By Kathryn Pankowski

Boxing Day is in December, which seems like a good enough reason (any feeble excuse will do) to tell you about a new gardening project in the neighbourhood. One that’s in a box.

In your ramblings about James Bay, you may have noticed that at the corner of Michigan and Menzies there is a largish planter box (right by Discovery Coffee) that has been looking (how do I put this delicately?) somewhat disheveled of late.

This fall, the JBNA and Discovery Coffee signed an agreement to revive the former herb garden in the box, with some additional flowering plants to help support pollinators and to provide year-round interest and attractiveness for passers-by.

The idea is that the neighbourhood (and Discovery Coffee patrons) will get something more delightful to look at, that a few nearby residents who don’t have gardens will get a place to do a little gardening, that Discovery Coffee and the gardeners will get a supply of fresh herbs, that any excess herbs will be harvested and given away to James Bay organizations, and that we’ll be helping to support local pollinators, including the bees across the street at New Horizons. The box will be gardened according to organic principles, and we will try to make sure that plants are neonicotinoid-free.

So far, things have been going swimmingly. The great folks at Discovery Coffee have cut back the overgrowth and removed the evergreens that had outgrown their original space at the back of the box. Some wonderful – and extremely knowledgeable – volunteers have come forward, and we’ve had a couple of work and planning parties. We’ve found some useful herbs already in the box as well as a great many cigarette butts, a half-full beer can, and a large patch of goutweed. (Life is seldom all roses and thymes.) Best of all, it’s been fun.

Right now we’re in the ‘creative destruction’ phase, so the box looks rather like the aftermath of one of the messier battles of World War I, but we’ll start putting in new plants soon, and (we hope) by next spring it will begin to look like a real garden.

Ronnie Boothe, one of the intrepid volunteers, inside the box. Thinking...

photo by Kathyrn Pankowski


What really excites me about this project, though, is the potential. This one box is not that large, doesn’t grow that much food, and doesn’t involve that many volunteers. But we’re treating it as a pilot project. If all goes well, it may be just a beginning.

So if you run a business that has an ‘undergardened’ planting area nearby and are interested in a community partnership, drop me a line. And if you are interested in being a volunteer for this kind of project, let me know that too. A shared project such as this is perfect for those who like to garden but don’t have time, place, or energy for a garden of their own.

We’ll see how this particular project unfolds and what other sorts of projects sprout in the new year.

Neighbourhood Gardening News

Keep your eyes open when you’re out walking, because there are all sorts of other new developments in James Bay gardens. New Horizons’ volunteers are busy as bees expanding the pollinator garden. All that industrious mulching you see going on in South Park is a first step towards the Garry Oak meadow restoration launched by South Park School. Museum volunteers are working away at weeding and restoring the native plant garden at the RBCM. The Montreal Street allotment members are hard at work on plans to collectively garden one of the adjoining boulevards. And South Park School is working on plans to enlarge its permaculture garden. You should see much of this hard work come to flower and fruition next summer.

When it comes to holiday cooking and gift-making, don’t forget about the herb garden in Fisherman’s Wharf Park. It’s open-pick, so anyone can go harvest some herbs. Last time I was by, the rosemary was looking particularly lush and in need of some cutting back. Rosemary-lemon shortbread anyone? Or perhaps some rosemary jelly? And did you know that rosemary flowers are not only edible but absolutely delicious?

I wish you all a most happily herbaceous holiday season.

Kathryn Pankowski is the James Bay Neighbourhood Association Gardening Advocate: she can be reached at The JBNA would like to acknowledge the financial support of the City of Victoria for this initiative.