Dunsmuir Gardens, Crescent Beach, Surrey
It's probably the diversity of planting that causes most passersby to pause and enjoy the special beauty of community or allotment gardens.
Space is always at a premium—beds are often three metres square, sometimes smaller—and gardeners usually maximize their area by planting a mix of flowers and veggies. It's not unusual to see statuesque dahlias, green beans, a row of carrots, cheerful coreopsis and a roving pumpkin looking for a little extra space, all in the same garden. Michael Levenston, executive director of non-profit society City Farmer, says interest in community gardens is growing as urbanization increases and people living in smaller spaces look for opportunities to get outdoors. City Farmer (www.cityfarmer.org) provides a useful resource for those wanting to start a community garden, or to find out more about such gardens in their areas. Started in Vancouver 25 years ago and now a respected source of worldwide urban agriculture information, City Farmer has set up community gardens, school gardens, rooftop gardens and hospital gardens, as well as its own Demonstration Garden in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood. The organization's website lists around 50 community gardens, many with contact information. The newest garden on the list is Central Okanagan Community Gardens' new site on Cawston Avenue in Kelowna. In addition to general-access plots, this site also features three plots designed for wheelchair access. Levenston says the list is always changing as, sadly, some gardens are lost, while others are established. Perhaps one of the most charming aspects of community gardens—for passersby at least—is trying to visualize the gardener who has created his or her own little patch of heaven. Like green thumbs everywhere, allotment gardeners bring their own cultural interest to their spaces and rejoice in plant choices that make these gardens truly unique.