An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

October 29, 2017

NEON District

     Earlier in the month on a gray wet day I participated in planting a rain garden in the NEON District of Norfolk. NEON has little to do with electrified gasses, rather it stands for New Energy of Norfolk, and the powers-that-be have designated this area as the city's arts district. As clunky as the name is, I do applaud the city for promoting the arts, especially in a part of town where the nearby downtown economic boom has been slow to catch hold. A little support, and a little prodding from the city, and now there are galleries, theater spaces, a comedy club, restaurants, and a vacant lot called The Plot which has become a community gathering place. On the day we were there, we planted several pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), and a couple of grasses. Throughout the district plants have been tucked here and there, mostly through the efforts of volunteer groups, like the Master Gardeners.
NEON District (3)

NEON District (2)

NEON District (1)

NEON District with Ruellia (1)

NEON District (16)

NEON District with Gaillardia

     Along an otherwise boring chain-link fence, a colorful garden had been sown, or maybe sewn.
NEON District Fiber Garden (5)

NEON District Fiber Garden (6)

NEON District Fiber Garden (2)

NEON District Fiber Garden (1)

     Many of the walls in the NEON Distract are painted with murals and sanctioned graffiti. My favorite is by artist, Christopher Revels, whose normal medium is sidewalk chalk, which he uses to draw his Walking Houses. Revels' houses are always drawn on stilts above water, an appropriate image for a city second only to New Orleans under threat due to sea level rise. These images speak to me personally. Since I was a teen, a recurring theme in many of my dreams has been water and waves washing under stilted beach houses, taking carefree beach-goers out to sea, only to return them on the next wave unharmed, back on the beach.
NEON District Walking Houses (2)

NEON District Walking Houses (5)

NEON District Walking Houses (3)

NEON District (39)

NEON District (25)

NEON District (24)

          Thankfully downtown Norfolk is a much different place then the ghost town it was when I first lived here 40 years ago, but it would not have happened without a great deal of push and effort. Gritty has always come naturally here, but edgy and hip has taken work.


  1. That's good news! It's always a pleasant thing to see a new garden put in, and to see the arts appreciated.

  2. It's looking like some life is coming back to the area--it's a start! Once it gets going, of course, the artists can't afford to live there anymore. Venice CA went through that, so the artists moved to downtown LA, and now they have to find somewhere else, because a lot of downtown LA is now booming.

    Here the little nearest downtown was also a ghost town 40 and also 30 years ago, but it suddenly became a trendy, almost hip college town due to the aggressive growth of the local college. I used to be able to walk my dog down the middle of the downtown streets on a Friday night, it was that empty--now it's crammed with people out and about.

  3. I love seeing a community effort comes to fruition. It looks like there are many contributors and many art forms. Staring at the last picture I notice a tiny character shlepping building blocks for the painting... cracked me up!

  4. Color in the city! Very cool.

  5. Congratulations on election results!