|At a new park in Gore, Quebec, my sister Betty looked up to see this man looking down at her.|
|Across the country, another face looked up at me during a walk in Point Grey.|
Sunday was a day of odd discoveries for my sister Betty and me. During a walk in a new park area in Gore, Quebec, where she and her husband have moved for their retirement, she looked up to see the carved face of a mustachioed man looking down on her from halfway up a tree.
Meanwhile, as I was reacquainting myself with the lushness of Vancouver after three weeks in drought-stricken Saltspring Island, I also encountered a face worthy of Halloween. During a walk in the Point Grey area, the white mask of a man's face -- surrounded by thick plantings of succulents -- popped out at me from a sidewalk arrangement.
The topiary gods also seem to have been at work in my absence, carving shapes out of trees that I have never noticed before. One was a gigantic star, the exact shape of the decorations we children used to cut out of cardboard and cover with tinfoil to put on top of our Christmas trees.
Farther along, someone had created a tableau that from a distance looked like a giant green mushroom growing by the sidewalk. In fact, it was two separate, carefully shaped trees. One was a laurel carved into a ball, that could serve as the mushroom stem. Spread over it like a huge umbrella, or mushroom cap, was what appeared to be a topped weeping birch. its underside pruned completely flat.
On another property, the gardeners had eschewed flowers and chose instead to put together masses of greenery, some so oddly shaped and shaded that the foliage was every bit as interesting as the roses, sunflowers and coneflowers that brighten many other city gardens at this time of year.
Not a plant but equally head-turning because of its location was a child's plastic playhouse. Situated on a front lawn and surrounded by hedging, it looked like a regular house shrunk to a tiny scale.
Coming from Saltspring, with its level 4 water restrictions that make it just barely possible to keep outdoor plants alive, my Sunday walk made me more aware than ever of the luxury of being able to play with plants like this. Vancouverites can choose the beauty and colour of traditional gardens, but we also have room to explore the many weird and wonderful other things we can do with our abundant greenery.
|The mushroom. A laurel ball below could be a stem; a clipped weeping birch forms the cap on top.|
|The giant cedar star. I wonder what they do with it at Christmas?|
|Greyish-green euphorbia bursts out of its boxwood-hedge container, while giant grasses behind the upper hedge create an interesting display of foliage colours and shapes.|
|More euphorbia and grasses along the sidewalk.|
|A child's playhouse on a front lawn, surrounded by hedging.|
|Sunflowers and roses fill the front of this more traditional garden.|