During the past year spent in lockdown, Vancouverites have looked for all sorts of creative ways to fill their free time. Trying one’s hand at breadmaking, brushing up on your dance skills over TikTok, and taking up cycling were among the trendiest. Another activity has had a boost in popularity as well: gardening.
While Vancouverites have always had a green thumb, it seems the pandemic has inspired the finest in what we do with our yards.
Here’s what we found to be the neighbourhoods with the best gardens in the city.
Walking through the Arbutus Ridge neighbourhood feels a little like stepping into a fairy tale, which during COVID times, is a very welcome escape. Lined with enormous, leafy trees which create a canopy of shade and silence from busy surrounding streets, residents here take gardening to another level.
This neighbourhood is defined by its larger than average lot sizes, which residents in this area choose to fill with an abundance of natural wildflowers like foxglove, wild roundleaf orchids, lupins, as well as planted flowers like forget-me-nots, Nootka rose, and Kaufmanniana tulips. Thanks to large property sizes, it’s common for those in the Arbutus Ridge area to grow vegetable and fruit gardens in their backyards as well.
It’s rare to see a house which doesn’t have a garden filling their yard. The volume of plant life, plus the area’s fondness of incorporating old bikes into garden displays and setting up ‘fairy doors’ along tree trunks, makes this neighbourhood feel nothing short of magical.
Mount Pleasant is home to a variety of characters including young families, church-going seniors, artistic bohemians splitting rent, and first-time homeowners - all of which has cumulated in a variety of gardening styles.
There are those who maintain perfectly kept gardens, with clean lines of where grass ends and the flower beds begin; and those who, in contrast, let their yards take on a personality of their own. There are perfectly weeded, trimmed, and tidy gardens; yards overflowing with thick bunches of dandelions and daisies, salmonberry plants, Old man’s beard vines, and heady, sweet-smelling honeysuckle; and every other garden in between.
In walking past each different type of garden, you have a better understanding of who your neighbours are.
As a community which holds most of Vancouver’s heritage homes, it’s not surprising Shaughnessy practices perfect maintenance of their yards and gardens.
Expertly manicured yards are a necessity in this area, as it’s nearly impossible to find a property with an uncut lawn or without a skillfully trimmed bush. This is a neighbourhood which takes presentation seriously: clean rows of mowed grass, pearly white tulips lining a stonewall, and big, bright bushes of roses and red Azalea. Absolutely no dandelion in sight.
While Shaughnessy doesn’t have a wild or unruly excitement to it, the allure of the area is the confidence it has in its tidy, respectable reputation; you can feel the pride in which each resident takes in their property. The old-money community’s immaculately kept yards make it a perfect getaway for a walk or bike ride when craving a taste of sophistication.
Though, a word to the wise before your trip: beware of automatic sprinklers.
While you won’t find a big, impressive garden on every property (some opting for a couple simple pots on either side of their steps), this community makes the list for the wow-factor of the gardens it does have.
Residents that keep gardens in this neighbourhood pack them full of flowering bushes of Wisteria, a mix of wild and planted flowers such as sweet alyssum, lupins and lilies, and shapely green shrubbery. These gardens have a communal feel to them, as they tend to be large and overflow onto the sidewalks and into neighbours’ yards.
In it’s 401 acres, the Oakridge area (which encompasses traffic heavy Cambie and Oak Street, both among Vancouver's busiest roads) includes a mall and a college. With this in mind, one might think the neighbourhood would be quite metropolitan -and it is- but it would be a shame to disregard its picturesque residential gardens.
Hastings-Sunrise, a community just off the highway and surrounded by busy main roads, is surprisingly quiet and oddly charming.
Similar to Arbutus Ridge, this neighbourhood’s streets are lined with large, shady trees which provide a retreat from the arterial streets surrounding it.
Hastings-Sunrise clearly has a real love for everything botanical, with a wide assortment of flowers like blue violets, bright orange California poppies, climbing hydrangea vines, sword ferns, and small trees lining fences and sidewalks.
Despite its proximity to the main bus routes and high-traffic areas of Vancouver, Hastings-Sunrise is filled with stately homes and gorgeous gardens. If you happen to miss your bus one of these days, it would be worth it to take a peaceful walk through this sunny, garden-filled neighbourhood.