Res­i­dents feath­er­ing out­door nests to be havens from pan­demic stress


As far as Kathy Friesen is con­cerned, gar­den­ing is the out­door ver­sion of bak­ing.

Friesen, a gar­dener and owner of Blooms­bury De­signer Gar­dens, said the two home-based ac­tiv­i­ties have re­ally taken off dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­demic.

“Maybe they wanted to do this for years,” she said about gar­den­ing. “When you’re run­ning to the of­fice and run­ning kids to school, sports, mu­sic and all of those sorts of things (you don’t have the time). Peo­ple are stay­ing home and learn­ing some­thing new.”

Blooms­bury, based in New West­min­ster, spe­cial­izes in turn­ing small ur­ban spa­ces such as bal­conies, pa­tios and rooftops into out­door rooms. Friesen said she gets the im­pres­sion that peo­ple in Metro Van­cou­ver want an out­door space that’s tran­quil and calm. It’s a way to feel a sense of con­trol while liv­ing in the time of a scary world­wide pan­demic.

“Peo­ple are think­ing: ‘If I have my own space, my own gar­den or bal­cony, I can con­trol that. That’s where I want to feel calm,’” said Friesen.

Privacy is one of the things peo­ple are look­ing for in their out­door space, whether it’s a back gar­den, pa­tio or bal­cony. In parts of Van­cou­ver such as Kit­si­lano, she said, lots are small and nar­row and houses are of­ten close to­gether.

Home­own­ers want to be able to go into their gar­dens with­out feel­ing like they’re liv­ing in a fish bowl. Say­ing hi and wav­ing to your neigh­bour is OK, she said, but you don’t want to be part of their out­door so­cial­iz­ing.

Blooms­bury can turn a back gar­den into an out­door room by mak­ing changes such as adding privacy screens with trel­lis and ever­green vines.

Peo­ple are also com­ing to the re­al­iza­tion, she said, that they likely won’t be trav­el­ling very much this year. In­ter­na­tional air travel is prob­a­bly out of the ques­tion for the sum­mer. So too is driv­ing down to the U.S. for a camp­ing trip or a va­ca­tion.

“They’re an­tic­i­pat­ing stay­ing home and feath­er­ing the nest,” she said. “Gar­den­ing is ex­plod­ing this year.”

What’s pop­u­lar in smaller spa­ces are what she calls “ver­ti­cal” veg­eta­bles such as cherry toma­toes, blue­ber­ries, beans, peas and kale. Also pop­u­lar are va­ri­eties of straw­ber­ries that pro­duce fruit all sum­mer long.

“Peo­ple want things that are easy to grow,” she said. “When I’ve talked to peo­ple, they say, ‘Look, I want lots of colour, lots of flow­ers and a few veg­eta­bles be­cause I re­al­ize I’m go­ing to be stay­ing home.’”

In the past, Blooms­bury would be hired to plant an­nu­als or veg­eta­bles with her com­pany re­turn­ing a cou­ple of times over the sum­mer for main­te­nance. In the fall, the gar­den or planters would be cleaned out for the win­ter be­cause the own­ers would be head­ing down south to homes in Phoenix or Palm Springs.

Friesen doesn’t think that will be hap­pen­ing nearly as much this year.

Cana­di­ans who head south for the win­ter are older and much more con­cerned about their health. Many have pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions that may make get­ting out-of-the-coun­try med­i­cal in­sur­ance much more dif­fi­cult, she said.

“Now they’re want­ing their gar­den all year round as op­posed to only in the sum­mer,” she said.

“They’re go­ing to be spend­ing a lot of time out there and that’s where they’re go­ing to feel the most com­fort­able and where they can pro­tect their health.”

Friesen said the pan­demic is chang­ing peo­ple’s pri­or­i­ties.

“It all gets back to where you feel the most safe — at home,” she said.

“What do you want to do with that space? You want it to be as com­fort­able and pleas­ant for you to spend a lot of time in.”


Kathy Friesen of Blooms­bury De­signer Gar­dens spe­cial­izes in turn­ing small ur­ban spa­ces such as bal­conies, pa­tios and rooftops into out­door re­treats. She says cus­tomers are ask­ing her to help them cre­ate a calm and com­fort­able out­door space where they can ride out the pan­demic.


Blooms­bury De­signer Gar­dens owner Kathy Friesen says gar­den­ing is “ex­plod­ing” dur­ing the pan­demic. She says res­i­dents are grow­ing veg­eta­bles such as cherry toma­toes, beans, and kale.

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