By Candy Venni
This is the time of year we all start to hunger for spring, convincing ourselves it’s just around the corner and, although they’re hard to see, the very first ‘appetizers’ are already being served.
Waxy buds on our trees are fattening up under their protective coats, corms and tubers released from hard frost are absorbing water to pop through the earths’ crust while the first hibernating pollinator twitches a wing underground.
When you wander through Hamilton, blinking in the sun and breathing those first warm promises of summer upon the air, consider a walk through a little neighbourhood project at Bay and Strachan. Formerly the ‘Tot lot’ and now a lovely ‘parkette’, The Sunset Cultural Garden was created by local residents on empty land leased from the City for use as a community garden space.
Through the passion and persistence of a small group of volunteers a flat patch of scruffy grass at the top of a hill has turned into a unique oasis of poetry and pollinator plants with a lovely sunset view.
Early bulbs you might spot peeking through; Wintor Aconite, a favourite of early to rise honeybees, unfurls its first tiny leaf near the end of February and pivots to follow the sun with bright yellow buttercup flowers. Scilla, Crocus, Pushkinia, daffodils and species tulips will jumpstart our eyeballs by May, while later we can look forward to blue Camassia, Alliums and the huge orange Fritillaria or ‘Skunk lily’ (everyone always wants to know what these crazy looking plants are!)
After and amidst the spring bulbs will be an impressive array of native plants, over 2000 of which were planted in over 3000 square feet of planting beds. The first of these to hold court will be the delicate nodding head of Aquilegia canadensis or native columbine, known to attract hummingbirds and familiar to most gardeners. The Dahlia society will donate some amazing late blooming beauties and volunteers will plant annual favourites like Canna lily (attracts hummingbirds) & Nicotiana (attracts Sphinx moths and smells intoxicating in the evening)
This garden exists despite numerous challenges , some financial others due to city of Hamilton guidelines. due to a lack of finances but we also had to overcome a number of limitations set out in city of Hamilton guidelines.
For Example; as much as we would have liked to provide some shade, no trees were allowed to be planted, no concrete to hold posts for shade structures, no ornamental fencing, or paved walkways. Instead of giving up, meetings brainstormed creative workarounds to move beyond the limitations.
I only mention these setbacks to point out how very privileged we are to have this little oasis and how special it is.
The land is on loan to the community from the city and soon our ‘lease’ will be up for renewal.
So, here’s the big ask….
There is no big ask, we just really, really, want you to share it with everyone you know, use the space, read the poetry, admire the flowers, photograph the butterflies talk it up and take your family, take your pets, and take your time.
Future events may include a dance performance, a picnic, a sculpture exhibit, and anything else the neighbourhood would love to see happen here.
We can always use additional volunteers, followers, cheerleaders and encouragement – find out more about the garden on Facebook ‘The Sunset Cultural Garden’ or write directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org