By Kim Charles

Caroline Dickson and her husband Matt create an unexpected "back alley" garden in Vancouver, Canada


"As I wander into my back alley in boots and a raincoat, I am reminded of the gift of rain.
The flowers are fading away and the plants retreat into their dormancy. I walk into our
back lane several times a week, as many of us do, to take the garbage out. Raincoat on,
a random pair of shoes found by the back door, bag in hand. The alley is a forgotten
place, a world where cars quickly dive into garages, neighbours take out the trash and
cats wander. Unintentionally, the ground becomes neglected and we forget this
untapped extension of our homes. Stark and untended, this rugged road is a world of
garden opportunity. It is a place of community, a shared experience for our neighbours,
where colour and plant life can add so much character.
I tried my hand at adding some life to our alley this year. The back lane as we also call it,
is where the trash cans live, home to gravel, ditches and rogue weeds. Adding soil and
a trim of stray rocks, I created a small bed, nestled beside our city garbage cans and
cracked blue recycling boxes. What arrived after tilling the soil and hopeful planting was
a glorious surprise of colour and vivacious life.
In a space we often neglect, the colours tempted cheer and pleasure on that dreaded
garbage walk. It sparked conversations with neighbours I hadn’t talked with in ages. It
brightened up our once plain fence and suddenly the kids were willing to take out the 
trash. The back alley is a place of low expectations, a blank canvas ready for creativity.
For those willing to take a few steps behind the fence, a world of garden joy awaits you".


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