Garden backstory: 2017-2021
The Friends of Charles G. Williams Park had been trying to plant a pollinator garden as part of the park refurbishment, since 2017. Our City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) supervisor and the Parks Partnership office both turned down our initial request. After the supervisor retired, all subsequent requests to interim supervisors were also turned down, which continued over the course of the pandemic. Previous to this, I had reached out to the Hort for advice on native plant seeds which our group intended to package and sell to fundraise for some elements of our park refurbishment. Ron replied and put me in touch with Clement, who later divulged his plans as part of a group to create pollinator corridors throughout the city connected by hubs (Project Swallowtail). As Charles G. Williams Park is a perfectly situated hub between the pollinator garden Clement established in High Park and the West Toronto Railpath (where there are plans afoot for pollinator gardens), Clement became interested in our plans for the garden and offered guidance with grant applications and suggestions. In turn, the Friends knocked on doors on Fermanagh & High Park Blvd to sign on support for the pollinator corridor PS was trying to establish.
Before the project began, the strip of land was grass with bare spots, and some shrubs.
Approval to plant: February 2022
Around the time the park was under construction, a neighbour indicated that the strip of land next to the park (1100 square feet) was under the jurisdiction of the Public Realm, a division of Transportation Services. Planting the garden here would alleviate our need to deal with PFR about planting a garden in the actual park. A contact of Clement’s suggested that I approach Robert Mays in this department. I sent the proposal to Robert in February of this year, and he fully endorsed the initiative. He was extremely helpful and gave suggestions on how to work with the park supervisor.
Roll with it: April 24th 2022
Repeated attempts to get the city to part with some woodchips for our lasagne method to break down the sod were spurned, but Clement was able to secure 17 yards(!) of root and wood chips from Aaron Hill of Toronto Tree Removal who arrived bright and early on a Sunday morning with his orange truck. I had rounded up 12 volunteers, but the sunny day had brought more people to the park along with offers to help, so we doubled our volunteers to 25. It took us 5 hours to edge the 166- foot perimeter, roll the kraft paper, distribute the wood chips and install the fence.
17 yards of root and wood chips ready to be distributed on the beds.
Unrolling Kraft paper to go under the wood chips.
Fence installed with a sign.
Just plant it: May 14th 2002
Tagging each plant with a colour coded popsicle stick to correspond to the planting plan helped volunteers identify where to place the plant on-site. We had a smaller group of volunteers to plant the first round of shrubs and perennials, but they were no less dedicated, and we spent 6 hours of this sunny May day planting over 300 plants.
Plants after delivery, being sorted and identified for where to plant.
Strawberry sighting: May 20th 2022
Six days later, after more plants were planted and some weeding and watering happened.
Enter the hosers: May 28th 2022
A group of us, including neighbours who live near the park were organized to start watering every other day as we neared summer. We donated a hose and Len at Home Hardware donated two more and we stored them across Wabash Avenue, coiled up outside of the Fieldhouse at Sorauren Park. It was an arduous task uncoiling 150 feet of hose, running it across the street each time to water. We had to repair the hose several times this year.
Watering is very important for new gardens, even hardy native pollinator gardens in their first year.
Special thanks to Lorraine Johnson: after a phone conversation with her about her experience in implementing a pollinator garden on public space on Portland, we took her advice about being diligent in watering-in a new garden (even if all native species) in the first year especially. It was her biggest regret. We are currently in talks with the park supervisor at Charles G. Williams Park, to use a water source in our park so that we can avoid having cars drive over the hose.
Plants flowering and the strip is looking good.
Planting class: June 27th 2022
When approached about visiting the garden to plant, my son’s teacher and her neighbouring class of grade 2/3’s were very excited. By the end of the sessions, with Pete Ewins and Clement giving advice and anecdotes about the plants they donated, all 40 kids enthusiastically planted at least one plant each.
Students each planted a plant in the garden.
Heard by the teachers later on a school trip to the park at the end of the week: some of those students proudly pointing out ‘their plant’ to their peers. Look at the tiny little milkweed plants.
June and July in all their splendour:
My milkweed is taller than your milkweed: August 23rd 2022
Behold the milkweed planted by the kids on June 27th!
August into September 2022
That’s not all folks:
While the garden sleeps this winter, the plan is to see what kind of ripple effect this garden can have on the community at large. Whether it be through seed-sharing, native plant information sessions, ongoing weeding or watering groups and more planting sessions, we will share an update with you again this time next year.
Thank you very much for your support and interest in the project.
- Alanah Boychuk, coordinator