The little boulevard gardens of East Vancouver are a lesson in reclaiming city space


Saba Farmand potential customers a going for walks tour of boulevard gardens in East Vancouver on April 22, Earth Day.Photography by Jesse Wintertime/The World and Mail

Saba Farmand never ever prepared on getting to be a tour information.

A landscape architect and arborist, he can be a minor nerdy about city style and streetscapes. When he moved to East Vancouver’s Mount Nice neighbourhood 5 many years back, he was fascinated with the community’s boulevard gardens, so he started out photographing them. He designed an Instagram account, @eastvan_blvd_gardens, to function the vibrant and artistic displays.

“I just really like likely on walks as a result of the neighbourhood, and I commenced noticing how several wonderful boulevard gardens there were being around in this article and how they dance with the encompassing streetscape,” Mr. Farmand says.

Boulevard gardens are what some persons build in the small strips of land crammed amongst the sidewalk and the road. Regular citizens, confronted with these vacant spaces in front of their homes and in professional spots, take them around to plant flower gardens or mature greens. Some are very simple flower beds or neat rows of peas. Others are ornate works of residing avenue artwork, combining flowers, shrubs and trees. More than a few are residences for gnomes.

In a metropolis like Vancouver, where by the price tag of land is soaring, the gardens provide a way for every day citizens to reclaim some ownership and pleasure in excess of their neighbourhoods, and satisfy the need to tend land.

“Public gardens … normally don’t have that exact same character that a ton of boulevard gardens do,” Mr. Farmand claims.


Tulips near Windsor Road and East 28th Avenue.

As his enthusiasm for these small gardens grew, so did his followers. Final July, a community environmental non-profit requested him to host a group walking tour. He agreed, as very long as any cash lifted went to the Mount Enjoyable Neighbourhood House, a team that supports new immigrants and refugees.

It was a one particular-off function, but Mr. Farmand is however undertaking the excursions on his personal, marketing them on his Instagram account and donating the proceeds. The tours are turning into a neighbourhood staple, and a typical likelihood for Mr. Farmand to share his lots of ideas on his favorite matter.

“Boulevard gardens help to raise the sustainability of a group,” he suggests. And he’s not just chatting about the environmental advantages, this kind of as delivering flowers for pollinators and habitats for birds. He’s referring to the social and financial sustainability of neighbourhoods.

“You’re more very likely to operate into a neighbour and communicate to them if you are out gardening,” he claims, introducing that he notices people are inclined to be friendlier in neighbourhoods with far more boulevard gardens.


A boulevard backyard garden surrounds a tree close to Prince Albert Street and East 20th Avenue.

Around Glen Push and East 11th Avenue.

Close to Fraser Street and East 54th Avenue.


This backyard garden has tiny gnome residences on Comox Street in Vancouver’s West Stop.

An aged tire and absolutely free library around East 37th Avenue and Ridgeway Road in East Vancouver.

Hedges and grasses underneath moody skies near Prince Albert and East 23rd in East Vancouver.

A fascinating reality about these minimal gardens, states Mr. Farmand, is that most men and women presume they’re unlawful. Quite a few are amazed that the City of Vancouver really encourages it, he suggests, so lengthy as gardeners adhere to the published suggestions.

Hayden Kremer, the eco-friendly thumb driving a person of Mr. Farmand’s favorite street-facet gardens, suggests when he initial started off, he figured he was possibly breaking the regulations. “I was completely in the darkish that this was alright.” Mr. Kremer has appear to enjoy the community-setting up factors of gardens like his. His neighbours approach to commence their personal boulevard yard following spring.

But not every city makes it possible for boulevard gardening. For instance, some municipalities in British Columbia’s Decreased Mainland are still working to produce their personal guidelines to allow it, Mr. Farmand states.

Boulevard gardeners Hayden Kremer and Megan Reiter.

Gardening on public land can also come with worries. Some have recounted tales of tomatoes mysteriously disappearing, he claims. And two decades back – just months into the COVID-19 pandemic – there was a rash of tree and flower thefts from household gardens in East Vancouver, which include 1 circumstance wherever the perpetrator was caught on camera ripping a Japanese maple correct out of someone’s front back garden.

But Megan Reiter, 1 of the gardeners whose plot is element of Mr. Farmand’s strolling tour, says thefts are exceptional. “With tulips, for case in point, if I have specially exotic ones, in some cases they’ll disappear,” she suggests.

As the acceptance of Mr. Farmand’s tour grows, he hopes to inevitably broaden beyond East Vancouver. Though he’s focused so significantly on photographing the gardens themselves, he ideas to start off a series profiling the gardeners powering them and perhaps just one working day create a e book. In the meantime, he’s setting up extra walking excursions in excess of the summer time and will carry on tending to his blossoming Instagram local community.


Mr. Farmand carries on his going for walks tour.

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