News

Wednesday
Jun252014

Learning From a Happy Mingling of Beans & Zinnias

From an article originally published in the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto newsletter, September 2007.

What can I say? I’m a designer—trained to be a control freak. In my work, I assess a problem posed by a client, develop a plan and then follow through. With a few twists and turns, the finished solution is usually not far off the original plan. It is a controlled outcome. And this is the way that I have approached my gardening—that is until this spring when I got involved with the Grafton Parkette Community Garden.

In the garden that I share with Bea, I make a lot of decisions. I assess the project at hand using my gardening experience, consult books and friends, then with a loose plan in place, I move on to the execution. There will be a few diversions, including irresistible impulse plant purchases, but the plan takes shape. Then I nurture, fine-tune and maintain the vision that I have created.Grafton Parkette before May 2007

The community gardening experience worked in a different way. I was involved with the project from its very early stages, but I was not in control. I wasn’t following through with a plan. I honestly didn’t have a sense of what the finished community garden would be. Carolin Taron was the visionary, the instigator and the energy behind the establishment of the Grafton Community Garden. She has been involved with at least 9 community gardens in Toronto since 1990. With her experience, she knows how to get a community garden project moving.

I had dreamed about improvements to the Grafton Parkette, but I didn’t know how to make it happen. I wanted to salvage the poorly maintained, grassy, dog pooh parkette at the end of my street. It would be planted with lush beds of select perennials and shrubs, creating an object of beauty that would be admired, but not touched, by the large number of pedestrians that walk past every day. My earliest involvement with parkette improvements in 2004, when I attended a few community meetings, resulted in what I thought was a rather unsatisfactory, postponed solution. $10,000 was allocated to the Grafton Parkette in the 2012 capital budget for a basketball half court.

Carolin moved into the Roncesvalles neighbourhood last year and immediately saw the potential of the Grafton Parkette as a location for a community garden and a place to grow food in the city. Working with Amy Johnston, Assistant to Councillor Gord Perks, she took the important first steps in the creation of the garden.

  • Involve a core of people with a sustainable interest in the garden location. DONE.
  • Get approval for a community garden at the Grafton Avenue location. DONE.
  • Get a city crew to strip the sod off the site and rototill the exposed, compacted soil. DONE.
  • Get another city crew to deliver compost and wood mulch. DONE.
  • Get the existing water source in the parkette repaired and a communal hose supplied. DONE.
  • Convince the right person in the city that the garden needed soil improvements delivered ASAP—specifically 100 bags of organic sheep manure. DONE.

Those were the logistics of getting the garden in place. By the middle of May the garden was set to go. Our small group had built it. Now, would anyone come?

I was truly amazed at how the garden developed. So was everyone in the neighbourhood. But we all did it together—as a community.

The physical presence of the rototilled, open plot drew people to the site. Some were openly skeptical that anything would grow on the site of an old used car lot. Mostly by word of mouth, Wednesday evenings were established as the time to meet and work in the garden. Two large areas, one at the back of the garden for native perennials and the other in the centre of the garden for food plants and annuals, were designated for communal enjoyment and casual garden visitors. The rest of the garden, that would be the responsibility of individual gardeners, was divided into small plots radiating out from the centre area. Plots were assigned on a first come, first served basis.

I took a plot back in May when there were few people willing to commit to the maintenance of a plot for the whole season. I planted 3 kinds of tomatoes, eggplants and a few Brussels sprouts for fall interest. No flowers, just food plants. What did I have to lose? Even if, as I suspected might happen, all the produce was taken by street people, I would always have more than enough from the country garden. My planting was orderly and typical of a tiny vegetable plot.

The communal areas developed in a more organic, spontaneous way. Carolin and other gardeners brought seeds and plants, and every Wednesday everyone pitched in with the planting. The neighbourhood children were the most enthusiastic planting beans and zinnias in abundance. Not always in the most ideal locations, but no one wanted to stifle the incredible energy. The kids were learning about plants and food and having fun too.

As the garden started to grow green and lush (thanks to the sheep manure), people were drawn from their homes on Wednesday evenings. Everyone was overjoyed that the empty grass area was being transformed. They were amazed and delighted with the garden. We have a Toronto microcosm along the one block length of Grafton Avenue. At the top is a 20-storey apartment building with many new Canadian families. The houses along the street have a mix of people and ages, with singles, retired couples and families that include teenage kids and lots of toddlers.

