Big ideas in small places

Neigh­bours dig in and do ‘some tac­ti­cal ur­ban­ism’

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - KATHY RENWALD www.kathyren­wald.com

Two neigh­bours got to­gether this sum­mer and staged an in­ter­ven­tion on Welles­ley Street.

They planted a neigh­bour­hood gar­den. Welles­ley is one block long, runs one way and park­ing is pro­hib­ited.

On one side houses face the street; the other side is lined with garages be­long­ing to the houses that face Pearl Street.

“It was spon­ta­neous,” Re­nee Wet­se­laar ex­plains. “The space was un­used, cars were park­ing there when they shouldn’t, so we did some tac­ti­cal ur­ban­ism.”

Wet­se­laar talks the talk. She works at the So­cial Plan­ning and Re­search Coun­cil of Hamil­ton, and lives with her part­ner Deirdre Pike, another plan­ner at SPRC, which has its of­fices on Pearl.

To­gether they schemed with neigh­bour Michael Mc­Don­ald to turn wasted space into a gar­den of de­light.

I bumped into the Welles­ley Neigh­bour­hood Gar­den on a stroll though this de­light­ful area filled with lovely gar­dens and pretty houses. Though King Street West is just two blocks away, the traf­fic couldn’t be heard. All the trees and gar­dens must help muf­fle the sound.

On the petite patch of land the neigh­bour­hood gar­den oc­cu­pies, toma­toes, squash, let­tuce and herbs were grow­ing, and other edi­bles were pop­ping up.

The gar­den was planted in a day, Wet­se­laar says, and other neigh­bours are con­tribut­ing new plants.

“We’ve had com­mu­nal meals al­ready, we just pull our bar­be­cues out of our back yards and share.”

In her work, Wet­se­laar is con­cerned with ways to build close neigh­bour­hoods and ad­dress food se­cu­rity, so it’s in­ter­est­ing to see the im­pact a shovel and some seeds have had in her own world.

Another desti­na­tion on my gar­den tour of Hamil­ton this week was Hyde Park Av­enue, where Glen and Kim Bar­rett have been gar­den­ing green for 15 years.

Their place is easy to spot be­cause it looks like a for­est. The sun man­ages to get through near the front porch, and that’s where I spot­ted a nice patch of cupflower and green­headed cone­flower. Bunches of bugs buzzed through as I was shoot­ing pho­tos.

The Bar­retts just won top prize in the Monarch Awards (monar­chaward­shamil­ton.org). The award rec­og­nizes gar­dens planted to at­tract pol­li­na­tors and in­crease plant diversity in Hamil­ton.

“We’re re­ally thrilled to win the in­au­gu­ral award. Peo­ple are aware of the Tril­lium Award, this type of gar­den­ing is less tidy but ben­e­fi­cial to na­ture and an­i­mals,” Bar­rett says.

He should know, he works in wildlife tox­i­col­ogy for En­vi­ron­ment Canada. Right now his sub­jects are tur­tles and frogs in Cootes Par­adise and Hamil­ton Har­bour.

Kim Bar­rett works for Con­ser­va­tion Halton, and they have shared their love of na­ture since the day they planted a tulip tree in the back­yard.

The gar­den at the back is an in­ter­est­ing mix of full sun and shady, wet ar­eas. A healthy thicket of Joe Pye weed in the back cor­ner is ir­re­sistible to bees, and the Bar­retts’ two chil­dren, ages six and eight, find jewel weed — also called touch-me-not — ir­re­sistible.

“They go through the gar­den and see how many they can get to ex­plode,” Glen Bar­rett says.

So even dur­ing the dog days of sum­mer, ideas are per­co­lat­ing.

The laneway col­lec­tive forges new friend­ships in the Strath­cona Neigh­bour­hood and in Hyde Park, the Bar­retts run their award win­ning Air B&B for bugs.

A popup veg­etable gar­den on Welles­ley takes ad­van­tage of un­used space.

Left: Cup plant grows in the front yard of Glen and Kim Bar­rett’s house. It’s one of many plants that at­tract pol­li­na­tors. The cou­ple just won the first Monarch Award in Hamil­ton for their ef­forts to plant a gar­den that’s ben­e­fi­cial to an­i­mals and in­sects.

The na­tive tulip tree is one of the first trees the Bar­retts planted in their yard. They use well-adapted na­tive species when­ever pos­si­ble.

Bees flock to Joe Pye Weed. It grows in a moist area of the gar­den.

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