Gardens aren’t just pretty. They all do their bit to make the city liveable. The trees improve air quality, the greenery cools hot summer air, and plants absorb rain. A lush garden, with a carpet of plants helps to keep water from overwhelming the sewer system water during heavy storms
Sewers, sewage, wastewater treatment plants, combined sewer overflows, these things, the intestines of our city are much on our minds. That's why we must continue to value gardens, parks and natural lands.
Though many people “get it”- the value of gardens, many still hold a thinly disguised attitude that they are a frill, a trifle, a hobby for “ladies.”
When I used to do a lot of speaking engagements I would often be introduced by a man (sorry men) who would say something like, “I don’t know a thing about gardening, (or care about it) but Kathy’s stuff is pretty interesting.”
Well I guess some folks would be happy living in a house plunked in the middle of a Walmart parking lot.
The sewage leak and the coverup has me ten shades of cranky.
While I try to focus on the “pretty” things, the gardens and parks in our city, I carry around a bag full of grudges.
Try going to a public meeting for a new development. In my neighbourhood some developers of future condominium blocks are asking to be relieved of landscape requirements. In plain language all paving, no plants. Oh, maybe there would be a pot at the front entrance with a dead spruce and cigarette butts in it.
Are these requests granted? It’s hard to tell unless you follow the development through all the planning approvals.
I do know the city has a 50 percent green space requirement for front yards that is supposed to prevent average Joe homeowner from paving the entire front yard.
But where does this hostility to plants come from? Notice real estate photos. Houses are renovated from roof to basement, but the yard is a dismal defeated patch of grass with a volcano of mulch masquerading as a garden.
The budget for a home renovation would contain many big-ticket items. Is it so painful to plunk down a hundred bucks for a pretty, beneficial, tree, or order one from the city for free?
When the sewer leak story broke in the Spectator, it caused many to reflect on the state of our city. It’s not just about the open gate at the holding tank, or the withholding of vital information, it’s about the way we live and the choices we make.
Many years ago when the Parks Canada Discovery Centre was built on the waterfront, Ken Parker was bought in to advise on landscaping.
Parker had the wonderful native plant nursery called Sweetgrass Gardens on the Six Nations Reserve.
Using Ken’s expertise smart things happened. The parking lot was broken up with plantings of trees and shrubs. They filtered the storm water run-off and changed the nature of the parking lot from ugly to intriguing.
On the water side of the Discovery Centre a garden of native plants and a tranquil pond made a thoughtful connection to the harbour.
Now not a trace remains of that little oasis. Paved over for the restaurant that followed and failed. The trees in the parking lot remain, but Parker has moved on to Buffalo, where he is helping people understand the connection we need to protect between plants and a livable city.
So, it’s more important than ever to treasure our pretty gardens, and to plant more of them. They improve our mental health, cool and filter the air, and soak up rain. There is not one single downside to a garden.
In 2020 we have to do better.