The people with gardening experience helped and encouraged the novice gardeners. The native plant activists contributed seed and plant divisions. The young families on the street brought their toddlers to help plant seeds and water, water, water. Children from the big apartment building planted seeds and annuals that would fill in beautifully. People that I had seen when walking the dogs in the neighbourhood, but had never spoken to, were handed a trowel and few snap dragon plants as they walked past the garden one Wednesday evening. And they knew what to do. Dig a hole, pour in water, set in the plant and fill with dirt. Voila! This is my garden too. Instant gardening friends. The parkette belongs to the whole community now. There is a sense of ownership and pride that a wasted corner of the street has been made productive and beautiful. Yes, homeless people are still sleeping in the back corner and they help themselves to a few tomatoes, but there has been almost no vandalism and universal appreciation. People walking, running, cycling and driving past have happy, encouraging comments. The garden brings a smile to everyone’s face. And now there is a lot of interest expressed in getting plots for next year.

The spontaneous way that the garden developed meant that the happy mingling of beans and zinnias was just meant to be. Letting the kids plant seeds and strawberries and potatoes and see the wonderful results was an inspiring experience that had nothing to do with control and garden design. It had everything to do with openness, and sharing in the uplifting spirit of gardening.

And then there was “Salsa Night”, a magical Wednesday evening event. The entire street came out to enjoy delicious salsa made from tomatoes and greens grown in the garden accompanied by salsa music and dancing. It goes without saying that Hort members want to become better gardeners. You know, fewer plant failures and more gorgeous “photo-op” successes. In other words, better control of the garden. But the Community Garden experience has led me to believe in letting the garden go its way and being open to the moment. I’m not the creator of this garden but I participated in its creation. I have a lot to offer the garden and the novice gardeners working in it. But the garden has given back to the whole community in a very big way.

In the end it is worth letting things run a bit out of control. I want to encourage every Hort member to get involved with a community garden project. For a few hours each week, leave your “gardens of controlled outcome” and spread your experience out into the community. We can encourage and develop new, young gardeners, beautify neighbourhoods and nourish our own souls.

Richard Kerr

Monday
Jun022014

Greenhouse Garden Group

Are you interested in gardening over the long winter with other Hort members? Growing cuttings and seeds in a greenhouse? Send your name to be considered for space on the bench!
 The Board is considering sponsoring a group of members who will garden at the Riverlea Greeenhouse (City of Toronto).  The photo, by Terri Dixon’s daughter Alice, shows the variety of plants being grown, so we would be in good company.
Please contact Gina (aka Hort Treasurer) for more details at treasurer@parkdaletorontohort.com

Alice Dixon, Untitled from the series The Last Greenhouse, 2008/2014

Tuesday
May272014

Hort Plant Fair May 31

The Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto Plant Fair will be held on Saturday May 31, from 10:30am - 1:30pm at Parkdale Public school, 78 Seaforth Ave, Toronto. Click here to find out more, or to download a poster click here

Wednesday
Apr232014

Karen Shenfeld - Il Giardino—The Gardens Of Little Italy

April 28, 2014 meeting - click here to find out about our meeting time and location.

Filmmaker Karen Shenfeld will show snippets of her film, Il Giardino—The Gardens of Little Italy and talk about Italian, Portuguese and other immigrant backyard gardens and the role and meaning of these gardens and how they have contributed to the cultural and the horticultural landscape of Toronto.

THE WONDERFUL NEW WORLD GARDENS OF OLD WORLD GARDENERS

Last month we learned that beauty is in the eye of the beholder—veggies can be as ornamental in a garden as traditionally non-edible plants. Yet, if love is blind, perhaps we should consider our relationship with gardens through another of our senses: taste. After all, beauty is only skin deep!

But enough with the clichés.

While it is arguable that edible gardens are the wave of the future in urban gardening, this month’s presenter will introduce us to a group that’s been far ahead of the curve, quietly, prolifically, and deliciously so. Poet, author, and filmmaker Karen Shenfeld will share her visual ode to her gardener neighbours in what she calls the “village” where she’s lived for decades: Little Italy.

She and her husband were some of the first mangiacakes to infiltrate the largely Italian and then Portuguese neighbourhood, roughly located between Ossington to the west and Bathurst to the east, and between Bloor at the north end and south to about Queen St. West. Upon moving into their house, she noted a profusion of tall tomato vines reaching high above her backyard fences. Her curiosity drew her into a relationship with the industrious neighbours and she discovered the “wondrous world” of their vegetable patches.

