Submitted by Candy Venni

When we moved to Hamilton a mere five years ago, little did I know I’d be able to fulfill one of my personal & professional, lifetime goals; Creating a sustainable, public garden/ parkette.

Located at Strachan and Bay; The Sunset Cultural Garden consists of over 3000 square feet of planting beds (thanks to a hard-working group of volunteers). Neighbourhood champions waded through tons of paperwork to get grants for the plants, planters, pathways, as well as gathering private financial donations. I was called upon as a volunteer to draw up the plans, use our landscaping contacts to source materials and inspire a vision to work towards.

I learned through this process and a few more volunteer gardens, that after doing all the necessary paperwork and gathering the volunteers and paying for everything on a shoestring, getting plants in the ground is only half the battle!

The less attractive and often least exciting part of the garden is the ongoing maintenance required. To imagine a field of continuously blooming, native plants where no invasive species of weed dare tread its tough little tendrils, is to dream a mighty (and impossible) dream.

Battling it out against bindweed or getting your dander up about Dandelions is a delicate balance – on the one hand if you want a space to look cared for and engage volunteers and donors then some semblance of order must be kept – on the other hand, it’s meant to be a partially ‘wild’ space.  Of course, most truly beautiful spaces that are ‘wild’ are on a scale that defies a few invasive weeds; picture Cootes paradise – loads of invasive species (sadly) and yet still incredibly beautiful. The average, smaller-than-Cootes, public garden will get a far greater level of scrutiny – even though it may echo nature it’s still man-made. Aesthetic opinions vary widely but experience has taught me that the key to great community gardens is a strong volunteer force that plans events, maintains, loves and uses the space.

Should you ever feel the need to garden beyond your own home allow me to assure you we can find a place that could use a helping hand and someone to coach you should you wish to learn.

These are the Public spaces we continue to work towards improving, and would love help with.

L’Arche ‘Cornerstone’ Garden –started in 2014, at the corner of Fairholt and Dunsmere, Created to invite the community to use the space and provide a garden for residents and staff alike.

‘The Sunset Cultural Garden’ – installed in 2015, at the corner of Bay and Strachan. Find out more by searching the name on Facebook for pictures and the story of its progress (and possible demise) as a community garden with native plants, poetry, benches, dances…

 ‘The Birch Ave Greenspace’– started in 2013 by Brenda Duke and local residents. This previously neglected space under the power lines has been turned into a neighbourhood parkette. Located on Birch Avenue north of Barton to the train tracks

‘Powell Park Pollinator Paradise’ (and many other pollinator paradise projects throughout the city) – contact myself or Environment Hamilton, The Hamilton Community Garden Network, Green Venture or Victory Gardens to find out more & how you can help.

Remember, Being a garden volunteer doesn’t require that you clock in at a certain time or attend loads of meetings (unless you want to) Join us! Weed love to see you!