My mother always had a garden when earth was available to her. In North Kildonan, on the edge of Winnipeg, we had a lot of earth. There was dirt from the back lane to the road in front and from the neighbour’s fence to the house. The garden was mostly vegetables, with cucumbers near the back door and potatoes in half of the front yard.
The left side of the front yard was square. There was a circle in the middle and triangles in the corners. Here my mother planted her annual flowers: snap-dragons, zinnias, California poppies, and petunias. The path from the left side of the house to the front door was usually lined with pink mallows and rocks painted white. That was my mother’s very best garden.
My old Eden was in Kitsilano on Third Avenue in Vancouver. There was grass in front of the house. I hated cutting grass, so I dug up half the lawn and planted peas nearest to the house. I enticed them upward with string. The rest of the garden became flowers. There was no specific pattern, just roses, lilies, purple pansies, and single-petalled poppies. They spread out and, after a few years, self-absorbedly crowded the whole space, turning it into an Eden.
When I left the house in 1987, I needed to take a bit of the garden with me. I took photos of the camellia bush, a row of potted hedging, a rosebush.
Where I currently live, there is a wonderfully shaded garden between the house and the studio. There are tomatoes and blueberries behind the studio. But the boulevard is the new Eden. Its changing glories are admired by all that pass by.
In 2011, I came across two identical photos from the old garden. I held them in my hand with one slightly covering the other. I thought to myself, “That is a painting.” I painted in oil and, later, focussed on a very small part of the boulevard, photographed it, and painted the new Eden. —Gathie Falk