The Lady in Mauve
By John A Heddle
Photos by John A Heddle
Perhaps you have seen her, the recumbent Lady in Mauve, presiding over the James Bay Allotment Garden on Montreal Street.
If your strolls do not yet pass by the north-west end of MacDonald Park on Montreal Street, consider a change as the gardens are astonishingly varied and attractive - especially now - a two-for-one deal is available by including the Niagara Street end of the park in your perambulation, for there you will find another, the James Bay Michigan Street Allotment Gardens.
Curiously, the Michigan Street Allotment Gardens are not on Michigan Street and do not even touch it. Their name derives from their origins as the Michigan Street Community Gardens. They are the oldest in Victoria, having started in 1999 between Superior and Michigan, south of the Legislative Assembly. There the Capital Park buildings, now under construction, cover the former gardens. They moved to Niagara Street in 2016 at which point they came under the jurisdiction of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association, which rents the land and sublets to our urban farmers.
The land under both gardens was first farmed about 1876 by one of the first Canadian senators, WJ MacDonald, a former customs officer for the Hudson’s Bay Company and twice mayor of our city. His land, was part of the traditional territory of the Swengwhung Tribe but sold, with the rest of James Bay, to the Hudson’s Bay Company for £75. The site on Niagara has 20 plots, one of them tiny, the rest being about 1.5m by 3.5m.