Community Gardens: The New Yoga Studio?

Seems like everywhere I wander these days I encounter a community garden. In the past two weeks, I have happened upon amazing gardens in East Village at Fort Calgary Park, the backyard of the Banff Trail Community Centre and side yard of the Altadore School & Community Edible Garden.  I was literally gobsmacked by how healthy the plants at the Altadore School Garden were. 

East Village's community garden includes a funky shade structure that makes for a great place to sit and people watch.

The plants at the Altadore School &Community Edible Garden were humungous, twice the size of anything I have seen in other gardens.  

The Banff Trail community garden is a more typical community garden in my mind.

Community Gardens Gone Wild?

Not only does it seem like every school and every community centre in the City has a community garden, but more and more backyard and front yards being convert to or incorporating vegetable gardens also.  Is this just a trend or have the public become more and more aware of the value of eating healthy. Are community gardens the new yoga studio?

Pretty much everything you need to know about Calgary Community Gardens is at the Garden Resource Network hosted by the Calgary Horticultural Society. I was amazed to learn there are 169 (87 public and 82 private) community gardens in Calgary as of July 2016.  No wonder I am seeing community gardens everywhere I wander these days but didn’t in the past - there were only 12 community gardens in 2008 and 130 in 2010.

Link: Garden Resource Network

Past vs. Present

Interestingly 100 years ago in Calgary and most cities across North America, it was common practice to have a vegetable garden in your backyard and some might even have a pig, a few chickens and a cow. On a recent walking tour of West Hillhurst lead by David Peyto for Historic Calgary Week, he informed us it was common practice early in the 20th century for new homeowners to buy two lots - one for the house and one for the garden.  I can’t imagine anyone doing that these days. But who knows, “the times are a changin.” 

Fast forward a hundred years. Houses have more than tripled in size with a double garage as big as many of the cottage homes built in the early 20th century.  New homes sport huge concrete driveways in the front and big decks filling lots that are often half the size they once were. Room for a garden is minimal at best. In older communities, mature trees and tall infills create so much shade there isn’t much sun for a garden. In addition, more and more Calgarians are living in apartments and condos so there is no back or front yard, so it isn’t surprising that community gardens have become more popular.   Hence, the popularity of community gardens in the 21st century.

Using schools, community centres and parks for communal gardens is a great idea as it also fosters a sense of community as people learn gardening tips for each other and help each other with watering and weeding.

Here is a garden in the backyard of an older cottage home that illustrates how at one time the garden space too up more lot space than the house.  

Another lovely backyard garden in an established Calgary community. 

The front yard can work also for a vegetable garden, especially if it is on the southside where it will get more early spring sun - at least on this side of the equator it will.

Community Garden Generate More Taxes?

I wondered if anyone has looked at how community gardens impact house prices as has been done with proximity to parks, transit and bike lanes. Indeed, in 2008 Real Estate Economics (the oldest academic journal focusing on real estate issues) published “The Effect of Community Gardens on Neighboring Property Values” by Ioan Voicu and Vicki Been. The authors documented that homes near community gardens increased in value by up to 9% after five years of the garden being developed.  Furthermore the positive impact of community gardens was greatest in poor neighbourhoods and increased with the quality of the garden. The authors also noted that the increase in property values as a result of community gardens was worth billions in additional property tax revenues for cities.

Link: "The Effect of Community Gardens on Neighboring Property Values"

East Village's community garden would be a good example of a high quality garden with is ornamental fence and patio stone walkways.  

Altadore School also has many highend features like the metal vs wood raised gardens, poured concrete sidewalk and two large circular concrete areas that will become outdoor classrooms. 

Banff Trail has a wonderful orchard as part of their upscale community garden. 

Calgary Mega Community Garden

Did you know that Calgary has an 11-acre community garden just off of the Trans Canada Highway (you can see if you look south just west of the Stoney Trail intersection)?  Grow Calgary, a group of 50 dedicated volunteers (and hundreds more on a casual basis) have created Canada’s largest urban farm with all of the produce harvested going to Calgary’s Compassionate Food Access Agencies (16 different agencies).  The farm grows everything from carrots to cabbage, zucchini to turnips. Grow Calgary is currently waiting to hear from the Province if they can expand the farm by utilizing the transportation utility corridor along the Trans Canada Highway.  To me, this is a no brainer, but their 2014 application still awaits a response!

Last Word

Today, urban farming produces about 15% of the world’s food supply according to the United States Department of Agriculture. This is forecasted to increase as the world’s population continues to become more and more concentrated in cities.  Whether it is tiny backyard plots, community gardens, guerrilla gardening on vacant lots, indoor hanging gardens, rooftop growing or vertical gardens - urban farming is here to stay.

Could community gardens and urban farming be the new yoga?

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Banff Trail Flaneuring Postcards

It all started with the need for an oil and filter change!

