Last night I was coming home from dinner through the ornate, lo-fi, rain slick streets of my neighborhood in Montreal. It was about 10:00. And there, in the rain and the dark and October, was my neighbor…gardening…with a pick ax.
She was struggling to remove the ashphalt between her building and her sidewalk. The idea was to plant vines that would take root in the earth and cover the 3 stories expanse of the wall above her. This summer she put down planter boxes and grew climbers. But what she wants is one of those high, deep vineries. We have one down the street, it covers the entire wall, standing, in full leaf, about 4 inches deep, and serves as a kind of bird condo, with hundreds of sparrows, mostly, coming and going, and carrying on. and holding forth. For this she needs plants that can take deep root.
Montreal, and especially the plateau, is filled with acts of reclamation/reforestation. My own contribution, planters on my 3rd story balcony, with sun flowers, morning glories, “meadow” flowers, and a little tree that is quickly out growing its box and will shortly have to be transplanted to the mountain. Everywhere you look people are planting as opportunistically as nature herself. Give us a horizontal surface, we give you a garden.
Victorians would have got this, I think. They were digging out from the predations of the industrial revolution. But not the 1950s, a decade quite in love with asphalt. I used to keep an eye out for those period post cards that put the motel, the shopping centre, the factory, high and way back in the image, the better to show off the expanse of asphault that was their pride and joy.
We dug for some time, and eventually a great chuck of ashpalt sprang from the earth. Eight inches deep. Why did they pour so much of it? And one little vine took root.