Procession of the flowering boots
By David Lennam, News Editor, Copyright 2003 Oak Bay News

There's a row of black work boots on the front lawn of a Chaucer Street home that look as if they were lined up with military precision. That's not too far off. They're army parade square boots used to the "ten-hut" and spit-polish of regimental ceremony.

Though not regularly used as flower pots by cadets trooping the colours, the seven boots on the gentle slope of Bruce Saunders' front yard sprout a variety of brightly blooming impatiens.

These boots were made for plantin'. It's not quite the Nancy Sinatra ditty, but Bruce Saunders' collection of impatiens-filled workboots are a colourful addition to Chaucer Street. David Lennam/Oak Bay News
"People come by here and look at them. It's something to talk about and I'm having a little fun doing it," he said. A gardener by profession, Saunders delights in dressing up the lawn with an artist's flair - whether it's army boots or- a potty.

"I did a toilet bowl in my driveway filled with red, white and blue flowers for the Commonwealth Games (of 1994)," he says with a smile.

There was also a memorable selection of runners and gumboots on display all over Oak Bay 15 years ago. When Saunders' own kids were attending the nearby Oak Bay Parent-Owned Preschool, he asked each member of the class to bring an old shoe to school. Saunders filled them with flowers in a one-day plant-a-thon and each was taken home to put on display.

This time, Saunders has recycled his own footwear. He routinely goes through one or two pairs of the parade boots a season, wearing them out on daily treks through mud, rocks and fertilizer.

"I buy them because they're flat on the bottom and they don't have tread," he said. "It means I don't track clumps of dirt onto the sidewalk when I'm doing my gardening."

Impatiens is the perfect match for the retired boots. The annual comes in a full palette of colours, grows well in the shade and doesn't attract bugs or slugs. What they do attract is the attention of the curious.

"There is a mother and her two young kids who would walk by here every day," said Saunders. "One day the boots weren't out and the kids were quite upset that the boots weren't there. I realized then that I had an audience so I 'planted' an extra pair."