The garden car, spruced up and in its new location. Photo by Yvonne Bambrick.
We’ve been following the saga of the Kensington garden car perhaps a little too closely since last winter, when it looked like the neighbourhood fixture was going to be leaving the Market permanently. It’s just a car, after all. A car filled with soil, with grass growing where its engine block should be and a shrub sprouting from its roof. Yup, just another one of those.
The garden car, created from a junkyard hulk in 2006, for several years occupied a parking spot on Augusta Avenue, where it was allowed to stay annually from May to October by dint of an agreement with City Hall. The deal was that the City wouldn’t tow the car away as long as it was insured by a nearby business. Shamez Amlani added it to the insurance policy of his neighbouring restaurant, La Palette, and all was fine until 2010. That’s when La Palette moved out of Kensington, to Queen West. Without an insurer, the car was going to need to park somewhere else.
Or so it seemed until Friday afternoon, when the car reappeared on Augusta Avenue after spending the winter in storage. (The car has always spent its winters off the road so it doesn’t impede the work of snow plows.) Yvonne Bambrick, coordinator for the Kensington Market BIA, was there managing its reinstatement.
“It’s clearly become a symbol of the Market,” she said. “It’s almost as photographed as the CN Tower.” The car is situated slightly south of its former location, and Head to Toe Health Centre, a naturopathic clinic in Kensington, is now providing insurance. The Whippersnapper Gallery, located on the southern fringe of the Market, at Dundas and Augusta Streets, is helping to repair and repaint the vehicle.
As Bambrick stood by the newly reinstalled garden car, a guy with dreadlocks who’d noticed all the activity around the spot stopped and asked her: “Is it going away?”
“People think that it’s been here the whole time,” said Bambrick after reassuring the guy and sending him on his way. “It happens every spring, and it makes me happy.”