Secret Gardens

I’ll be traveling to Hamilton, Ontario this Sunday to do a book signing and give two presentations at the Royal Botanical Gardens. Giving gardening presentations and workshops has become a regular part of my spring schedule yet it is something I rarely seem to talk about here. What’s worse is that I have been noticing a growing disconnect between the things I add to the site and the things I talk about at these events. Looking back I think it’s got to be the fact that I am so exhausted by the end of spring that I just kind of move on and lose the excitment to share. Last spring I wrote, designed (with photos) and gave eight completely lectures within a months time! My New Year’s resolution is to start integrating all of these different aspects into this site.

One of my favourite things about speaking to groups is showing photos of the gardens I find in the craziest places. My attitude is that if these people can pull it off, anyone can! I have taken to starting off many presentations with the following photo since I think it’s about the most successful worst garden I have ever encountered.


I first found this little tomato patch a few summers back while wandering through the alleys of Toronto. Toronto has an exceptionally great alley system that is an interesting (but sometimes indirect) system for walking or biking from point A to B if you’d rather stay off the beaten path. People are less concerned about the back of their house so there is a lot of hidden gems and bits of history that has been left in place.

But I digress. Every summer a group of artists borrow the garages of a local system of alleys to put on an art show called “Alley Jaunt.” I found this little cobbled-together raised bed sitting behind a garage while out exploring these temporary garage galleries. A year later I came across the same garden while on another Alley Jaunt. This time the gardener responsible was there tending to and harvesting an impressive patch of pole beans — his own version of crop rotation! Unfortunately the elderly gent spoke Portueguese and I do not so communication was impossible. I tried to let him know how impressed and inspired I was by his garden as best I could and then went on my way.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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2 thoughts on “Secret Gardens

  1. It just goes to show that when you have an itchy green thumb, you’ll go to any length to plant a garden. I think it’s wonderful that somewhere in that vast city, there’s an elderly man who has managed to grow tomatoes that big…I have much more space to work with, but the deer chomp mine to bits!

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