She learned of the old world gardening wisdom they employed in this new land as they sought to maintain their culinary cultures—something we’re all most grateful for! Karen felt blessed to have a view into their world and to learn from them. But it was the passing of her beloved neighbour Vincenzo that set this project in motion. That very day she shot her first frames for Il Giardino: The Gardens of Little Italy, as his garden lay silent under “a funereal shroud” of snow. It is both a testament and in inspiration.

Maria Nunes

Thursday
Apr102014

Tour of High Park Greenhouses Followed by Tea & Scones

Saturday, May 10, 2014, Tour 10am to 12:00pm followed by tea & scones SOLD OUT!

As of Easter Sunday the tour has sold out! If someone drops out and you want to be contacted if a space comes available, please email sales@parkdaletorontohort.com Thank you!

Members of the Parkdale and Toronto Horticultural Society are being offered an exclusive opportunity to have a guided visit to the High Park Greenhouses which are normally closed to the public.  The tour guide, a member of the horticultural staff, will offer an inside look at the production greenhouses and the native plant nursery and talk about how the City organizes its public gardens.

At noon, after the tour we have arranged for tea and scones at the Grenadier Café in High Park.
Image credits: City of Toronto

Registration is $20 per person and the funds will help support our community gardens projects including the garden at Colborne Lodge.

 

Thursday
Mar202014

Marjorie Mason - Beautiful and Delicious Gardening

March 31, 2014 meeting - click here to find out about our meeting time and location.

There was a time when Mason House (formerly Mason Hogue) Gardens and Marjorie Mason were synonymous with decorative and ornamental gardens. Those times are past.  The demonstration garden and nursery is still home to flowers and foliage plants, specializing in unusual species, but about a decade ago, Marjorie Mason began focusing on a different kind of plant material—the edible kind. And in many ways, she’s come full circle—Mason was raised on a market garden farm. Marjory Mason. Image from masonhousegardens.com

Mason spent many years concentrating on ornamental varieties of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, and seeking out “unique and hard to find plants” to stock her nursery. She became a sought after speaker and was so well known and respected that a hemerocallis cultivar was named after her. Some ten years ago, however, the Toronto Botanical Garden, one of the places where she often spoke, asked her to teach a course on the potager garden. She set about quickly learning about potagers and hasn’t turned back. In fact, Mason considers growing edibles her favourite thing. Her first potager was, and still exists, beside the shed at the nursery and was introduced to our Hort a few years back.

After rooting herself in edible gardening, she was sought out by the Royal York Hotel’s then Executive Chef, David Garcelon, to work with him on the hotel’s revolutionary rooftop kitchen garden. A proponent of vegetable gardening, Mason believes we need every spot we can, to grow edible plants. Today, she considers the turn in horticulture to edible gardening to be its “most current and important phase”. In fact, she believes that growing food is “something we have to do or we’re going to be in big, big trouble”.

Despite sounding more like an activist than a woman used to leading garden tours to the United Kingdom, Mason has a much more holistic sensibility about edible gardening. She explains that vegetables have a much more interesting and compelling history than flowers, a discovery she owes to a book given to her by her son called, How Carrots Won the Trojan War by Rebecca Rupp. Moreover, she suggests that a garden patch with a red cabbage paired with a savoy and dill “is just beautiful”!

This month Marjorie Mason will share her experiences gardening with edible plants that are beautiful for the eyes and the palate.

Maria Nunes

Saturday
Mar012014

Leaf Relief Cement Casting Workshop

Friday
Feb142014

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

1914 roses at the opening ceremony of the Howard Gates.Come join the celebration commemorating the 100th Year Anniversary of the famous gates adorning the eastern entrance to High Park on Parkside Drive at High Park Boulevard.

Our very own Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto (initiated by the Outreach and Education committee) will be providing the beautiful bouquets of roses. These are to be as close as possible to the original bouquets presented in 1914. 

We will also be able to promote the Hort with flyers in the refreshment tent. 1914 Howard Gates opening ceremony.

