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OLD CITY green Uses Urban Gardening Expertise as Competitive Edge

by Borderstan.com October 27, 2011 at 11:50 am 0

"Borderstan""OLD CITY green""Frank Asher", Shaw

9th and N Streets NW: Frank Asher at OLD CITY green in Shaw. (Luis Gomez Photos).

From Luis Gomez. Catch his photos on Picplz and at One Photograph A Day. Follow him on Twitter @LuisGomezPhotos.

A little over three years ago, Alex Padro from the Shaw Main Streets program asked Frank Asher, an artist and “guerrilla gardener,” if he wanted to do some sort of green space at the corner of 9th and N Streets NW. Asher jumped at the chance. The first enterprise of what was to become OLD CITY green was a Christmas tree lot in 2008.

Asher then opened the nursery in the spring of 2009 and he has been in business at the corner ever since; he closes after Christmas and re-opens in mid-March. With the demise of 14th Street’s Garden District at the end of 2010, OLD CITY green is the only independently owned nursery and garden space in the neighborhood.

The focus of the store is urban gardening and community building. “I try to bring nature to the urban landscape. I offer support and consultation for inside gardens, rooftops, decks or small plots that need to have the right plants to enhance the living space.” OLD CITY green has two master gardeners and a gardening teacher.

How does Asher compete with the big businesses, such as Home Depot on Rhode Island Avenue and Whole Foods (which carries seasonal items at its Logan Circle store). “They buy in huge quantities [giving them a huge price advantage], so I compete with them on service, expertise and ambiance,” said Asher.

“OLD CITY green employs two master gardeners and a gardening teacher as part of our service. We are also a drop off site for the Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA) where organic, locally grown food is delivered at the nursery once a week to people who have ordered them from farms,” said Asher. “We also host events in our space. It can be really lovely here in the evening with our  tiki torches and lights.”

When Asher started Fairies’ Crossing, he became known as a “guerrilla gardener.” He would take his cart with tools and supplies around the neighborhood, beautifying tree boxes, the Connecticut Avenue median north of Dupont Circle and public spaces — mostly traveling by Metro.

Asher said the obvious focus of his store is urban gardening and community building. “I try to bring nature to the urban landscape. I offer support and consultation for inside gardens, rooftops, decks or small plots that need to have the right plants to enhance the living space. Gardens have to be friendly to animals, bees, bugs, butterflies as well as people, said Asher. Our motto: “Where people and plants come together.”

Asher has lived in the city since 1994, when he came to DC from Los Angeles. “I came here representing my church, which was a  reconciling congregation with the United Methodist Church,” said Asher. “I immediately felt drawn to move here.” He lived in the Dupont and Eastern Market area before moving to Shaw in 2003, and now lives near his business.

A native of Fresno and Merced, CA, Asher brings a wealth of lifetime experience to his nursery. “What haven’t I done?” laughed Asher, when asked about his previous careers. He listed “actor, singer, dancer, bartender, caterer, janitor, banker and teacher.” Asher created his own landscape gardening business, “Fairies’ Crossing,” which he has been running for 12 years and is based out of OLD CITY green.

It was during this time that he became known as a “guerrilla gardener.” Asher would take his cart with tools and supplies around the neighborhood, beautifying tree boxes, the Connecticut Avenue median north of Dupont Circle and public spaces — mostly traveling by Metro.

Asher is still active with community organizations. Last fall he helped students from Ross Elementary School plant spring bulbs in the renovated tree boxes on 17th Street NW. He is working with Shaw Main Streets and local businesses in cosponsoring the 3rd Annual Tulip Bulb Planting on 9th Street NW this Sunday, October 30th 10am-2pm. Asher added:” We need volunteers. Come play in the dirt with us”.

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