Duglas Cruz hopes to give Royal City residents a taste of gardening with one of his latest creations.
Cruz, a gardener with the City of New Westminster, recently completed a garden display at the entrance to Queen's Park. Aiming to do something "kind of different", he sought a way to incorporate food-production into the garden.
"I said, 'I have to do something with vegetables'. I said, 'where do people produce vegetables?' It is in the fields," he said. "I said I am going to create a little mini farm."
The centerpiece of the new farm-themed garden in Queen's Park is a small barn that was built by city carpenters.
Once the wood structure was built it was covered in a mesh that holds the plants.
"The top is very interesting," he said. "The roof is made with sedum."
Trying to incorporate different colours and textures, Cruz used a number or different plants on the sides of the barn.
"Back home, I owned a farm," said Cruz, who immigrated to Canada from El Salvador. "I had in my mind a farm. We don't have that kind of barn over there, but the meaning is the same."
Cruz, who has a degree in agricultural engineering, had a tough time landing a job in that field when he arrived in Canada a decade ago.
Instead he found work on a farm in Delta, as well as seasonal work with City of New Westminster.
The "fields" around the barn in Queen's Park are currently home to crops including lettuce, cabbage and corn. Tomatoes, garlic, onion and other vegetables will also be grown.
One of Cruz's goals was to demonstrate to local families that they can have a beautiful garden that also produces food.
"It's going to grow year-round," he said. "The succulents I will have to replace for winter. The barn is made to be like that the whole year. We will be changing the vegetables. There is a time when we have to harvest them."
Another goal of the garden is to show people that vegetables can be grown year-round.
"People say vegetables are only for our summer season," he said. "We would like to show people it is not - it can be all year round."
While insects and other critters haven't posed any problems for the small garden, some plants have died after being stepped on by little feet.
"It looks so cute - sometimes moms and dads put little kids in the area," Cruz said about the barn. "It is the same picture I had in mind. It is so great when people approach that and start telling compliments. It's a good feeling when people appreciate what you do."
Cruz said he appreiates the creative reedom he receives from Claude LeDoux, the city's horticulture manager.
"Claude always says to us to be creative, be innovate, use different plants, use new plants for the community to see," he said. "We get really good support with our projects."
LeDoux said he's extremely proud of all of his staff and wants to give them the freedom to create unusual and fun things for the enjoyment of citizens.
"That is the whole reason we do these things - for our citizens to enjoy and learn from."
Cruz, who took a self-employment program at Douglas College, also owns his own landscaping company.
A full-time employee with the city for the past three years, Cruz oversees gardens at Queen's Park, the New Westminster Public Library, Moody Park Arena, Columbia Street and Sapperton.
"All the areas for me are priority," he said. "People deserve to see beauty. We have to do the same quality of job and do our best in all the places."