Back in the spring our neighbourhood group Sunrise Commons got $1300 to install boulevard gardens in our little neighbourhood pocket of William, Napier and Parker Streets. Which seemed like a lot of money until we realized that 25 households were interested in participating in the Boulevards Alive Project. In the end we settled on purchasing dirt for everyone’s projects and providing $30 per household for plants and bits to get them started – and in the last two months we’ve been seeing the fruits of our labours as many people around us have got their gardens well underway!
Though Brian diligently dug the turf out of our boulevard and trucked dirt into it a month ago, it took me until this week to get to the work of shaping and planting our little plot, and although it’s still pretty “naked” looking I’m excited by what I’ve got going in there.
This site has some specific challenges which lead me to experimenting with a mix of things to see what is going to work over the long term. First and foremost – it’s a boulevard which means auto traffic on one side, and foot traffic on the other. Secondly, the whole street is shaded by sixty-year-old beech trees which have a voluminous root-system close to the surface of the ground (beech roots both above and below ground). Third, the soil is pretty acidic and parched of nutrients due to the trees.
In keeping with these factors, along with my desire for both edible and native plants I’ve decided to start with the following:
- Lingonberry shrub (partial shade, high-acid)
- Huckleberry shrub (partial shade, high acid)
- Ostrich Fern (which is one of the cultivars that produces edible fiddleheads)
- Fragrant Solomon’s Seal
- Lemon Balm
- Garlic Chives (they grow anywhere don’t they?)
- And for fun – some gorgeous red swiss chard
Looking at that list now, I realize it seems like a bit of a hodge-podge – partly because I chose plants based on what I could get super-cheap off the perennial clearance table at Gardenworks – but I know that all of the above will survive with quite a lot of shade, and if it’s looks too strange once it starts to fill out then I’ll start moving stuff around.
I still plan on more edible, native plants – some oregon grape and perhaps a small cranberry bush – but for now I’m focused on getting more structure. Looking for edging bricks and accents to make it look more like a garden and less like a dirt mound with plants in it. Most exciting? By spring this once-dead patch of turf will be providing food and habitat for critters and humans in the neighbourhood.