From my garden to yours…
Set in the city of Brampton, proudly known as the “Flower City of Canada”, my garden is bustling with life, reflecting the spirit of all seasons, from daffodils in spring, lilies in summer, to dahlias until frost. There are ten maples, eight Thuja Green Giants, six Japanese maples, four blue spruces, two oaks, a weeping beech, and many other trees, evergreens, and flowering bushes living in harmony, displaying spectacular seasonal color in a small city plot. My garden, with its towering trees, luxurious shrubs, and ceaseless blooms has earned its name as the “Rain Forest” in our neighborhood.
Overflowing with annuals, perennials, and native species, my garden attracted not only pollinators in swarms but gardeners looking for inspiration, parents taking toddlers on nature trails, and budding artists photographing and sketching flowers. The vehicles slowed down to take in the nature's abundance that suddenly appeared on a busy crossroad. Neighbors claimed to take the same route to admire my oasis, on their daily walks. Strangers stopped by to tell me, they felt a sense of peace, approaching my bountiful plot. Some asked for permission to walk through or bring visitors over to show off their favorite garden. Many claimed that I inspired them.
A garden was center stage in my life as long as I can remember. With my three sisters and a brother, much of my childhood was spent outdoors, squirting mulberries, chasing yellow butterflies, and watching tadpoles mature into frogs where nature’s wonders held us spellbound. As a child, I woke up in the mornings to beat my siblings at claiming, the first pick of mangos, rambutan, or avocados that ripened overnight in our garden. As a young adult, I still reveled in climbing a guava tree, growing against our ancestral home by the sea – a staircase to our rooftop and evenings spent, eating freshly plucked guavas, and watching sunsets in the Indian ocean. To this date, I wake up to run outdoors into my garden…
In our garden with my sons, in Brampton, Ontario.
I was born in Sri Lanka, and my life here began 24 years ago when I immigrated to Canada with my new husband and our firstborn infant son. Our first home was a studio apartment in downtown Toronto, near High Park. What I loved most about Canada were the sprawling national and provincial parks, well-maintained community and home gardens, and the streets covered in blooms from spring to frost. I was in awe of the splendor of seasons and the nature’s biodiversity in Canada. Our daily walks along the Grenadier Pond, discovering the glorious landscapes, and lazing under towering trees in High Park, rejuvenated me like no other. I dreamed of owning a little piece of paradise and building the garden of my dreams, one day.
My first indoor garden came into shape in a two-bedroom apartment with a sunroom on York University campus grounds. Starving for a garden, I filled our sunroom with spring flowers and indoor plants. My father was an avid gardener, and as I’ve inherited his green thumb, plants grew happily in my care. I was a mother of two sons by then, doing a business degree and dreaming to make my husband proud of me. That was the extent of my dreams then. There was always this blurred mental imagery of mine – a yellow door, with “Deva’s Something” splattered on it, in green letters. I hoped to make sense of those blurred lettering, one day.
I specialized in human resources because I wanted to have a positive impact on people, and I got my first job in Canada, in Training and Organizational Development field. I remember, waking up early, picking dahlias from my garden, and taking three buses to get to my workplace in Toronto. It was an attempt at taking my garden to work with me. I made little flower arrangements for my co-workers; Dollar-Store-score-vases full of dahlias that cheered me up whenever I walked into a workspace. Once, watching me attending to my flowers, a work colleague said, “Deva, you are in the wrong field!”. I believed her. I was not cut out to sit at a desk for I’ve got flowers in my mind, mud under my fingernails, and a deep connection to nature. I belonged outdoors.
Recreating my favorite capture with my sons, eight years apart, in Algonquin Park, Ontario.
I began my true journey as a trainer when I gave in to the ethereal pull back to my motherland. With the education and training I received in Canada, I was able to design and facilitate a creative writing program for university students, wellness programs for female prison inmates, livelihood programs for women, and skill building programs for youth and school children. I shared my passion with many – in gardening, writing, painting, jewelry designing, sewing, quilting, and baking – with the hope of kindling a spark in their hearts.
Meanwhile in Canada, my "Rain Forest" thrived with all the love I poured into it. Every gardening season, I shared my seedlings, plants, and flowers with eager fingers that lingered to inquire about my growing practices in planting, seed harvesting, and finding solutions to gardening queries. I created gardens for anyone interested in trying their hand at gardening with florae from my garden. I loved gifting and sharing nature’s bounties, and was often urged to sell my seeds, plants, and cut flower arrangements.
Last year, when travelling for my training and charity work came to an abrupt halt, I buried myself in gardening, and every encouragement that came my way about turning my passion into a venture, rang louder in my ears. The realization that funding for my programs could come through me, was what made me turn to selling. It started with my perennial hibiscus seeds and moved onto dahlia tubers. Now, the scope of self-funding my workshops is large in my mind.
I have dreams of creating native and pollinator friendly gardens in my neighborhood. I have dreams of building communal gardens in every community I work with. I have dreams of introducing gardening workshops in schools. And my dearest dream is realizing each from being a gardener, as my passion in gardening becomes center stage in my life. To answer my true calling, I have devoted my life to be a gardener, like my father and a teacher, like my mother. This is the story of how my mental image of the blurred, green lettering, became “Deva’s Gardens”, and I am excited to see where it would take me…