This driveway garden is situated in an access-only street in a residential area in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Sealed driveways and manicured lawns are the typical welcome. The young family has just moved into their new house. It was already spring. Almost too late to start a garden project. And the new house devoured most of the budget. One possible solution: INSTANT GARDEN. The yearning for a garden was realized on a mini lot. A low budget was a challenge for the concept and the selection of materials. The controlled re-use, upgrading and transformation of materials into a new context was the key to this poetic design statement. 

Winnipeg is a city with annual periodic flood issues. Sandbagging is a part of people’s shared memory. There are years in which walls of white sandbags are all over the place during the snowmelt. Sandbags can be reused if they are not contaminated.

Our building materials were the sandbags that the flood risk produced and threw out that year. This type of work reflects that projects do not need to have millions of dollars or use vast amounts of resources.

The body of the garden is composed of these white sandbags and eatable greenery. The entire garden is like a reservoir for the rain runoffs from the surrounding areas. The water is stored in a permeable layer below the sandbags. The roots have access to this watershed. A sprinkler provides a cooling experience at times, with the overall result being a vegetable garden, a giant sand field or a private beach, depending on your viewpoint and interests!

The touchable surface of this garden is intentional: a tender semipermeable skin showing irritations, folds, colour, aging, emotions and sunburn over time. We knew about the material’s half-life, and we didn’t want to operate with creams. The skin fought the weed back without any chemistry and reduced evaporation.

Stuffed in bags, the sand becomes mixed with the in-situ soil. That’s a simple method for soil stabilization and a measure to create an airy soil with high oxygen content, well-drained and a pleasure to work with. A lush garden will grow the following spring, a new dance of chlorophyll, kids and butterflies is anticipated.

Chatting to the owners, they told us how they linger in their driveway garden, “cultivate” the plants, drift through the space looking at the flowers and leaves and constantly come across something delightfully new. The garden coaxes them to shift down a gear. They discovered an undetected passion for growing their own vegetables and the experience that a garden requires care, patience and time. 


an antithesis. Unlike most “glossy” projects, INSTANT GARDEN demonstrates that holistic concepts do not need large budgets. 

a creative statement performing economic, ecological, social and technical issues on a small footprint.

a narrative and sweet temptation.

hopefully infectious and unfolds its poetry. 

more a model, a tool or a process. Before large-scale application, thoughts are tested and assessed in a small field laboratory. 

an adventurous experiment in conformance with the place, time, plants, materials, soil, light, water, exposure, function and budget. 


Landscape architects embark on the search for expression for open spaces that fall between the everyday and the adventurous. And gardens have always been experimental grounds for innovation and improvisation. INSTANT GARDEN is a critical, experimental statement about the effort to transform an ordinary space (a sealed driveway) into a little paradise. This humble garden would never have happened without the openness of a Winnipeg family and their audacity to take a risk – Many Thanks!

Project location: Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Design year: 2011

Year Built: Construction of the first prototype in 2011


LILA 2023 Sponsor