Breaking Dormancy

Seeding Unconventional Gardens


The late Canadian poet bpNichol conceived many charming and strange objects and ideas and this is one of them. I uncovered it early this March on a sunny warm day when, in a fit of spring fever, I was sorting through saved seeds. At the bottom of the tin in which I keep them I came across this envelope. Although I remembered it when I saw it, I cannot remember how I came by it. It delighted me again as much as I’m sure it did the first time. I identified its author by Googling Pataphysical Hardware Company, which led me to The Official bpNichol Archive. Highly recommended, but choose a time to browse it when you have nowhere else to be – you’ll get lost in there and be happy to do so. The archive contains the Pataphysical Hardware Company Catalogue (Illustrated), which claims to list “Everything for your imaginary needs.” In it I found the relevant page for my seed packet, and imagined I had the whole garden.Pataphysical Catalogue garden page.


Seed packets.

If you have a yard with a sunny spot, you and your kids can grow a house. I am not proposing a solution to Toronto’s real estate insanity here, but rather a fun summer garden project. Here’s how to grow it:

Figure out where the walls should grow by walking the shape, or marking it with your hose. Sit down inside, imagine the walls around you. When you have the size you want, dig up the soil where your walls will grow using a hoe or a small spade. Make it about 25-30 cm wide, so two rows of seed can grow in it. Break up any clods of earth, pull out anything else that is growing there. Don’t forget to leave a spot unplanted so you will have a doorway.

Now plant your sunflower seeds in a zig-zag sort of line (which is really two staggered rows) about 25 cm apart. Stick them into the soil with your finger up to the knuckle right below your fingernail. Tamp the soil down firmly on top of the seeds, so birds or squirrels won’t find and eat them. The sunflowers will sprout in about a week. Make sure to keep the soil damp while you are waiting for them to sprout. And pull out any weeds growing in your walls.Sunflower.

Mammoth Russian sunflower seeds will grow up to 10 feet tall. There are other varieties which don’t grow as tall, and if you plant some of those shorter varieties in between the very tall sunflowers, you will have flowers in your walls as well as on your ceiling.

After a few weeks, your sunflowers should be well established. When they have a few pairs of leaves and are about 25-30 cm tall, you can plant your ceiling. Sunflower stalks are very strong and can support morning glory vines. Plant three or four morning glory seeds around each sunflower. As they grow, they will twine around the sunflower stalks and make your walls thick and sturdy.

As the sunflower seeds begin to mature, they make the flower head very heavy, and it begins to hang down. The vines at the top of the flowers can reach from one flower head to another (perhaps with a little help from you, or a little string to follow) until you have a roof over your sunflower house.

It will take about two months for your house to grow. You will have birds and squirrels visiting your rooftop because they love to eat the sunflower seeds. If you are quiet and still you may be able to watch them from inside your house.

– Schuster Gindin
Photos by Schuster Gindin

This article is part of our issue BREAKING DORMANCY.


Oh this sounds like so much fun. Hope some of your readers grow a house and then post photographs.
Cheryl Kryzaniwsky, Port Elgin ON

I loved this piece
Anwen Tormey, Chicago

What a charming article!  I am going to send it to a friend who has an amazing garden and will enjoy this article.
Kathleen Howes, Toronto

What a perfect grandchild project!
Carol Phillips, Barrie ON

I loved this post, and have shared with permaculture enthusiasts this morning.
Zena Curwain, Thornbury ON

I enjoyed your article that included bpNichol and his poetry. How wonderful to bring this “seed catalogue” and his Website to everyone’s attention.
It’s odd, isn’t it, how we find interesting, beautiful works by serendipity?
Anything that promotes poetry is a most civilized act.
Robert Fisher, Toronto


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