The front garden of Karen Mulders (47) is not only for herself, but for the entire city of Groningen. From her apartment, Karen looks straight at the Noorderplantsoen, a park that was laid out in 1874 in the English style on the old defensive walls of the city. Tall trees, meandering paths and graceful ponds create a green oasis where the people of Groningen like to visit in all seasons.

    How different is the back of her house. A windy and bare balcony on the east with a view of the other balconies and gardens of the social housing complex. A place Karen would rather not go. Or, well, where she preferred not to go. Because corona changed this.

    Corona

    Karen, like almost everyone else, had to work from home during the pandemic and to get some fresh air during her breaks, she went out on the balcony for some air. Turns out she wasn’t the only one. At set times, her neighbors also came out for a cigarette or a cup of coffee. And so these neighbors started waving to each other from their balconies and gardens and striking up conversations.

    Spring came, corona stayed and Karen saw how the neighbors tackled their gardens and balconies. Tiles were lifted, planters hung, plants planted. Karen enjoyed the floral splendor around her, but she herself had doubts. Would flowers bloom with her? A year of just watching passed, until her mother introduced her to the wild garden project NRC orphan, and Karen assured her that she actually didn’t have to do any gardening on this project. All she would have to do was look into the earth once in a while.

    Sprinkles become visible.

    Watching had to work. Karen bought a large planter and dumped a bag of garden soil into it. Then she shoveled some soil from the park and got some soil from her neighbors’ gardens. A wild (half) square meter, only on the balcony!

    Nothing happened for the first few months, but as Karen got a taste for gardening, she bought some smaller planters and flowers. And sure enough, that boring balcony on the east became green and cozy after all.

    Only the container with soil, which remained very bare.

    But then, early summer. One day two green blades stick out of the earth. Shoots on which leaves begin to grow. Leaves that get five points. The sun continues to heat up. The sprites continue. End of summer: Two small but sturdy maples grow in Karen’s box, the same species as the maple in the garden of the neighbor below.

    Two small but sturdy maples grow in Karen’s box.

    It’s mid-November, corona is almost over. Karen can hardly be found on her balcony. Like her neighbours, she goes to work every day. But at the end of the day, when everyone has returned, the neighbors take out their lawn chairs and place them next to each other on the sidewalk. They chat in the last rays of the sun and look out over Groningen’s green oasis.

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