8 The Work Shoe Garden

I saw this wall in the village of Inistioge, County Kilkenny a few weeks ago, and I can’t get it out of my mind. What a wonderful way to make use of old shoes, especially old leather work shoes that have such personality and history to them. How many years of labor, how many jobs, how many people, how much blood, sweat, and tears contributed to this work of art? There’s also some horticultural genius going on here: leather breathes, and the roots of plants like air. That’s why plants tend to do better in pots that aren’t glazed. I’ve killed enough orchids with root rot to have finally learned that.

But what I loved best was that the wall of shoe planters was the back wall, the alley-facing wall of someone’s garden. I passed by it on my way to something else—it was a surprise to see such care taken with an old, dirty gray wall in an alleyway. The gardeners themselves would rarely come this way, as their entrance to their property lay around the corner. This garden was created for others to see. This garden was created because the wall and the shoes and the idea converged in someone’s mind, because it had to be, and because it would be beautiful.

Here’s an uncropped view of the work shoe garden in all its glory.






  1. Maureen O'Leary

    “O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall…!”
    A very charming one.

  2. This photo would be a strong contender at the ASC Photo Voices Contest. It’s beautiful and thought-provoking. R.

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