As I drive a Nissan Altima and Stadium Nissan is five minute drive away and they had just sent me an email saying I could get an express oil and filter change for $49.99, I headed out for what I thought would be a 30-minute uneventful trip. 

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending how you look at it) they found a cracked belt of some sort and said they could fix it but would take an hour.  I said, “Go ahead and fix it. I will go for a walk and be back in an hour.”

Stadium Nissan is aptly named as it is beside Calgary’s McMahon Stadium home of the Calgary Stampeders.  My first stop on my walkabout was the pedestrian bridge over Crowchild Trail.  I am a sucker for taking photos of bridges and this one has a lovely blue tower in the middle that harmonizes nicely with the blue sky (regular readers will know that I have an obsession with Calgary’s blue skies). 

McMahon Stadium pedestrian bridge Calgary

A sense of place

After taking a few photos, the Banff Trail LRT station grabbed my attention. Immediately I was struck by what looked like several Stampede football players hanging out in full uniform at the station, or at least that is what it looked like from a distance.  I knew this couldn’t be true as they were in Winnipeg that night for a game.  However, the vinyl silhouettes looking very real from a distance, added an intriguing sense of place to the quaint station that looks a bit like a mountain hiker’s hut.   

Banff Trail LRT station design appropriately looks a bit like a hiking hut or shelter. 

From a distance these cutouts look like real players. Kudos to those responsible for this initiative.  I love the hashtag "whatever it takes" and think it could be expanded to apply to Calgary in general. 

I loved the playfulness of the light caused by the trees and the gate. 

Ghost town

Continuing walking into the community I was stuck by the huge mid-century, flat-roofed ranch style duplexes on the corners and how different they are to the two-storey infills being built today.   In fact the entire community felt a like a walk back in time.  It was also strange as it felt like a ghost town – there was nobody walking along the sidewalks, playing in the huge playing fields or playgrounds. In fact, there weren’t even any cars on the roads; it was deserted despite it being mid-afternoon on a beautiful July day.

 

I was soon struck by how on many of the corner lots there were this bungalow duplexes, which got me thinking about how housing design has evolved in Calgary over the past 50+ years. 

In this collage you can see mid 20th century duplexes that are dotted throughout Calgary's established communities. On the right you can see the two-storey duplexed that are replacing single homes in almost every Calgary community. 

Anywhere Anytime

For me, it was a lovely Thursday afternoon in July for flaneuring.  What I love about flaneuring is you can do it anytime and anywhere and you’ll almost always are rewarded with a few fun surprises.  You also don’t need any special clothing or equipment.

You just need to do it!

PS...Yes my car was ready when I got back to Stadium Nissan almost exactly an hour later. 

Found this mysterious grotto-like garden at the entrance to the Ecole St. Pius X School at the corner of 23rd Ave and 18th St. NW (technically in Capitol Hill as 18th Street is the dividing line)

Inside is a wonderful, eerie perspective on the outside world. 

This mural on the side of the Banff Trail Community Centre intrigued me to wander up for a closer look which is when I discovered their lovely community garden complete with an orchard. 

Community gardens are becoming the new yoga in Calgary. 

Wouldn't this make a great postcard?

Across the street from the community centre I noticed a new, hip, urban, window reflection and had to take a picture.  While it was closed, Jay's mom was in the store and she let me in for a tour.  I must go back to sample the pizza (both Greek and Neapolitan style dough) and perhaps pick up a charcuterie plate. Note: there is no seating takeout only.

I was almost back to Stadium Nissan when I discovered this calf wandering out of a backyard. I always love a surprise. 

Garden Flaneuring: Try it you might like it!

Why wait until you are on holidays to have flaneuring fun?  For many people, one of the fun things to do is visit gardens when they are on holidays.  Even those who aren’t into gardening, often love to “stop and smell the flowers” when on vacation. 

Bird baths create a wonderful sense of place in a garden. 

Standout Front Yards

While it may not be the equivalent to visiting Vancouver Island’s Buchart Gardens, Chicago’s Botanical Gardens, Hamilton’s Royal Botanical Gardens or Portland’s Japanese Garden, most of us can go for a walk in our neighbourhood and enjoy the lovely front gardens of our neighbours.  For those who love art, garden flaneuring can be like going to Santa Fe and visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.  In our neighbourhood one or two homes on every block have a "standout" front yard or perhaps a special flower.

Iris Eroticism

  The irises were lovely this year.  Every time I see an iris I can't help but think of Georgia O'Keeffe. Link:     Georgia O'Keeffe

The irises were lovely this year.  Every time I see an iris I can't help but think of Georgia O'Keeffe. Link: Georgia O'Keeffe

Iris erotism
  Found this guy hidden under a large shrub in our front garden. 

