Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wildflower Lane: Inspiration or Lunacy?

The crocus continue to put on their show in the garden. So pretty, don't you think? Unfortunately, there's a whole lot of ugly to go around too. That's where I turned my attention today.

This is the horror that lies beyond the garden gate: a patch of hostile laneway terrain.

This space serves no purpose except as a spot for garbage to collect. Dog owners for some reason are rather attracted to it and often leave a calling card (or at least their pets do.) There is no real soil to speak of and in the heat of the summer, the sun is merciless. Neverthless, there's always something or other growing through the gravel and trash.

For example, a bittersweet nightshade vine popped up quite spontaneously a few years ago. It has since climbed right to the very top of one of the gate posts.

The berries last all winter and look great (don't eat them though). When the leaves reappear the vine adds a nice vertical garden element where I least expected one. At the base of the vine there is a huge stand of goldenrod which also appeared spontaneously (I failed to take a picture last fall even though I was thoroughly impressed by the golden blooms.) I quickly realized that life could indeed exist back here and began playing with the idea of expanding the garden to the lane (after all, any garden expansion is a good garden expansion).

I didn't intend to expand the garden today but you know how it goes. I was almost finished cleaning up the lane when my thoughts turned to all the wildflower seeds I had sitting in the kitchen. Don't wildflowers enjoy a little cold-moist stratification before sprouting? Yes, yes, I believe they do. And aren't my particular wildflower seeds of the tough-as-nails variety? Yes, yes, I believe they are. Suddenly, a clean-up job turned into this... outline for "Wildflower Lane", Toronto's first (?) laneway wildflower garden.

With the project foreman looking on, I scattered the seeds of Tall Ironweed, Sweet Joy Pye Weed, White Snakeroot, Golden Alexanders, and Sneezeweed. These native plants will all be surrounded by a hedge of California poppies. It remains to be seen if my efforts will be viewed as inspired or a result of lunacy (or even if they will work at all). But I'm hoping "Wildflower Lane" becomes a butterfly magnet and maybe even inspires a neighbour or two to take another look at wasted laneway space.

P.S. There's more than enough room left over for the car to get through. I wonder how long before the car gets the boot for yet another garden expansion?

P.P.S. It's cold today and it has just started to rain. "Wildflower Lane" is off to a great start.


Gail said...

I love Wildflower Lane! It's like the street plantings that several folks a blog about!

I will eagerly watch what happens! It will be lovely if only a few germinate! Maybe a Morning Glory Vine would work out there!

Ottawa Gardener said...

Sounds like a great idea and may I add that I am fighting off the temptation right now to plant iron weed. I have ENOUGH plants but it is so fantastically beautiful...

Nutty Gnome said...

What a great idea - even though I don't know a single one of the wild flowers you named!

I've been reading about street planting quite a bit recently because here in the UK people have started planting 'wild' vegetables on verges, traffic islands and bits of spare land for people to use!

I hope your flowers grow well and brighten up an otherwise bland area!

Connie said...

Definitely inspiration! Bringing beauty to a unattractive spot is a worthwhile cause. You might also consider some self-sowing annuals...Shirley poppies, Larkspur, Bachelor buttons, Nigella. And maybe some purple coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans?

Northern Shade said...

This sounds like a good trend to set, and a great way to beautify the back alley. Neighbours walking by can enjoy them, and you can have the fun of seeing how your plan develops.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

It sounds like you have the perfect mix for this area. Good luck.