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.


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

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