Sunday, July 26, 2009

Get Rid of The Laneway, There's a Garden Under There!

At Gracie Gardens we were once blessed with a cement laneway running the entire length of our house, through the yard, all the way to the building we commonly call 'the shop' (though it bears similarities to a 'car hole'). It was a serious laneway, too: over 60 feet from the street and thus more than half the length of the property! It also runs on the west side of our property, which left the side of the house exposed to baking afternoon sun. That is, the laneway did nothing but signal to all who walked or drove by that this property had the ever respectable and property-value-raising 'garage'.

We had a third of the offending laneway removed (with a back hoe- the cement went to be recycled), leaving a part as a cement walk to the back, put a picket fence around the newly liberated earth, added two yards of compost, and planted sun-loving trees and wildflowers in masses. The plan was to plant something that appears 'gardeny' from the street, shades the house and is wildlife friendly. And gives Gracie herself somewhere nice to stand to bark when a dog walks by.

The reason this project merits a report is how little work this was once the cement was gone. I estimate that it all took about 25 hours to plant (which includes un-compacting the soil by hand, adding the compost, planting the seeds and setting the plants, etc). The trees (four Native Salix discolor rooted from my Mom's cutting from a tree I planted at my Gramma's when I was four years old) were planted in August 2007 at about 1' tall, and are now 12' tall. The Eupatorium maculatum and Monarda fistulosa I grew from seeds I collected at the river nearby. The Echinacea purpura, while not Native to Ontario, is an American Native, good to the bugs and is drought tolerant. And it looks pretty 'cultivated' from the street. (Most of it came from my guerilla garden where it has self-seeded freely). There are also a variety of asters (from the CN tracks and from a Native plant nursery), a Campsis radicans from the back yard, and of course Solidago, from the empty lot next door.

So: the point? Well, there are lots of practical things to value here. The house is cooler in the late afternoon; this bed eats up lots of the grey water from our house (siphoned from an upstairs tub); it absorbs rain water that would otherwise end up in the storm sewer. And this bed is gorgeous: it gives anyone who walks by and cares to look the sense that people who wish them a good day live here! We managed to find about 100 square feet of garden space with which to share these good wishes under only one third of this horrible, hated and useless laneway. So the point is that even small spaces, with a little planning, can be exceptional additions to our homes and communities. This summer it is full of butterflies, and last Fall- it's first real Fall- it was always busy with Goldfinches eating flower seeds.

It has value.

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