Gardening Divas (from left) Eve Wemer. Carol Knott and Rosalind Hewson transformed a strip of dead and dying rhododendrons into garden plots bearing kale

Gardening Divas (from left) Eve Wemer. Carol Knott and Rosalind Hewson transformed a strip of dead and dying rhododendrons into garden plots bearing kale

Green thumbs inspiring others to grow on the Semiahmoo Peninsula

White Rock condo gardeners replace moribund landscaping with vital vegetable, herb and floral plots

Their green thumbs are getting a big thumbs-up from their neighbours.

Residents at a Marine Drive development on White Rock’s East Beach have enriched the local scene for themselves and others by turning a moribund strip of typical condo landscaping into a community garden mixing floral plants, herbs and vegetables.

And it’s an approach that could easily be imitated by other similar developments, said condo owner Rosalind Hewson, a  Washington State University-certified master-gardener who initiated the project with fellow retirees Carol Knott and Eve Weimer and another resident, Lindley Lieuw.

Together, they’ve turned the concrete-enclosed elevated strip, along a walkway at the back of their  Pacific Pointe Condos units bordering Maple Street, into a community-building statement of resourcefulness and pride.

In its second year at Pacific Pointe, the garden is an unqualified success with both residents and pedestrians in the neighborhood, Hewson said.

“Everybody in the condos are for it – there’s a long waiting list to be part of the garden,” she added.

“And people, as they come along, stop and chat and pick the peas and the sweet peas.”

But it was an uphill battle to get the garden established at first, the trio – proudly sporting ‘Gardening Diva’ aprons – said.

“Our first summer we had to struggle to get it approved by the strata board,” said Hewson, who added that the strip was previously occupied by “dead and dying rhododendrons.”

“There was some opposition – people had some concerns that we’d be planting fields of potatoes and corn and people did not want to look out on that.”

But a plan to combine ornamentals and edibles soon put fears to rest, and Hewson’s credentials lent credibility – as well as the fact that, as she said, the gardening partners are “all responsible people.”

“We polled all the people in the building,” Weimer noted, adding that while she was a neophyte at gardening her plot did okay – although she’ll rethink the placement of pumpkins for next year.

“We bribed (the other residents) that they could come and pick the tomatoes and strawberries and peas,” Hewson said, pointing out that Knott’s end plot has produced great crops of peas as well as kale and other edibles.

“What’s nice is to be able to run out and pull herbs and have them fresh,” Knott said.

And while residents have had the immediate benefit of the herbs and vegetables to use in their own salads and cooking recipes (“it’s all organic,” Knott said), there have been other spinoffs in terms of the environment and a general sense of well-being that contact with nature provides.

“We’ve noted that butterflies and bees have been coming around to the sweet peas, especially,” said Hewson.  “I’d think about keeping bees next year, although I don’t know anything about raising them.”

“There is a neighbour nearby who is raising bees,” Knott pointed out.

“We learn from each other and passersby,” Hewson said. “Everyone gets involved.”

The garden has also been a source of fascination – and participation – for children and grandchildren of some residents, who have an opportunity to learn first hand about gardening, they pointed out.

“It brings people together,” Weimer said. “It’s also very therapeutic. If I’m stressed I come out here and start gardening and the healing is immediate.”

In the final analysis, it was easy for the Pacific Pointe’s strata board to make the changes to rules and bylaws to enable a community garden to happen, and Hewson would encourage others to learn by their example – and from their experience in choosing and cultivating plants and crops for such limited spaces.

Hewson said she would welcome inquiries from others who would like to take this approach at their own condo developments.

She can be contacted for advice at 604-560-3501.