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Even though Harry’s garden no longer exists, I think it’s a story worth telling.
I met Harry when I realized that his house and garden were going to be demolished to make way for a condominium. At the end of the summer of 2010, I decided to take some quick photos of his garden before it was gone.
I learned that Harry used to be in the pool and hot tub business before he got tired of chlorinated pools and became an advocate for more natural ponds. He conceded that it was hard to convince clients to swim with the fish and so he quit. The inspiration for building his own pond came when a condominium was built across the street and he lost his view of the lake.
He started by bringing rocks from the Canadian Shield and over the next six years, the garden slowly evolved. Every year he changed the colour of his front yard and almost daily added or changed something in his garden. One year he got carried away and painted a pole that was city property which landed him in jail for 5 days and a heavy fine.
Yes, Harry is a little wild and so was his garden.
But it was a community garden of sorts and his gate was always open to visitors. Children would come in to see the fish and Harry was often around for a chat. It was a place to pause on a busy stretch of street, to enjoy a moment in a little urban oasis.
When people realized that they were going to lose their neighbourhood garden, there was a lot of media attention in an attempt to save it. A number of people expressed interest in moving the pond to their own property but in the end Harry refused the offers because he had his heart set on having it on public property. It wasn’t a feasible plan and so that was the end of Harry’s garden.
I see Harry in the neighbourhood from time to time and I’m hoping that one day he’ll start another garden. In the meantime I have these pictures to remind me of Harry’s gift for creating an inspiring place.