Garden Inspiration from Vancouver Olympics

Garden Inspiration from Vancouver Olympics

VANCOUVER, BC — Yes, I know… how could the largest sporting event in the world have anything to do with gardening… Maybe in a city other than Vancouver it might not and maybe if I didn’t see everything through a gardening filter it might not… but hang with me for a paragraph or two. I have my reasons…

This is the official Olympic logo this year.

300px-Vancouver_2010_logoThe logo represents INUKSUK – “thing that can act in the place of a human”. These indigenous totems, built with balancing rocks, are traditionally erected for multiple reasons:

  • Hunting and navigational aids
  • Message centers
  • To show where food is stored
  • To mark an entrance to a spiritual landscape
  • To act as helpers in hunting caribou

Now, I know you’re most likely not going to be hunting caribou in your garden. But take a moment to ponder the other reasons… starting to make sense? If not, read on…

My friend Andrew and I got invited to attend the opening ceremonies dress rehearsal. We disembarked from our early (EARLY!) train from Seattle feeling very much like college students on our 48-hour trip to Vancouver to see the spectacle. (I can’t remember the last time I used a backpack.) As we were wandering around prior to the event, we encountered a 200 yard stretch of rocky beach next to the walking path. Something wasn’t right about the rocks… and we realized that a local artist had taken these rocks and this stretch of beach to express the INUKSUK…



Andrew and I walked back and forth many times marveling at these improbable sculptures. And I took many pictures (which he mocked me about). But it dawned on me that this type of artistic expression would  be wonderful in a garden. Gardens and tradition go hand in hand.

That evening, we were staying with friends (I can’t remember the last time I slept on a hide-a-bed!) and one of our hosts who specializes in First Nation (indigenous) cultures was telling me that the Olympic games have really helped the country celebrate indigenous roots. He used to live with in a community strong with First Nation individuals and learned that building INUKSUK is a way to teach children patience, balance and tradition. Kind of like teaching children gardening…

So, maybe I’m loopy from lack of sleep, too much caffeine, a flash-back to college travel norms (Yes, I will be sleeping on the train tonight!) but I think this lovely, simple art form might not only beautify the places we love to garden but also remind us that simple is good. Local materials can be great mediums for art and that in Vancouver, and everywhere else, traditions are worth celebrating.

PS… we wandered over to Vancouver’s Chinatown (amazing) for lunch before the rehearsal… and discussed the sculptures. When I came back from the restroom, Andrew presented me with this:



  1. While I am a little familiar with totem poles, I had never heard of iINUSUK. The sculptural quality of these stone totems is amazing. I am wondering how they are balanced. Are they mortared in some way, or do the stones just rest upon each other? I have always loved rocks. This is an interesting way to use them, and I can certainly see them in a garden. I enjoyed reading your post. And thanks so much for faving my blog through blotanical! I am honored. I look forward to getting to know you and your garden better.

  2. Thanks for the comment – I really appreciate it! They look like they should be mortared somehow but they’re not! It’s all just balance… I probably have another 20 pictures of various arrangements and it is just incredible how they stay up. I think they would be amazing in a garden.

  3. Very interesting. I can see why you would take so many pictures. The figures are amazing.

  4. They are amazing. I wish everyone could see them! So unique! Thanks for the comment…

  5. Hi, lovely photos. There is a sculptor called Andy Goldsworthy who dose a lot of work like this. You should check him out. I have a post about him on my blog, you might also find intresting ( Enjoy the games, would love to be there, but I don’t see many medials for Ireland :)

  6. Hi, Amanda Joy,
    I envy you your trip to Vancouver. The ‘sculptures’ are very inspiring. Love the teapot!
    Pam x

  7. LaManda Joy, Sorry I got your beautiful name wrong! Pam

  8. Hi Sunny – Good to know! I’ll check out his work! Thank you! We did see a FEW team members from Ireland in the parade of nations… I think… :) Thank you for the post! Tell me more about your Irish garden!

  9. Hi Pam – I am still buzzing from being in Vancouver (maybe it is exhaustion). Those sculptures really touched me. Glad you enjoyed! Yes, the teapot was very clever. Andrew is a creative director and he always comes up with interesting things…

  10. The rocks were incredible but I wondered what would happen on a strong, windy day? Don’t stand too close. I also think Andres is very creative but tell him to keep his day job:) Carol

  11. P.S. Yes, I misspelled my own sons name. Was it really a typo or do I want another son?

  12. I was curious about that too, Carol! After spending 48 hours with Andres I can’t imagine having another one. He’s very high energy!

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