This map shows Hort supported gardens over time.
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
The journey of the Pollinator Pocket began in August 2021- on a walk to Christie Pitts with my kids, we took the photo below.
This patch on Bloor Street was filled with shoulder high weeds and we thought it would be a good location for a pollinator habitat. We received approval from the adjacent business owner to plant a pollinator garden and got to work.
Here's how we did it.
Once I had approval, in October and November of 2021 I began by taking out all the large weeds and bagged them for city pick up. I took the grass down as low as I could and raked off the loose debris and garbage before winter.
In mid winter, I moved seeds that I had cold moist stratified in my fridge and placed them under a grow light. I started Rudbeckia hirta and Ceoreopsis lancelata in March as well as the Dahlias that would be planted on the perimeter of the garden.
In April of 2022, once the ground thawed, we started digging to remove the top layer of unwanted roots and garbage . We mulched the areas we cleared as we went along. I began hardening off seedlings in preparation for planting.
We had a warm spring and no frost in the forecast so I thought it was the right time to plant the garden. On May 5th, I went over with the plants in my wheelbarrow and planted the garden.I visited the garden daily through May and, with little rain, I was bringing watering jugs from home attached to my wheelbarrow.
Once past the last frost date, I planted some annuals (geraniums, marigolds, and the Dahlias I grew) around the outside of the fence area. At this time, I noticed the plants that were already planted were being nibble at -- I eventually witnessed the starlings who were nesting nearby taking leaves for their nests.
In early June the starlings moved from their nests and the plants that survived could grow. To fill the gaps, I had extra seedlings from outdoor stratifications, acquired a few plants (Stiff leaved goldenrod, butterfly milkweed) from the North American Native Plant Society sale, and some neighbours brought some plants from division (purple coneflower, golden alexanders, wild strawberries). At this time, we also made a sign with some art drawn by my daughter.
It was very dry through the month of June so I was watering daily. I continued to add a few things to the garden - planting Prairie Smoke, Little Blue Stem, Grey Golden Rod, Swamp Milkweed. Started to see Lanceleaf blooms towards the end of June.
Lots of blooms started to pop up in July: Anise Hyssop, Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susan's. Weed growth from seed bank in the soil slowed significantly. However, the amount of garbage rose with increased traffic along Bloor Street. Had a few painted lady butterfly caterpillar show up in the pearly everlastings.
New bloomers in August included Wild Bergamot, Blue and Hoary Vervains, Butterfly and Swamp Milkweed, Mountain Mint.
Although the project was a success, it was met with a few challenges and set backs. I found it challenging at first to connect with volunteers. It took some time, but I was able to do some planting and weeding with volunteers over the summer.
The starlings using the garden as nesting material in the spring was a real set back. I lost about 60% of what I had originally planted. I had overwintered seeds outdoors, so I had back up seedlings to fill in. I found that some of the young plants, for example, the blue vervain, grew much fuller having been pruned to the ground by the starlings.
After the area had been cleared off, I put in a chicken wise fence around where the native plants would be planted in order to protect them from people and pets. The fencing worked great and there were not too many issues inside that area. I left the outside perimeter with mostly annuals in case they suffered damage. One geranium was lost to theft and a Dahlia was killed by having an unknown substance poured on it. As part of my daily chores I would sweep up off the sidewalk and re-mulch if needed to keep the perimeter looking tidy. Overall, the challenges provided key lessons for the next planting season and added to the unique journey and story of the Pollinator Pocket.
Anise Hyssop, Stiff Goldenrod, New England Aster, Golden Alexander, Black Eyed Susan, Grey Goldenrod, Swamp Milkweed, Pearly Everlasting, Canada Wild Rye, Little Bluestem, Spotted Beebalm, Dense Blazing Star, Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Foxglove Beardtongue, Butterfly Milkweed, Hairy Mountain Mint, Hoary Vervain, Blue Vervain, Wild Columbine, Purple Coneflower, Pale Purple Coneflower, Wild Strawberry, Tall Meadow Rue, Smooth Aster.
I am pleased to submit the final annual report from The Garden Party relating to the grant we received in 2022 for our giving garden project.
The generous grant we received from the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto was critical to the success of our garden as it allowed us to purchase seeds, plants and much needed soil amendments. The financial report was previously submitted to your treasurer and we promptly received our reimbursement of expenses, which was much appreciated.
