Yellow parched grass mixed with weed are common summertime sightings on the North Shore’s many street boulevards and roundabouts. A group of North Vancouver community volunteers, however, have taken positive action and as a result several neighbouring boulevards and roundabouts on central Mahon Avenue have been transformed into superb gardens.
The boulevard on the corner of North Vancouver’s Mahon Avenue and 18th Street is the largest of these gardens and is being called “the COVID hope corner” by some residents. This sizable garden offers visually pleasing evidence that the community can come together during stressful pandemic times and accomplish amazing results. Aside from bee-attracting herbs like lavender and echinacea, this garden is home to many vegetable plants including cabbage, lettuce, zucchini, beans, pumpkins, potatoes, and tomatoes. In addition to these herbs and plants, woven willow fences add a decorative touch to the garden.
The vision for this boulevard garden came from Ruth Tschannen, a long-time resident of North Vancouver, who gained gardening and farming experience when growing up on a farm in Switzerland. Being able to locally grow healthy food in Switzerland made a lasting impression on her and is something she would like to propagate in North Vancouver.
She started with one roundabout several years ago: removing weeds, and growing flowers, herbs, and vegetables. This was rewarding but time-consuming work. She wheel-barrowed compost she made from available local leaves on to the roundabout and grew the plants from seeds. As community members noticed that impressive roundabout garden, they offered to help and started to volunteer. Now with the help of these volunteers, several corners and roundabout boulevards between 16th Street and 21st Street on Mahon Avenue are home to similar eye-catching gardens.
The garden transformations are a centre of engagement and inspiration for the community. One playful two-year-old saw Tschannen planting seeds and opted to help her plant sunflower seeds. Another resident, Susan Drouin, was also inspired and wrote a poem, where she says: “A hymn of thanks for Ruth as I go. ... I’m inspired by Ruth’s steady vision, her innate knowledge of how to grow and tend this patch of paradise on this corner in the city.”
Tschannen says the main problem she is trying to address is awareness and preparedness for the impacts of climate change. “We have to change, and we have to be prepared. And I would like to expand the operations,” she says.
Find out more information about this community-based initiative by visiting the volunteer community page on Instagram.
Shervin Shahriari is the author of North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Neighbourhood (Arcadia, 2009) and a Langara business faculty lecturer. He is the former chair of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Commission and former chair of North Vancouver City Library board.