Found this guy hidden under a large shrub in our front garden. 

  Irises have to one of the most erotic flowers. 

Irises have to one of the most erotic flowers. 

 Need I say more....

Need I say more....

Meet The Neighbours?

Wandering the neighbourhood checking out the gardens is often full of unexpected surprises.   While out gardening flaneuring, we will often say “lovely garden” when we see someone working in their yard, which always elicits a smile and sometimes even a brief chat.

Fun With Colours?

  Poppies have the most wonderful colour and shapes, especially in the morning light.  

Poppies have the most wonderful colour and shapes, especially in the morning light. 

It looked like these lilies were on fire one morning in June. 

  It has been a great year in Calgary for roses.  

It has been a great year in Calgary for roses.  

Dying Flower Art

  Sometimes I think flowers are most interesting as they are dying, they become more asymmetrical and sculptural.  

Sometimes I think flowers are most interesting as they are dying, they become more asymmetrical and sculptural.  

  Found this work of art on the next block, couldn't resist taking it photo. 

Found this work of art on the next block, couldn't resist taking it photo. 

  This peony captured my eye as I was finishing up the blog, more and more I am appreciating the beauty in the dying flower. 

This peony captured my eye as I was finishing up the blog, more and more I am appreciating the beauty in the dying flower. 

Deep Purple 

  Found this huge clematis (6+ inches wide) in a forgotten side garden near the end of our garden flaneur vacation.  It was perfectly formed and totally open. 

Found this huge clematis (6+ inches wide) in a forgotten side garden near the end of our garden flaneur vacation.  It was perfectly formed and totally open. 

  This is perhaps my favourite flower from our garden this season.

This is perhaps my favourite flower from our garden this season.

  I didn't even know they made speckled petunias.  Found these in a pot a few blocks away, while garden flaneuring recently. Next year!

I didn't even know they made speckled petunias.  Found these in a pot a few blocks away, while garden flaneuring recently. Next year!

Everyday Gardening Fun

Or if you are like me, you can create your own garden, which you can flaneur every day as there is always something new to experience in a garden. 

Just like a tourist, wander the garden with your iPhone or camera and take pictures every day.  I have often thought it would be interesting to post a “garden pic-a-day” from April to October and see what kind of response I get.  I will often tweet out a photo from one of my morning garden flaneurs with the text “Goooooooood Morrrrrrrrrrrrrrning Calgary!” 

Gardening is not only therapeutic but it can also be a fun way to get to know your neighbours. In our case, we have bonded with our neighbours on both sides over our gardens, so much so that we have integrated our front yards into one large garden.  (Backstory: This is ironic as the three houses sit on land that was one lot until the early ‘90s when an infill developer bought the 100-foot lot and subdivided it into three lots.)

  The pathway to our secret garden was littered with rose pedals after a recent rain, create a romantic sense of place.

The pathway to our secret garden was littered with rose pedals after a recent rain, create a romantic sense of place.

Daycare Fun!

One of my little pleasures in life, it taking my morning coffee and wandering the garden while parents drop off their kids at the “Honey Bee” daycare across the street. The kids wave and the parents smile; the start of another perfect summer day – that is until the first double bogie on the golf course.  

  In our front yard we have two old pieces of playground equipment.  The hamburglar looks out from an old fence we rescued from a house across the street that was being torn down for a new infill. The daycare kids love it.  

In our front yard we have two old pieces of playground equipment.  The hamburglar looks out from an old fence we rescued from a house across the street that was being torn down for a new infill. The daycare kids love it.  

  We also have Tommy The Turtle hidden in the front yard jungle.  There are two daycare kids who have found it and ask if they can sit on it, if I am in the yard. 

We also have Tommy The Turtle hidden in the front yard jungle.  There are two daycare kids who have found it and ask if they can sit on it, if I am in the yard. 

  Note the golf clubs?

Note the golf clubs?

  Flaneuring gardens at night is a totally different experience from day time flaneuring.  You should try it.

Flaneuring gardens at night is a totally different experience from day time flaneuring. You should try it.

Try It! You Might Just Like It!

So if you want to try being an “everyday tourist” this summer, grab your camera and go for walk taking pictures of the neighbours’ gardens.  When you get home, grab your favourite beverage and have a look at your pics and relive the beauty of your travels, just like you would on vacation.

If you like it, consider taking a “garden flaneur” vacation every week.

Black and white garden photography lets you see your garden in a whole different light (pun intended). 

  This image is taken of  grass mound with the frosted glass patio fence in the background. It is amazing all the things you see when you take out your camera and start looking. 

This image is taken of  grass mound with the frosted glass patio fence in the background. It is amazing all the things you see when you take out your camera and start looking. 

  Gardens are fun places to experiment. 

Gardens are fun places to experiment. 

  Our other bird bath. 

Our other bird bath.