Big ideas in small places
Neighbours dig in and do ‘some tactical urbanism’
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.