposed to heavily built-up surroundings ‘reported feelings of relaxation.’”

There is a lot of planting to be done, but I don’t dig the holes and pop in the roots, only take note of the truckloads as they arrive, count what comes, and ponder things like the place of grasses in the design.

That wheelbarrow full of greenery might seem somewhat inconsequential. However, one of the finest poems of the modern age, by William Carlos Williams, tells us:

so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white


No rain today, and no chickens – only seagulls.

And grass.

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