The first annual Hills to Valley Garden & Art Tour took place between Rossland and Fruitvale on Saturday.
Twelve homeowners opened their gardens to the public and to local artists for the afternoon, with gardeners from Rossland, Warfield, Rivervale, Sunningdale, Trail, Beaver Falls and Fruitvale participating. Those who took the tour not only discovered the variety of plants that can be grown in the area, but were also treated to music from local musicians and saw local artists at work in the gardens. There was also the option to have lunch at the Columbia Gardens Winery.
The event was put on by the Hills to Valley Garden & Art Tour committee, which is a sub-committee of the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society’s (LCCDTS) Sustainable Local Agriculture Committee (SLAC).
“We looked at it from the perspective of our seven communities being so close together and with such a varied landscape that it provides an opportunity of creativity due to that landscape,” said Gina Ironmonger, chair of SLAC. “Like for instance, we’ve got alpine, we’ve got riverfront, we’ve got creeks, we’ve got valleys, we’ve got urban, we’ve got rural, we have homesteaders, we have farms.… And then besides that we’ve also got this unbelievable creative asset of talent, of artists and musicians, etc. So we thought that combining all of them — food, music and art — that we would invite people to visit between the communities, appreciate what we have in each community and also encourage people to visit our communities.”
The two Rossland stops on the tour were at the homes of Libby and Iain Martin, and Miche and Dan Hayden.
The Martins’ garden has been a 45-year work in progress. Libby said that when they first moved in, the garden needed shape, which she created by moving the vegetable garden — where the Martins grow not only veggies like peas and beets, but also a variety of fruit like raspberries and currants — and adding more flower beds. Since their children left home, they have added even more flower beds, as they don’t need as much open space. The Martins’ garden also has a distinctly Rossland flavour, with a seat from the old Granite chair serving as a bench and ski polls serving as stakes. Visitors to the Martins’s garden heard beautiful flute music played by Lois Allen and got a chance to see the baby swallows currently calling one of the Martins’s bird houses home.
The Haydens keep a different kind of garden all together. They estimate that they have at least 1000 sq. ft. of growing space in their yard, where they grow approximately 35 different edible crops with the goal of feeding themselves for the year. That space includes a green house that allows them to extend their growing season as late as November. In addition to growing tomatoes, eggplants, garlic, squash, herbs, fruits and a whole lot of other edibles, the Haydens also have nine chickens in their backyard. The chicken coop is made from recycled materials, as are most of the structures in their yard, including the kids’ playhouse. The two older children help out their parents in the garden, and like planting and harvesting, though they aren’t as enthusiastic about weeding. “That’s an important part of this for us,” said Miche. “We want our kids to know where their food comes from.”
The Haydens have also started Rossland’s first Food is Free Project. The Food is Free Project is an international initiative to create community gardens in front yards that both provide fresh produce and bring communities together. Outside the Haydens’ home, lining the street, are garden boxes made from reclaimed materials that they are using to grow extra food for the community. There’s a sign that says “Food is free” and anyone can help themselves. Or at least they can as soon as the crops come in.
Visitors to the Haydens’s garden on Saturday heard music from guitarist and vocalist Lise Levesque, and may have spotted one of the snakes seeking shade in the garden.
Overall the event was a success, attracting visitors from all over the region and beyond.
“We had people from the United States, from South Africa, lots of people from the West Kootenays and Okanagan, etc.,” said Ironmonger. “So I think that for our first annual one we’re really, really pleased with the outcome.”