One interesting side effect of getting involved with my garden has been that I now see gardens everywhere. And on my recent trip to Vancouver, there was much to admire (Thanks to Ms. Country Mouse for her most excellent posts in my absence). Above, the photo from the hotel window while Mr. Mouse was at a conference. I was enchanted by the green spaces, rooftop gardens, and green roofs. I was also impressed by how many of the high rises had balconies with window boxes.
When I left the hotel for a stroll, I stumbled over a community garden right down town, with vegetables and a few flowering plants to attract pollinators (that's some fennel on the left).
And even under a big bridge, the city had planted some shade lovers to make the walk down to the water more pleasant.
What I found interesting, however, is that I saw so many traditional ornamentals. Hostas and ferns in the shade, and impatients, pansies, and other color stunners in the sun. When we took a bus ride to the Museum of Anthropology on the UCB campus, we saw the flip side of the traditional approach to gardening: Many of the houses had a completely dry, brown lawn in front. While Vancouver receives a lot more rain than California, it is a summer dry climate, so lawn is clearly not the best choice for a sunny location.
Before we got to the museum, we had a chance to admire the university's rose garden (clearly, this lawn was being watered).
The museum itself was beyond amazing, featuring exhibits and collections accessible to all. I could have spent a week looking at the basketwork, textiles, carving - it was overwhelming to try to take it all in. We then went outside and took a tour of the outbildings, described on the museum's website like this:
The Museum grounds, designed by landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander, feature indigenous plants and grasses amongst two outdoor Haida Houses and ten full-scale totem poles (one inside the larger of the two Haida Houses), and two carved house-posts and a Welcome Figure. Recent commissions include two outdoor sculptures by Musqueam artists, one by Joe Becker, and the other by Susan Point. Since MOA is built on traditional Musqueam First Nations land, it is appropriate that works by artists from this area are the first to greet visitors when they arrive on site.
And here, finally, were the native plants I had wondered about. Fireweed, native grasses, and different native shrubs and perennials. I personally thought they could spend a little more time on weeding out the non-natives, but no matter, it was a vibrant community of plants, pollinators, and birds.
I also enjoyed the artificial lake, with stones and shells leading to the water and a view of one the totem poles.
Interestingly, I encountered my next native plant garden at the First People House at the University of Victoria. Which really made me wonder whether native plants are so closely associated with the Native Americans (first people) in the mind of the average Canadian that they hesitate to get involved in gardening with natives. Do the native plants feel like somebody else's plants? Do people worry they might offend? Here in California - especially in coastal regions - one is unlikely to encounter a Native American. Would it feel different to garden with natives if we still had native people here?
To mix things up a bit, we then took a short stroll through the Japanese Garden on the campus of UCB in Vancouver.
It was quite enchanting, with many large trees, tranquil ponds, and the ground carpeted with moss.
I kept having to touch the moss - it seemed a bit unreal. Because it was exceptionally warm when we were in Vancouver, a carpet of moss was a delicious surprise, and the sounds of little waterfall was soothing and cooling.
Regrettably, we missed out on the botanical garden and on a few other sights, but we're hoping to go back one day. After all, what's not to like about a city that's as bicycle friendly as this? (And by the way, the food was great as well!)