In a low-income residential pocket of Montreal, an owner of low rent housing is making life slightly more bearable for his tenants and their neighbors. The property owner loves gardens and has found a way to share that passion with those less fortunate.
The landlords of most residential buildings located in working class neighborhoods have no interest in lawns or their beautification. The business model used by these entrepreneurs demands that they keep operating expenses low, because rent revenue for each apartment is modest. Therefore, it is normal to see their front lawns neglected or cared for with a minimum of effort. However, the situation changes when superintendents of these apartments take pride in the appearance of the buildings or when property owners themselves have a love for nature.
In the case of this landlord, not only does he appreciate beautiful flowers and plants but the superintendant of the building loves to garden. Consequently, I have a standing order that whenever, I find myself with a surplus of easy-care plants, i.e. when I propagate, or when I dig up plants that my clients do not need or want, I am to deliver them to the businessman's home, a convenient arrangement because he's my neighbor.
The benefits of plants growing in a low-income neighborhood cannot be overstated. It makes the tenants feel good when they step outdoors. Even neighbors, who walk by the front lawn of the building featured in the above photo, slow down to admire the garden. At first, they are unaware the fountain exists because it blends in with the building's brickwork. Then, as they continue walking, they hear the sound of gurgling water - not something they expect to hear in their neighborhood. Their eyes follow their ears to locate the sound, and when they see the fountain, it makes them smile.
The boxwood shrubs in the foreground and privet hedge in the upper left come from a client's garden; hemerocallis around the fountain grew in mine, while the Hostas were propagated from the proprietor’s private collection. The superintendent constructed the formation in his spare time, with scattered rocks that he found in empty fields and with large stones that I sent him, found in the flower beds I refreshed this season. He also installed the fountain component which the landlord purchased at a big box store.
I asked the property owner if there were any human-interest anecdotes inspired by the gardens on the front lawns of his properties. He replied that the sight of blooming flowers is always a traffic stopper in a part of town where few people grow plants and even less have the disposable income to buy cut flowers.
Furthermore, he reported that during the recent very hot summer, tenants and passersby, most of whom live without air conditioning, removed their shoes and dipped their feet into the fountain to cool off. That wasn’t the intended function for this water feature and the proprietor considers it to be an unsanitary activity. Nevertheless, he understands that no matter how it is used, the fountain is fulfilling an important need for the residents of the neighborhood.