90 Minutes to a Better City

Every neighborhood has one. A few have several. The rare really lucky neighborhood may have many.

I’m talking about guerilla gardeners. People who go out and plant — usually with their own plants — bare spots in the City.

It’s a tough love situation, since in many cases the plants won’t be getting ongoing care or watering, there being a general shortage of taps on city boulevards.

In Dalhousie, Ida has been responsible for two great gardens on Somerset and the Plant Rec Complex garden at Preston/Somerset. Stephanie and others did the Chaudiere Park gardens.

Other gardeners have done their bits, planting trees, bulbs, hostas, lillies and other plants in unloved bits of the city. We have been lucky to get an occasional bit of financial support from the Chinatown BIA and the Preston BIA.

In just 90 minutes, Catherine (fellow DCA board member) and I  created three such plantings. We met at the CCOC building in the neighborhood that has a generous patch of lillies in the front (I think original sourced from Councillor Holmes’s backyard). We thinned out the bed with some generous digging (we had prior permission). When done, it was hard to find the donor spots; after a rain, no one will be able to tell where plants were removed.

On our way to the planting sites on Booth, we passed the Fanto site for UNO townhouses. The old homes were about to be demolished. With permission, we removed some hostas and heucheras from those front yards.

Over on Booth, the City put in three bulb outs last year, each with a tree. The curb will protect the root area and plants. The tree is planted in structural soil (dirt that looks like gravel) and generously mulched. Here’s two of the planters:

The mulched beds look rather bare, and will eventually get weedy. In five minutes, the weeds were gone, and a trench dug through the mulch around the perimeter.

A rescued hosta “Fanto’s Splendid” holds the point of honour.

In went the lillies. Note, we teased them apart to get many stems. We tried to get the roots right at the structural soil level; then backfilled with mulch.

This lady stopped for directions, and to share some garden lore:

Another guy stopped to ask if we were planting coconut trees. If they were tropicals, I told him, I’d be planting pineapples. Satisfied, he wandered off.

When done, 3 planted beds, and the promise of thunder showers to water them in. Parked in front a restaurant and other businesses, the plants are unlikely to ever get watered, but with any luck, a number will survive vandalism and drought and give us green planters along a busy street.

Within 90 minutes of setting out, I was back home washing my shopping bags. And some west side streets are a little bit greener, a little bit more livable.

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