Cottonwood Gardens started in 1991, when a group of community activists began clearing a dump site to create garden plots. Nearby Strathcona Community Garden was filled to capacity, but the demand for additional community gardening sites was still high (from Oliver Kellhammer).

Cottonwood Garden 25 years ago (Photo by Oliver Kellhammer)
      In 1992, the activists applied to the City to formally recognize and protect their work, and the City agreed to extend the existing lease for Strathcona Garden to include the new site.  From that point on, garden infrastructure was slowly developed with grants from the Vancouver Foundation, which helped the gardeners install an irrigation system, and from VanCity’s EnviroFund, which helped develop the gardens as a showplace for sustainable practices.  Cottonwood and Strathcona are among the oldest, are the largest and certainly the most interesting community gardens in the city. Because they are so large, each approximately 3 acres, there was lots of room to experiment with themed gardens. 
     Cottonwood tried to integrate itself into the neighbourhood by creating an Asian garden to acknowledge the Asian community’s influence and heritage in the downtown eastside and a Native garden to acknowledge the Native community in the area. Cottonwood has a large Asian garden with a kiwi arbour, 6 asian chestnuts, 3 persimmons, 3 asian pears, 5 mulberries, 2 asian plums, 2 medlars, 3 paulownia, magnolia, 2 koelreuteria, davida, sorbus hupehensis, ginkgo biloba, katsura trees, 7 varieties of bamboo and an understory of hibiscus, rhododendrums, azalea, deutzia, viburnum, beauty berry, hypercium, kerria, tree peony, Japanese fibre bananas and berbis.  This Asian garden was the foundation planting in Cottonwood and the trees and the kiwi arbour are 20 years old and approaching maturity. 

      The Native garden began development about 12 years ago and the trees and the understory shrubs are planted and doing well. We are now attempting to establish ground cover of ferns and kinnikinik, sorrel, camas, etc. In the Native garden we have planted red and yellow cedar, birch, native crab apple, vine maple, Douglas maple, black hawthorn, arbutus, yellow pine, sour cherry, bitter cherry, oregon ash, mountain ash, cornus nuttallii, spruce, fir, and yew. The understory is of Oregon grape, wild rose, Saskatoon, elderberry, snowberry, hardtack, pacific ninebark, cranberry, blueberry, mock orange and Indian plum. The idea of the Native garden is to integrate ourselves into the environment, into the community and to provide habitat for native birds and insects (from Cottonwood Garden).

Cottonwood Garden today

      Cottonwood Garden provides 145 individual garden plots, including accessible raised beds. In addition to the Native and Asian gardens, we have a collection of fruit trees and shrubs including, apples, plums, sour cherries, sweet cherries, quince, gooseberries, raspberries, blueberries and currants. The Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA) has a greenhouse, nursery and demonstration garden at the eastern end of Cottonwood. (See - Save Cottonwood Community Garden).
      The city has proposed a new freeway that would run through both Strathcona and Cottonwood Gardens (Cottonwood Community Garden: Oasis in Peril).  We have proposed alternative routes. The decision making process is ongoing.  For more information go to  Save Cottonwood Community Garden.
      The garden runs along the south perimeter of Strathcona Park on Malkin Ave, between Chess & Raymur Avenues.  There are 145 plots and the fee for gardening is $15 per year plus a $5 membership fee.

      For more information about the garden or to join contact us at cottonwoodgardenatgmaildotcom.


  1. Rose-Marie Larsson16 August 2017 at 18:35

    Lively and interesting blog about an interesting place, with many good references. I particularly like the link to Oliver Kellhammer's history of how Cottonwood got started. One thing I find confusing: your "about" section has no info on who the gardeners are that are responsible for this blog - no names, no introductions. That's a missing piece for me. Would be interesting to know. Other than that, thanks for a good read. Rose-Marie Larsson

    1. The concept of this blog is that it will be written by many gardeners and those writers will be changing over time. Within 5 years there may be a hundred different writers. I may not be here next year so it's difficult and unnescessary to be constantly changing those responsible.

  2. Informative and fun site. A little bee-centric, but that's alright.

    1. Agreed a bit bee-centric. Awaiting more pages from other gardeners (i.e Native garden page).


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