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Oak Bay toilet garden brings relief in a time of stress

Rainbow of toilets treats visitors to Oak Bay path
Karen Bourne in her backyard, an Oak Bay oasis of enamel. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

For the last decade, visitors on a narrow path between Mountjoy and Falkland roads in South Oak Bay have witnessed an enamel oasis like no other.

The gravel pathway is charming in itself with a ceiling of branches on one end that neighbour Tom Bourne regularly clips, creating a tunnel effect about four metres long. Next to the tunnel is the Bournes’ garden, where Tom and Karen keep two dozen toilets recycled into garden planters.

The toilets come in a rainbow of colours and are an icebreaker for conversation. In fact, they’ve even become a destination, Karen said.

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“A lot of people tell us they’ve never seen anything like it,” Karen said. “Walking groups make it a destination, gardeners will knock on the door, and people will ask if we need a toilet.”

The answer right now is no, they have enough toilets, thank you.

“Unless it’s a real bright red,” Karen said, “but I don’t think we’re going to find one.”

If either of the Bournes are in the yard, they’ll likely end up in a chat with the curious who pass by. All but one of the toilets has had the tank removed. Each has a drip line to automatically water the plants.

“Right now they look pretty crummy, or as I could say, ‘pretty crappy,’” Karen said, noting they are due for their spring cleanup.

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After 21 years in the house, Tom has set up plenty of vintage items and signs in the yard. Passersby will notice signs from Fort St. John, and even Alaska. Some he collected up north and others he scored at local auctions and swap meets.

The toilet collection has been there for about 10 years. The newest addition is a sign saying, ‘Sorry out of toilet paper,’ a cheeky nod to the mysterious toilet paper panic.

“The joke is we don’t need toilet paper, there are three bidets,” Karen said.

Credit for the collection goes to Tom, who tries to find homes for old items.

“It means they are recycled and I’m not buying imported pots instead,” Tom said.

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