The Tentative Schedule is :

  • 12:45 pm: The High Park Walking Tour Group will lead a historical tour, beginning at the south side of the Grenadier Restaurant and ending at the zoo parking lot at 1:45pm.
  • 2 pm: A parade will lead off the event starting at the Zoo parking lot on Deer Pen Road, and wind its way to the stage at the gates on Parkside, led by the 48th Highland Pipe Band. The Duke and Duchess of Connaught, Imperial Order of the Daughter of the Empire, (aka IODE) who contributed largely to the gates originally and also took on the original care of Colborne Lodge, City dignitaries and Scout troops will make up the roster of participants. The Lieutenant Governor and Mrs Onley have yet to be confirmed. 
  • 2:15 pm: Speeches will be made by various dignitaries and the Hort’s Roses presented to the ladies on stage.
  • 2:35 pm: O Canada will be sung and the parade will return to the parking lot.
  • 2:35-4 pm: Refreshments will be served in the tent at the foot of the Jamie Bell Playground. Sam Caragianakos of the Grenadier Restaurant will be providing hot food at 1914 prices and perhaps even retro Coke bottles.

Volunteers will be needed for :

  1. Posting neighbourhood flyers.
  2. Assisting with crowd control.
  3. Assisting with refreshment service after the event.
  4. Acting volunteer captains, who will receive training  Sat Mar.1@ 9:30am.

Please email volunteers@parkdaletorontohort.com if you are interested in volunteering for this very illustrious event. Thank you, hope to see lots of smiling Hort faces there.

Media coverage will help promote the event before and celebrate after.

To see an interesting article about the event click here.

- Terri Dixon (Education and Outreach Committee, Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto)

Friday
Feb142014

Howard Memorial Gates 100 Year Anniversary

You are invited! On Sunday March 23, 2014 a celebration will be held for the anniversary of the Howard Park Gates. Colborne Lodge staff are co-hosting the event with Ward 13 Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette.  The formal activities will be based on the March 19, 1914 opening.  At 2 p.m. a parade of dignitaries and groups representing those in attendance in 1914 will march along Deer Pen Road towards the stage set up in front of the Howard Memorial Gates.  After the stage ceremony, refreshments will be served in a tent in front of the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground.

A number of High Park-based groups, including highpark.org; the High Park Nature Centre; the Children’s Garden and Training Kitchen; Park Watch; and the High Park Walking Tour Group are also providing programming prior to the event.  Community groups including the Horticultural Society of Toronto and Parkdale; local Scout troops; the Swansea and Runnymede Village Historical Societies; and High Park and Runnymede branches of the Toronto Public Library are involved in the event as well.

On March 19, 1914, the gates were opened to great fanfare.  Among the attendees were the Governor General, Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught and his wife, Princess Louise Margaret, the Duchess of Connaught; Mayor Horatio Clarence Hocken and his wife; Sir Henry M. Pellatt of Casa Loma; and a number of members of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire.  The Westminster Chapter of the I.O.D.E fundraised half of the $4,500 cost of building the gates and City Council provided the matching funds.

The March 20, 1914 editions of the The Mail and The World newspapers covered the event.  “High Park Boulevard, at the foot of which the gates stand, presented a gay appearance.  From every residence floated flags and streamers, while near the gates the Royal Standard was flying from a staff erected for the occasion.” “The Boy Scouts, headed by Highland pipers, were drawn up in line.  The Duke arrived shortly before 4 o’clock, and as he walked from this motor to the platform the 48th Highlanders’ Band struck up “God Save the King.”  “At the moment of unveiling the band struck up “Rule Britannia,” and afterward the Boy Scout Stanbury sang “O Canada”.

Cheryl Hart, museum co-ordinator at Colborne Lodge

Friday
Feb142014

Howard Park Gates Celebration Volunteers Needed

Join our volunteer team for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Howard Memorial Gates at the Parkside Drive entrance to High Park.  The event is being held Sunday, March 23 and volunteers are needed to assist with serving food, welcoming and directing visitors; and safety along the parade route.  Various shifts throughout the day.

Volunteers under 14 years must be accompanied by an adult.  High school students can apply the hours to community service credit.

An orientation session will be held at Colborne Lodge on Sat, March 1 from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. For more information or to RSVP for the orientation, email clodge@toronto.ca or phone 416-392-6916 and ask for Cheryl or Philip.

The event is co-hosted by Colborne Lodge and Councillor Sarah Doucette along with a great team of High Park and community-based groups.

Colborne Lodge is located on Colborne Lodge Drive at the south end of High Park. 

Colbourne Lodge in Winter. Photo courtesy of City of Toronto.