There were more than a thousand gardens, of course. The place that became the Five Cities was built on the skeleton of a forest and haunted by its fecund past. It was lush with a flamboyant excess of greenspace, laid out and continually added to in an attempt to appease the leafy fates. But such stately verdance was proved a pale shade once dame nature had room to stretch.
The Five Cities gave her that, tearing up asphalt to get to the dirt, handing out flyers about rooftop gardens, letting the ivy and the blackberries have their way with public structures. People who planned gardens were more likely to get solars, oil and meat, which was enough to encourage those who were not inclined to community work.
Taking an already existing system of shame for selfish actions, the Five Cities aimed it precisely. It wasn’t the whole earth they cared about now, just 100-odd square miles. With bribes, requests and guilt, they got their people to let nature have her head.
In hearsay, the Five Cities looked like an eden. A lower population and a retreat from industrialism, combined with enforced community effort, made it true. Where cars had parked, groves now grew. Manicured grass was consumed by clover. Decorative trees cracked sidewalks and turned streets to shady groves. It was as if the place had been waiting all this time, shoots coiled and ready to spring.
And so a place that had been where most people ended up anyway became a sought-after destination. Some used it as a jumping board to the north or to the ocean; others were captured in its green snare.