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.