Community Gardeners, sometimes called guerilla gardeners, inspired by a love of plants, work to beautify their neighbourhood through planting things. Sometimes this is into otherwise empty planters the city leaves scattered around. Other times it is in less-expected places, ie real guerilla planting.
Here is the community garden planted outside the Plant Rec Centre: In the Plant case, gardeners worked with the city to install the garden. The city provided a truckload of topsoil as part of the Somerset reconstruction project. Volunteers spread the soil and did the planting with material from other sites and private gardens. A passing city maintenance crew was persuaded to leave behind half a truckload of mulch. In all, a good story.
The City installed three bulb outs on Booth Street a few years back. Due to budget constraints, they wouldn’t plant them other than a single tree in each. Because we knew the bulb outs were coming, we persuaded the engineer in charge to install curbs around a planting zone rather than bricking everything right up to the tree. The unbricked area allows the “soil” to breathe and accept rainfall; the curbs keep plows and feet off the root zone. This should help the tree thrive and leave room for more plants.
Planting the beds was covered this time last year: https://www.westsideaction.ca/90-minutes-to-a-better-city/ How did things work out? Two of the planters thrive:
Alas, the third one was a total setback. Not only did 100% of the community plants die, so did the city tree: We expect the city to replace the tree (someday). The Dalhousie Community Association donated funds to buy six to eight inches of potting soil to put into the planter, and the plants to move into the space have been identified. Community gardeners are nothing if not persistent.
And a similar planting space will be coming this summer when another bulb out is installed nearby on Booth. Have space, will plant.
This was not the only planter to see severe dieback. The (city-planted) bayberry shrubs in the City planter on Somerset just west of Booth appear to have totally died off, for the second winter in a row (ignore the tulip stems, they bloomed beautifully): At least the two trees in the planter seem alive. How many times will the city replant this planter? When they give up, the community gardeners will step in.
While some tree transplant failures are to be expected, we see a lot of failures in this area. I suspect this has to do with the city decision to plant in structural soil (numerous previous stories on this can be found using the search button on the right).
I talked a rental-building landlord who was out planting some shrubs. He told me he selected extremely slow growing ones, so he wouldn’t have to clip or trim them so often. “where” I wondered, “do you get special slow growing ones?”. His answer: “same place as the city, I get them from nurseries who supply special stocks to the city. Trees and shrubs bred to have non-invasive roots and slow growing tops”. Maybe this is why city trees so seldom grow or thrive, the are GM’d to be the living dead.
Another community gardener with lots of tree knowledge has started advocating we guerilla plant silver maples or some similar weed trees. At least they grow.
Over on the Somerset viaduct, only 11 trees have leafed out, 22 have not. But if you pick the bark, the inside is green, so the trees are not dead, just dormant. Still dormant in mid-June? Maybe they are selected to have a really really short growing season so they never outgrow their planters?
The planters with (city-planted) lilies thrived. The bayberries and other ground covers did not: the City is quick to say if the plants did not survive, the contractor is responsible to replant. But this is only once; what if the same die back occurs next year? After all, it wasn’t an especially harsh winter. Why aren’t we using winter-tolerant plants?
Maybe it will once again fall to community gardeners to bold plant where the city fails to maintain.