April 9, 2022, our first day in the garden. Getting the beds ready for planting. Lettuce and radish seeded.
As you know, The Garden Party is a giving garden. Over the past 16 years, The Garden Party has been growing and donating herbs and vegetables primarily to the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC) and St. Francis Table, both located on Queen Street West in the Parkdale neighbourhood. This year, we knew the need for fresh food was great and we expanded our donations to include the Parkdale food bank, the Westminster Chapel Food Bank on Roncesvalles, the food bank at the Four Villages Community Health Centre (Dundas Street location), the Loaves and Fishes food bank in the Bloor West Village, and the Winter Welcome Table at Joan of Arc Catholic Church.
This year, we were able to donate 230.6 Kg (508.5 lb.) of fresh produce and 187 herb bundles. Between May 5, our first delivery, and November 5, one of our last, we had 43 harvests. Our bean crop was especially prolific this year.
Bountiful Bok Choy harvest ready for delivery to PARC.
We were able to have more volunteers participate at the same time this year and went back to our usual Saturday morning gardening sessions. We attracted several new volunteers later in the season and hope that they will return next year.
The two churches that provide the land for our gardens, Redeemer Lutheran and St. Joan of Arc, held a blessing of the garden in mid-September that was attended by volunteer gardeners and members of the two churches. It was followed by a potluck lunch and corn roast at Redeemer Lutheran.
One of our volunteers is a member of the Hort. Christine Hughes volunteered more than 75 hours from May to the end of October.
One of the things we have been trying to do over the last few years through involvement with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflyway Project and Project Swallowtail is to incorporate native pollinator plants into the garden and on a hillside at the back of the church property. Redeemer Lutheran Church received several grants that allowed them to establish a small pollinator garden at the front of the church this year, which was in part to attract more pollinators to the vegetable garden.
We received a donation of two sets of vegetable seedlings from the Stop Community Food Centre which were grown in their greenhouse. Several of our volunteers participated in a research study the Stop was doing which was funded by the Samuel Family Foundation to look at whether community gardens promote social connections.
The Garden Party would like to thank the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto for your continued support and selecting us as one of the recipients of your Community Garden Projects for 2022. We were pleased to have a somewhat normal garden season again and we know that the produce we were able to donate this year was especially welcome by the recipients in Parkdale and west Toronto.
Fall, cleaning up the garden.
The Runnymede United Church Creation Care Garden was such a joy to observe and be involved in this summer as we were able to see it in different phases of growth over a full season, for the first time! The second season of the CC garden proved to show that all our initial plantings last year survived and thrived, with exception of the ServiceBerry Tree which faced extreme heat waves last summer and sadly did not pull through.
The Serviceberry tree was replaced in 2022
The grant received from the Horticultural Societies of Toronto and Parkdale allowed us to replace the ServiceBerry Tree, and substantially amend the soil and mulch allowing the garden to thrive, bloom and attract pollinators, and attention from the Church community as well as passersby. It is hard to imagine that the CC garden wasn’t there just two years ago as it seems like a such a staple, a meeting place, a place to pause and reflect, a place to sit and reminisce and a place to come together to give back to nature and our community.
In addition to the generous grant given by the Hort, we received funding from RUC to plant over 170 bulbs with help from Sunday School children and hope to have an impressive show of flowers in spring 2023.
On behalf of the Faith Formation Committee at Runnymede United Church we would like to thank the Hort for supporting us in encouragement and funds to allow the creation of this centerpiece garden and to extend its healthy growth into its second year. After what had been a long time apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the garden gave us something to work towards together and in a safe way. The result was exactly as intended, bringing people from many different areas and backgrounds together, having a shared goal, and spending time on something positive, and furthermore, extended beauty and peace to those not directly involved in the build. Many people from the neighbourhood stop to chat as they walk by, and the children from Sunday School, the on-site daycare, and Scouts Canada who all use the property, enjoy gathering around the garden for activities. Many thanks for your support!
A huge thank you to the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto for approving the 2021 Runnymede United Church Creation Care Garden grant! What a joy this project has been to not only build a garden, but to build relationships and raise spirits in what has been such a challenging time on so many levels. We are happy to provide our final annual report for this year and share how our Creation Care Garden indeed allowed for the creation of so many things.
