Written by – Kaitlynn from MIgardener
Call it Eden, Oz, or Willy Wonka’s Factory for garden nerds, but wonder is the first word that comes to mind when you enter Detroit Abloom’s cut flower garden. The Detroit Abloom team has transformed blighted lots into a natural oasis in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood of east Detroit. What started as a small gardening project by a group of like-minded people has grown into a community center to relax, grow, and experience peace. Director Tom Milano and his team work hard every day to create a cut flower business with the land that’s first primary use is to serve the surrounding community.
Sindy (Mrs. MIgardener) and I enjoyed visiting Detroit Abloom for one of their first “food as medicine” cooking classes. Here’s what we learned on our little adventure.
A Spiritual Oasis
Each facet of Detroit Abloom was designed specifically to make visitors feel at home. In our conversation, Milano mentioned how important it was for him to experience nature as a reflection of God’s love. “The vision (of D.A.) is to do just that, to show God’s love to the people of Detroit through his beautiful creation.” First inspired by the Hare Krishna movement in the 1980s, Milano’s spiritual life is completely integrated into his work.
Milano’s goal as Director is to create healing for the city on more than a material level. For this reason, the emphasis on the production of the garden is to draw visitors’ attention to the beauty of nature. The garden unfolds to reveal a new gazebo where classes and events can take place. A new outdoor kitchen in the center of the garden is an exquisite reminder of food’s origin. “Soul first,” said Milano as we sat down to eat, “and then everything else will follow.”
A Natural Haven
Detroit Abloom uses gardening practices that are as natural as possible. This is one way, Milano said, that they keep God centers practices in the garden. By respecting the land, he aims to respect the creator of it. No insecticides or synthetic fertilizers are used on the property. As well as a no-till method in every garden bed. Heirloom varieties are favored to inspire genetic diversity and authenticity. Even down to their very beginning of the process, soil blocking is used for seed starting instead of plastic trays. For more on the soil blocking method, click here. One of the most exciting ways biodiversity is cultivated at D.A. is through raising butterflies. On-site, a butterfly nursery houses many species of butterflies, with an emphasis on monarchs.
Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
First and foremost, Detroit Abloom works for its surrounding community. In so many ways, Milano and the team at D.A. work to create a space where people feel free to be themselves, observe the beauty of nature, and work together to create a better world. After working for many years in food distribution in San Francisco and Paris, it’s no surprise that Milano encourages Detroit Abloom’s land to be used as community gardens. Currently serving 5 households in the neighborhood, Milano hopes to expand the space to accommodate 20 garden spaces. One of the most wonderful aspects of Detroit Abloom is that its gardening philosophy is contagious. As you approach the garden, many others are visible in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood. Even right across the street where neighbors have started their own (currently decorated for Halloween) “Creative Empowerment Garden.”
This community enrichment is inevitable when such positive activity is happening daily within a neighborhood. We noticed in approaching that there were no gates to enter Detroit Abloom. No one is kept out, and all are welcome. Moving forward, Detroit Abloom dreams about expanding their project to a few surrounding abandoned lots and have started a GoFundMe for this reason. With a dream to develop a community center on the property and more room for others to learn as much as possible about gardening and living a soul-centered life, Detroit Abloom is truly a gift to the city. To help the team continue with their project, and to fund community enrichment in the city of Detroit, click here.
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