The Secret Garden


Last night I went to dinner with two girlfriends at a Chinese restaurant in East Van. Afterwards, since it was still sunny and nice out, we went for a walk around the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood we were in is a slightly sketchy combination of businesses and down-at-the-heels houses, but fine in the daytime. We wandered past the security-bar clad windows and cracking pavement when our attention was drawn by a garden in progress.


The yard of former mechanic shop was being transformed with new rich soil and a variety of tropical plants. A water feature was being dug in, and once the plants fill out and blossom, the garden will be very beautiful. We peeked inside the open garage door to see who was performing this botanical miracle and saw a man talking on his cell. I recognized him immediately as a well-known Vancouver artist. Inside the shop were canvases pinned to wall and a variety of intriguing paintings in various stages of completion. Obviously the garden reno required a lot of hard physical labour, and I wondered what was motivating the artist. A desire to create a tropical paradise to transport him or inspire his art? A hope to make the neighbourhood more beautiful?


One of the plants in the new garden is appropriately called  Black Magic

Although I am notorious for envisioning artist studios in every empty building I see (Old schools! Deserted warehouses! Garden sheds!) I was especially happy to see this conversion of garage to studio. This plain brick building, transformed into a place of creativity and energy was inspiring. Like the budding garden outside, an artist plants the seeds of his imagination and they can transform the neighbourhood.

Obviously you don’t have to be an artist to plant a lovely garden, repaint a front door or just pick up some garbage off the street. Everything we do to make public spaces more beautiful and  interesting can be appreciated by all.