For the last two months, B. and I have been attending a local community gathering at a neighbour’s house. Every few weeks we get together to discuss potential community projects, ideas we have for making more connections with other people in the hood, and positive environmental actions we can take to encourage more sustainable practices on our blocks. We haven’t done much more than get to know each other yet, but in the brainstorming process we applied for two neighbourhood grants – one for a block party, and one for a boulevard gardening project. I am pleased to say that on both counts we’ve been successful and thus have $400 towards an end-of-summer gathering plus $1300 for the boulevard idea.
If nothing else, our group has proven itself successful at raising money.
The boulevard project is aimed at encouraging people to tear up the lawn in the boulevard in front of their houses and replace it with more sustainable, drought-tolerant, climate-cooling plants instead. Additionally, we would like to see more benches and other type of seating for people to visit around, not to mention the introduction of more food plants in the neighbourhood overall. I would really like to see us experiment with a mix of native and food plants (not to mention native food plants) which are particularly adapted to the former forest Hastings-Sunrise was.
On Wednesday night, instead of our regular meeting, the group took a neighbourhood walk about to look at what’s out there in the way of boulevard gardening already. Being in Vancouver (and in particular East Vancouver) we’re in a really garden-centric place, not to mention a somewhat artistic community, so there are tons of examples within three square blocks of our house to draw ideas from. The walk gave us a chance to walk, chat with each other, and bounce ideas around all at once which opened up a whole new meeting space for the group – plus we were joined by four or five new people who had been meaning to come out previously (I think the walk appealed more than a meeting might have).
I won’t do a detailed summary of each boulevard garden we looked at (about ten in all), but I did take over 100 photos so I could keep in mind what we discussed at each plot. Overall though, I think the gardens that impressed the group most were those which:
- were lush and a little wild – as opposed to overly manicured with isolated perennials
- had features like the bicycle garden above, or a bench, or a little sculpture made of golf clubs – though too many “knick knacks” were a turn off for some people
- were mainly native plants
- had good access to the street in the form of paths through the garden
- didn’t crowd out the roadside or the sidewalk
- had food plantings mixed in (there was only one of these – with some bright chard alongside the flowers)
- used recycled materials for planters such as concrete rip-rap or driftwood.
With $1300 we think we can do quite a few boulevards in our hood, particularly if we go after local businesses for donations of plants and other materials and scout Craiglist for cast off paving brick and other recycled goodies. I’m also thinking I should get ahold of the landscapers who did some of our backyard patio because they seem to have stuff they pull out of people’s yards in the course of their work.
After the walk, we met in our backyard for cookies and wine and tea where I got to show off my garden and the new studio and we did a little more brainstorming around how to move ahead on the boulevard project as well as the block party. I’ll be excited to write here as we develop the boulevard gardens around the hood, and hope by mid-fall we have a few decent projects to show for our work. Next is organizing a sub-committee to actually develop an approach and a rough plan which I’ve agreed to do, and then we’ll see about getting our work gloves on!