Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mama Mulate's Backyard

Mama Mulate lives in a lower-middle class neighborhood in New Orleans, not far from the Mississippi River. A jungle of garden plants covers her front porch, banana palms and dieffenbachia, melding with the fragrance of bougainvilleas draping from the ceiling in wicker baskets.

Pink hibiscus blossoms and purple morning glories cram the well-tended beds beside the small porch, a small vegetable garden growing on the side of the house. They only provide a clue as to what is behind the ten-foot stockade fence surrounding Mama’s house.

When you walk out the back door, you find yourself on a multi-tiered redwood deck that encompasses a thousand, or more, square feet. Wind chimes, Japanese lanterns and voodoo vevers hang from the rafters over the covered portion of the deck.

Mama’s backyard is a landscaped work of art. Cobbled paths pass pools of koi, rock and water hyacinth. Mirlitons and moonflowers climb the back fence. She grows vegetables and herbs in her raised beds.

A Tulane University English professor, Mama often hosts poetry and book readings in her backyard, her students enthralled by the music of Billie Holiday, piped from hidden speakers. A botanist, herbalist, practitioner of Vodoun, and one wonderful Creole cook, no one ever leaves hungry, either physically or spiritually.


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