Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Groups Trying to Save the Hydro Fields

The "hawk feather tree" at the Hydro Fields

The Hydro Field is a tree-filled natural grass-way with paths following Bowker Creek, lined by columns of trees planted perhaps a century ago and stretching between Haultain and Kings Road in South Saanich (the "Saanich panhandle").
The area, before BC Hydro bought it, was part of the Dean family farm (Dean Street runs along its east side) and still includes a remnant orchard. It harbours owls, hawks, songbirds, deer, raccoons, mink and whatever else lives in the creek. People use it as picnic space, walking and biking paths from Victoria to Oak Bay, and an off-leash dog playground. Cedars, pines, willows, arbutus, fir and other species adorn the area.
Neighbours and users fear that Hydro will sell it to developers, and are asking Saanich Council to purchase it as a park. The more the municipality is developed and densified and private gardens are subdivided, the more valuable park space becomes for a community.
Seniors remember when they as children played in the Hydro fields when hay was still being cut there, and farmers took the kids on hay rides. They used to play in the creek, and a swing hung by rope from a branch over the water still sways there for kids today.
It's a unique area, heritage filled as well as green. To join the call for its preservation (there's a petition going around) check the Responsible Kings Development Facebook page, or contact overleaf2011@hotmail.com.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Not stumped yet!


A stump left after brutal tree-cutting, behind Esquimalt Municipal Hall: first photo in April, second June 30th. Amazing how trees want to keep living against all odds. The power in nature -- putting out new growth, hope never dying!


Friday, June 15, 2018

The Uses of Landscape - poultry

The owner of the largest lot in Victoria -- the historic Macklin House property on Rockland Avenue -- has decided to house about 100 hens on her property, and a couple of neighbours are making a fuss. Apparently the hen-houser has more birds than the bylaw allows, although how the approved total was arrived it is a mystery. Even after Treewatch asked Council it remains a mystery, for there was no reply to the suggestion that the number of birds allowed should surely be related to the size of a lot, and the amount of space available for each bird. Certainly the cramped subdivided lots the city promotes would not be appropriate for chickens, which need to move about, scratching and pecking and flapping their wings.

The whole point of getting eggs from backyard chickens is that it's not cruel like battery farms are -- as long as the backyard chickens do have sufficient space, sheltered and outdoors both. Judging from the television footage, Rockland's Wu Tei's hens, following her about the lot in hope of treats and fun, do have space. Some people say she's only keeping them to annoy neighbours and force them to let her subdivide the property (that worked for cattle-keepers in Saanich who wished to subdivide), but if so, we can only hope the City will continue to protect this heritage property, once the setting of a beautiful Edwardian garden.

There's a tussle going on between those who give carriage rides to tourists using draft horses and those who don't think Victoria should allow horses to work on the streets, but no one seems to care what happens to a bunch of chickens. If Wu Tei is forced to give them up, will these healthy happy birds be slaughtered? Who's going to feel like a winner if they succeed in causing that?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Victoria's "ASH" campaign -- Against Surburban Horticulture

In an op-ed piece in Victoria News, Mayor Lisa Helps advocates (largely unwanted) densification for the Gonzales neighbourhood:

In "Neighbourhoods are for everyone" she argues that even with an increase in dense housing a neighbourhood can somehow still retain its traditional "look and feel". That can't happen if you want to retain the look of trees, however. Not with 40% building-coverage of each lot, and little space between houses.

Mayor Helps promotes something called "ASH" housing. This stands for Affordable Sustainable Housing, but to many it means AGAINST SUBURBAN HORTICULTURE -- gardens not wanted. The mayor denies that she is developer-friendly, because 49% of donors to her mayoralty campaign were non-developers -- in which case half of her base must be feeling pretty betrayed.

Of course, many politicians and social planners are against suburbia itself, believing humanity is best confined to deep dark dense urbanism.
The outlook looks bad for anyone who values privacy, green space, shady groves and the sound of birdsong.



Saturday, May 5, 2018

Sad Day For Trees in Victoria

On May 3, 2018, Victoria City Council hit a new low in tree destruction. The decision to develop the green space around the Truth Centre at Fort and Pentrelew, the sacrificing of the Garry oak setting there, marks a significant advance in landscape degradation.
The winners are the developers. Although actual neighbours of the approved development are in mourning, some members of the public talked at the Council meetings about "the need for housing". This however won't provide the affordable housing that Victoria lacks. Developers don't invest so as to NOT get top dollar for the housing they produce.
Apparently Council decided that this was an area, being near the downtown core, where more people should be living, but they overlook the fact that it is exactly where more people live that the preservation of green space becomes most important. Residents need relief from pavement, traffic, block-y high-rise buildings and general noisy urban starkness.
It's all pretty contrary to the City's stated wish to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Trees produce oxygen, bike lanes make no difference at all. More concrete equals more climate change.
Victoria lost a significant oasis of urban tree canopy at this moment in its history, and this Council should be ashamed.

What's "Trophy" Gardening?

April 29th was Camas Day at Uplands Park, an event offering a splendid day of music, food, bird walks and information. The carpets of blue camas were stunning under the oaks and spreading among the rocks. Afterwards, traveling up into the stylish curving streets of residential Uplands we enjoyed the striking colour of non-native garden plantings -- lilacs, rhododendrons and azalias, mounds of heather, flowering fruit trees, Japanese shrubbery ... over bright vibrant lawns.
Recently a gardening columnist in the Washington Post criticized "trophy gardens". It's an odd choice of adjective, since a trophy is a prize gained in a contest, especially prey that you can eat. That's not what a garden is, neither a prize nor a contest. A garden exists to give pleasure,is  a living art form designed to create beauty.
The Washington Post writer recommended "natural" gardening rather than the formal type (using exotics) which he associates with Gertrude Jekyll, although Jekyll in her own time represented the informal -- the colourful, boisterous and painterly cottage garden style contrasting with the formality of geometric beds and gravel walkways.
The Uplands neighbourhood gardens are a stunning blend of the native and exotic, the controlled and vigorous. The camas fields preserved in Uplands Park are beautiful at this time of year (before everything there turns brown), but the moral of the story is that we need both - the natural landscape and aesthetic artistry with imports alike. We can enjoy the unpaved landscape most by not being critical toward those who don't choose the "right" (i.e. our own) style of gardening.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Tree Eats Fence

Isn't the power of growing trees amazing? This tree at High Park in Esquimalt, growing beside a chain link fence along a path, has over the years enveloped the metal inside its own expanding substance.