|My neighbour Audrey's garden -- and the surprises she nestles throughout her plantings -- draw visitors from near and far.|
|Elegant rose-painted teapots mingle under the hydrangeas with a teddy bear and a thatched cottage showing bunnies at home. Children love Audrey's pots.|
|This teapot's top is a nest with two baby birds in it.|
|A duck teapot and one with blue polka dots.|
|A chicken teapot is hidden in the plantings below, while a cat teapot hovers above.|
|For the second year, Audrey has received a letter from the city ordering her to cut back the plants encroaching on the sidewalk.|
|Audrey's front door is as welcoming and original as the rest of her garden.|
Every spring, when blossoms begin to brighten the length of my neighbour Audrey's lush corner lot, she brings out the teapots. All along the white picket fence she plants them, teapots of every colour and description -- teapots shaped like cats, like chickens, like teddy bears, like ducks. There are polka-dotted teapots, ones with roses, one with Oriental designs, red, orange and green teapots. One is shaped like a circle, one like a cottage, one shows a bunny family at home, straight out of a Beatrix Potter story.
Nobody steals the teapots, which nestle high and low among the shrubs and flowers along the fence, and people come from near and far to see them. Small children adore them; one day Audrey received a tiny hand-made tea set from some children, along with a hand-printed letter saying how much they like her pots. Adults like them too. Audrey says that one day, a woman drove slowly past, rolled down her window, and thanked her for her garden. On Tuesday when I was photographing her flowers, two women from a few blocks away arrived just to see the teapots.
"Why do you do it, all these teapots," they asked when Audrey came out of the house, seeing the three of us congregating.
"Why? Because it's fun," was the no-nonsense reply.
But I suspect there is more to it than that. Beyond the fact that Audrey is a Brit who survived the London blitz as a small child, so of course has tea in her veins, the teapots are good conversation-starters. And Audrey, whose middle name should be Extrovert, loves to talk with passersby as she works in her garden. She knows everyone in the neighbourhood -- all the kids, the renters, the newcomers, the old-timers, the dogs and cats, and everything going on in the area. When I stop to chat with her over the picket fence, she often ends up introducing me to neighbours I didn't know existed.
But recently, a little poison has entered the scene. For the second year in a row, she has received a letter from the city ordering her to cut back her plants because they encroach on the sidewalk. She pruned ruthlessly last year, but once again the plants are overstepping their boundary. Audrey, understandably miffed, says she's learned that somebody in the neighbourhood goes around looking for such violations and has made many similar complaints to the city. The bylaw officer who gave her the letter was apologetic, she said, but told her he had no choice but to enforce the law. He had many other letters to deliver that day.
The city's rules are rules, it seems, and there is no leeway for neighbourliness -- or fun.