For the visitor a large community garden gives formal gardens a run for their money by soaring above the individualistic to create something bigger borne out of collective consciousness. The diversity of thought and purpose rather than design make each community garden a unique place to visit. None more so than those found in Vancouver, Canada, a city that seems to make an art form out of these green spaces. Two in particular: Strathcona Park Community Garden and Cypress Community Garden are rather memorable. Strathcona is a hidden plant masterpiece located within an industrial area on the Eastside of the city. It’s a remarkable tapestry of cultivated and wild space all knitted together. Taken as a whole, it adds up to more sensory richness than you will find going through any turnstile. Cypress Garden, in contrast, is set amongst some of the most sought after real estate in Vancouver, in an area known as Kitsilano. It is so pretty and perfect in places that it is hard to believe it is not maintained full-time by a team of professional horticulturalists. For any visitor to Vancouver, these two gardens should appear high-up on the must do list. But it is not just the diversity of plant life that makes these places special, it is the creativity and diversity of non-vegetative additions that enhance the artistic merit and ultimately the community spirit of these gardens.
The entrance to Cypress Community Garden
Buddhism is big in Vancouver, which might have something to do with the respectful signage (see below). Buddha and other eastern religious iconography are quite common. This one was found hiding in the garden entrance post.
Communal areas, as well as your own patch, need just as much care. Compost bins by their very nature are not the most glamorous parts of the garden, but a nicely composed identification sign on wooden constructions can raise it to a veritable design feature.
The thing about community gardens is that a community uses them, gardeners and visitors alike. This means a certain degree of organisation and direction is required otherwise mayhem ensues. With no head gardener or ticket office on-site to oversee operations, there needs to be a way for the collective to exist together in relative harmony. Apart from the occasional nudge to remember what you planted where, signs are a bit superfluous in your own backyard, but in a community garden their presence is motivated by sheer necessity. Luckily non-violent communication is the modus operandi and the preferred method of hand-written signage is reassuringly old-school, as too many printer-generated instructions would detract from the feeling these community gardens are trying to garner. Too few signs, and well, no-one bothers to put the hose back. Yet walk through most community gardens and you will often notice signs, for their complimentary rather than negative impact. With the content more times than not following one of the great unwritten rules of community gardens: if you’re going to make a sign, be creative or at least be funny.