South Granville Flora

Words & Photography by Helena McMurdo

Map & Illustration by Ženija Esmits

Although it seems that lately, our neighbourhood is just one big brown lawn, there was a time when the flowers were just starting to pop. One of the things that has attracted the contributors of South Granville Inhabiter to this neighbourhood, and indeed other inhabiters as well, is that we seem to have the right mixture of urban concrete and lush gardens to keep us happy. Our love of all things flora is not unknown. Followers of our instagram feed will have picked up on our penchant for posies to perennials.

So imagine our delight when we met a new friend through instagram - after all isn't that how you meet people these days?

Laura Macdonald, works as in the field of landscape architecture as a Landscape Designer, BCSLA Intern and she is indeed a modern day goddess of plants and flowers and also the brains behind @vancouverflora, an instagram account dedicated to the recording of plant life in Vancouver. For those of us who love the beauty of flowers but can never remember a name, Laura's account is a fountain of information impressing us with rare specimens and increasing our knowledge of Latin. (I say we bring it back).

Laura Macdonald aka @vancouverflora

Laura Macdonald aka @vancouverflora

A few weeks ago, in the simpler times before drought conditions and Stage 3 water restrictions took hold, we decided to enjoy an evening walk through our abundantly blooming neighbourhood to learn more about the plants that surround us. Aside from enjoying a beautiful evening together, Laura proved invaluable at helping us identify many of the plants in the area and answering our questions on South Granville's Flora.

SGI: What are the main things you notice about the flora of the SG area?

LM: SG flora is abundant with an eclectic palette of ornamental trees, colourful perennials, staple evergreen shrubs and a few frilly annuals for fun! Most of the gardens we enjoyed were in front (or behind) the lovely apartment buildings in the area. They appeared to be tended by either a building superintendent or a passionate resident - but in any case the care and interest in plants was evident. It is always impressive to see what can be done within a small amount of space. 

I especially liked passing those gardeners that had obviously maintained their garden for years. They trimmed each leaf and branch with such attention and gratitude, it was really inspiring. 
My favourite time of year to bike through SG is the Spring. There is an impressive display of ornamental cherry trees and stunning Magnolias. 

SGI: Are there any particularly rare/special plants to look out for?

LM: Not really 'rare' per-say... There are a few fun palm trees and Monkey Puzzle trees (Araucaria araucana) but those are starting to seem rather common for Vancouver. I think the garden at the corner of Hemlock and 10th ave has the most unique variety of plants that we saw. There was a medley of just about everything! Kudos to those apartment dwellers for taking advantage of their outdoor space!

SGI: What are some of the native or historical plants we saw?

LM: We saw a lot of what you may call 'legacy trees'. There are several large older Cedrus (cedar) trees in the SG neighbourhood. They have some of my favourite cones! Also, SG boasts some very impressive older Rhododendrons.

SGI: What do you recommend people plant?

LM: Anything that makes you happy, of course! Gardening and planting is a process - one year you plant a favourite plant and the next year you find a new one and so on! Currently I am really excited about Cotton Lavender (Santolia chamaecyparissus)  Also Trumpet Vine (Campsus radicans) is looking really nice!

So there you have it. If you want to do a floral tour of your own, there are new things popping up all them time. Check out Ženija's illustrated map below which shows our route. The accompanying gallery identifies the points of interest.

SG Flora Route 4.jpg

Now it's your turn Inhabiters. What are your favourite flowers? Are there any areas of the neighbourhood that you particularly enjoy for their floral beauty? Leave us a note in the comments below.