With the painted rocks, flowers planted in gigantic plastic footballs and tucked into tires, Kirby Hunter’s garden slows traffic on Birge Street.
His one story house dwarfed by two giant poplar trees is steps from Hamilton General Hospital and a short sprint to the CN railway tracks.
Hunter is sitting in his front yard enjoying a fine spring day. With his jeans rolled up over Perry Ellis America shoes and wearing a Tim Hortons baseball cap to block the sun Hunter is a laconic conversationalist.
“How’s life on Birge Street I ask.
“It’s A1,”Hunter declares.
And then without much hyperbole Hunter details how the neighbour next door was murdered.
“Throat slashed,” he says.
But since then the house next door has been renovated and the new neighbours are just fine.
In fact while we chat the new neighbour comes home and he and Hunter joke about their side-by-side gardens.
Hunter’s wins on creativity.
While most people might have a barrier-maybe a strip of wood- where the garden meets the sidewalk, Hunter has rocks painted turquoise, black, and the sort of yellow used for lane markings. Joining the rocks is a strip of glass block just in front of a fancy cement ornament you might find on top of a Corinthian column.
“I got it from a guy who had a bunch of them, I asked him how ‘how my going get it home?’
“The same way I did,” he said. “In my truck.”
Then there are the big plastic toy footballs planted with lilacs and Rose-of Sharon.
Was Hunter a big Tiger Cat fan I wondered?
“No, I just like them. I got one of them from a homeless guy, paid him five bucks, that went into his cigarette fund,” he says.
Hunter moved to Birge Street in 1981. Born in New Brunswick in 1943, he came this way for work, landing at toy maker M.A. Henry in Dundas. Henry made such popular toys as toy pistols, cap guns and BB guns.
Moving with some difficulty from his chair to the sidewalk, he points out the plant life in his garden. In addition to the lilacs and Rose-of-Sharon there are peonies, ferns, and bulbs.
Birge Street runs from Wellington to Wentworth. North of the railway tracks are auto body shops, metal works, roofing companies and a candy maker. Here and there houses are being renovated, and the little but lovely Birge Park is a shady retreat in the neighbourhood with a charming outdoor pool.
Some years ago a city bylaw officer came by Hunter’s house and told him someone complained about his outside- the-box garden.
“He told me I had to cut everything to the ground. But then he seemed to think about it and told me not to bother”
Another reason why Hunter says Birge Street is A1.