During the Covid-19 lock down periods, the doors to Runnymede United Church were forced to close to in-person gatherings. Like so many, we have pivoted providing resources and programming virtually, and creating an online community. In late winter 2021, while we were awaiting news of if and when we could re-open our doors, specifically to the Sunday School and Youth Groups & their families, our minds were moving towards Spring/Summer planning and hoping outdoors could be a safe way to connect.
Our Faith Formation committee members came up with the idea to cultivate a native pollinator garden surrounding our Church sign on the front lawn.
This garden would help to further beautify the land, providing a corridor of shelter and food for butterflies, birds, and insects on their migratory paths, as well as serving as a project to safely engage church members, local community folks, and our on-site daycare and nursery schools, with nature.
Our plan unfolded in four phases: Planning and Communications, Design and Breaking Ground, Children’s Activities and Decorations, and Maintenance. Once we received approval from the Church board, along with some funding support, we eagerly applied for and were approved for the garden grant through the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto. We then proceeded to work with other church committees to engage members. Discussions with local gardening experts, and review of past projects from the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto proved to be excellent resources. Our garden map included a realistic size for our inaugural year, as well as planning to have tree stumps and stepping stones allowing the space to be interactive and easy to work around and within. Developing a list of native plants, building materials, suppliers and costs, and to-do jobs on-site helped us stay on track and within our timeline and budget. Throughout our planning, communications in our newsletter, lawn sign and social media posts helped to keep not only church members up to date, but also drew people to our project from the wider community. Through this process, we learned that many people in the city were searching for a safe outdoor community project to lend a hand to and connect with others.
Build day was great fun with a group of enthusiastic adults and kids ready to get muddy in the rain, and as we completed our planting, the sun came out to shine down on us. In the weeks that followed, back-to-back…to-back heat waves were hard on the newly planted garden, but volunteers watered diligently and helped the plants thrive in their new home.
Since the planting, the new space has been lovingly cared for and admired by passers-by and the space has provided a lovely, engaging socially distanced meeting area for the summer Vacation Bible Camp, fall in-person Sunday school and youth programs, and after Church fellowship. Painted prayer stones, which the children had fun decorating, are sprinkled around the garden, and we look forward to spring flowers from the fall bulb planting session. Plans for further teachable moments are underway including sharing to the youth and teens about plant life cycles, the importance of native plants and habitats, environmental conservation, plant labeling in both indigenous and common form, and edible plant tutorials. Our advent display and lights now raise spirits around the upcoming holiday season, making the Creation Care garden truly a space to enjoy year-round!
Thanks to all who participated in the process and build of the RUC Creation Care Garden, and a special thanks to the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto for allowing it to come into fruition.
Garden Project Leads
Brenda Lien (Whitell) (L) and Stephanie Fischer (R)
Last year our garden was used and, indeed, needed more than ever by both our own parishioners and the wider community. In the spring and summer as the pandemic closed the city playgrounds and as High Park was barred for three weeks (during cherry blossom season) our St. Martin’s garden provided a safe and very welcome green space.
Despite the difficult times, the garden volunteers worked all growing season. They worked masked and apart keeping to all safety regulations imposed by the City and the province. Weeding, planting and pruning continued unabated despite the health crisis and the many regulations.
The boxwood moth caused problems to our many boxwood plants this summer. Patty McKnight arranged for a specialist from Landscape Ontario to view our shrubs and we were told that all of them had evidence of this destructive insect. We were especially concerned about the boxwood cross on our green roof as this insect destroys the plants on which it feeds. The only preventative is spraying with a special insecticide. A volunteer took on this job which meant he had to spray all our impacted shrubs every two weeks all summer.
We hope to save all our plants especially our green roof cross by spraying in 2021 also.
Thanks go to all our garden volunteers who watered and cleaned the garden tirelessly all summer to the benefit of the many community members who use the space.
Once again many spring bulbs were planted in the fall. This should lead to a spectacular show in a few weeks for if we ever need a burst of colour and life, it is in this year of Covid.
If you look carefully, you will see that snowdrops are popping out of the church ground, a sure sign that spring and warmer times are indeed coming.
Thanks to all Tuesday morning garden volunteers.
Early Spring 2020
Join or Renew • Donate • Volunteer
Copyright © The Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto. All rights reserved.