They’d hoped it wouldn’t cause concern that they were expanding their garden empire. It was only removing the fence delineating their yard from the street. It was only replacing some weedy grass with dry habitat native plants . Wasn’t it beautifying the neighborhood, safeguarding water resources, and educating the community about our natural environment?
Happily, the neighbors welcomed the expanded forest glade. Passers by often complimented Rainey Hopewell and Margot Johnson as they tended the public area beside their home on Asquith street, not far from the downtown core of Victoria, BC.
The dynamic couple encouraged neighborhood involvement. The boulevard grew into an active native plant urban demonstration garden with volunteers, workshops, and planting parties..
Building on that success, expansion spread to include the boulevard on the Haultain street edge of their corner lot. This time the intention was to bring to mind issues of local food security. The community pitched in, developing the common area into a shared food garden,
Now known as Haultain Common, the boulevard between the sidewalk and curb was first sheet mulched. Over a west coast winter the mulch smothered the grass and weeds below it, developing into nutrient rich, composted soil. By spring it was ready for planting.
To start, they chose vegetables that often volunteer in a compost pile: tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins & squash. They share with whomever chooses to join in: parents & kids learning to grow food, seasoned gardeners exploring permaculture, and even urbanites tasting their first home-grown tomato. All are welcome to share in the harvest.
Some neighbors donate plants, and even more contribute leaves or compostables on a regular basis, gaining a sense of ownership & belonging in the common and in the community.
Over the past several years Haultain Common has grown in profile as well. It’s not unusual to see a university class exploring the garden one day, and a Day Care tour on another. It’s been so well received that a local irrigation company & a landscape company donated the equipment & installation of a watering system for the Common.
Boulevard gardens have cropped up on other properties along Haultain street. They’re also growing in other neighborhoods around the city. To Margot and Rainey, its been an experience in growth in so many ways.
© SVSeekins, 2011
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