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June 16, 2015

Making the world more beautiful…

IMG_20150616_092132Speaking of Miss Rumphius, we’ve been lucky enough to find a way to make the world a more beautiful place this summer. We live in one of those annoying (if you’re driving and want to get anywhere quickly) downtown neighbourhoods—literally a five-minute walk from where Jane Jacobs lived—in which the streets only partway belong to cars, and a one-way system has turned side streets into a maze. The one-way streets are indicated by concrete planters that block access to the road, but which haven’t been maintained regularly so that more than a few of them have been filled with weeds and garbage in recent years. Until this year, however, when the neighbourhood residents association went looking for people to “adopt” planters, and we volunteered. We didn’t even have to do the hard work. Another neighbour dug up the weeds, filled the planter with new compost, and planted a shrub.



And then it was over to us, and one day in May we planted alyssum and two lavender plants. We probably should have been more strategic and creative about what to plant, but we were keen and impulsive, so went for it. Happily, the flowers have spread and the garden is lovely now, and when we walk by on our way to school every day, our children bid the planter, “Good morning!” Every evening after dinner we head down the street with our watering cans and give the plants their drink.

IMG_20150616_092111There is also now a palm plant in the garden that looks strange and out of place. One day I arrived to water the planter, and someone had left it there for us, quite deliberately, it seemed, the bulb nicely preserved. Now, I’ve heard of people stealing plants from gardens but not so much anonymously bestowing them, and so in order to encourage such behaviour I planted the bulb. Community spirit and everything. I don’t know who gave it to us (or what the plant is!), but I do know that taking care of our planter has connected us with our neighbours in the most fantastic way. We’ve met people out-and-about while we’ve been watering, and heard from others who appreciate the cleaned-up planter and have volunteered to do the watering while we’re on vacation this summer.

IMG_20150616_092055It’s only June, but we’ve already got a best-part-of-our-summer-so-far. We really can’t walk past our planter without Iris sticking her nose into the lavender. It’s just about that point in the season where nature explodes with fecundity, so we’ve got weeding to do and the flowers are spreading fast. And I love that this experience is teaching my children about community involvement, how gardening can be revolutionary, about simple biology, and they’re learning responsibility too—which is important because we’re never ever getting a pet (no way!). They don’t even feel ripped off (yet) that instead of a pet, they’ve got a concrete box that stops traffic, but of course it’s so much more than that, as Jane Jacobs herself would attest.

11 thoughts on “Making the world more beautiful…”

  1. Zsuzsi says:

    Hoorah for guerrilla gardening! I live in Vancouver in a neighbour where people use every nano-inch of the boulevards, back alleys, garage roofs etc for flowering plants and edibles. I have a back-alley garden — 7th year now — and meet so many people out there. And started a garage roof veggie garden (3rd year)and can find an excuse to go up at least 12x a day to see what’s happening. I love the people who plant in the traffic circles (much like your adopted concrete planters.) Sadly I haven’t been able to interest my kid in gardening, but he does love the strawberries and peas and carrots I grow for him. Yeah plants, boo cars!

  2. theresa says:

    Would your daughters like some wild lupin seed? For the blue ones?

    1. Kerry says:

      We definitely would! (PS I just got notice of your new book, Theresa. So exciting!)

      1. theresa says:

        Yes, I’m excited too. The whole process has been very lovely thus far!
        If you email me with your mailing address, I will send some seeds from a trail we often walk on. I actually thought of Miss Rumphius at one point because the lupins are so beautiful…
        theresakishkan at

  3. Jennifer says:

    What a sweet planter! My green thumb is non-existent but we are attempting to grow some grape tomatoes this year with my daughters. Last year we had a bumper crop and it was fantastic to see the progress from green shrub to flowering plant to succulent tomatoes. You have done a wonderful job with the planter!

    1. Kerry says:

      Thanks so much! It has been a lot of fun.

  4. Amy says:

    Loved reading this! I am also the adoptive parent of a planter in the neighbourhood. And I have received odd “donations” of plants before — it’s kind of sweet, and puzzling. I suspect your mystery bulb is an amaryllis. If so, it has already flowered and will look much the same through the summer. If you dig it up in Sept and keep the bulb inside, you could get it to bloom again…

    1. Kerry says:

      Thanks for the tip!

  5. ann says:

    I was one of the Compost/Cleaning Crew for the planters and am so happy that green has replaced the trash and neglected look of the planters in the neighbourhood. It’s great your kids are involved. I think every child should have a garden!

    1. Kerry says:

      Thanks for your hard work and making it easy for the rest of us! My kids are grateful too!

  6. Leslie says:


    I am a neighbour and I am drafting a sign design for our concrete planters in HV. I would ideally like to include an image of one of our small neighbours planting the planter. I wonder if I could use one of yours and if you have any more?
    Green thumbs up,

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