Al Yoshiki's picture
Posted by Al Yoshiki /
St. Clair Urban Forest Demonstration Garden
With a week of high winds and rain - the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy – we are all waiting on Jessica to see if the seasonal clean up of the St. Clair Urban Forest Demonstration Garden is a no-go. But as the clock rolls around, the email arrives and we, the stewards of the garden, are ready for the last hurrah of a very hot and dry season.



5:30 p.m.  The winds have dumped a tonne of garbage in the garden - there must be an appliance store nearby - cardboard boxes, the size of a fridges are scattered around.  We stand in awe, but it’s time to get to work.

A few minutes pass; the garden takes shape and brings back a lot of memories.  Everything was so small back in 2010 that we weren’t sure where to walk for fear of stepping on something we had just planted.  Pigeons would perch on the window ledge above and watch our every move.

But two years later it is quite a different story. We sidestep giant collections of showy tick trefoil seeds and clean off the shrub leaves that are covered in pigeon poop. 


Grown wild


5:35 p.m.  Jessica points out a six-foot tree of heaven which had sprung from almost nothing.  It’s an invasive species she says.  I remember watering it all summer, wondering what it would be.  I spot two more and I think to myself that maybe it is time to take a refresher Tree Tenders course and brush up on my tree ID.

For now, I cut down the invasive trees and start digging at the roots.


5:50 p.m.  Still digging away. These tap roots go deep - very deep. I get some of them, and as I look up the garden is transformed. Katy and Taylor have trimmed back the elderberry shrubs and waterspouts from the grey dogwood tree. The rest of the tree of heaven roots come out and Marie, Paula and I start to bundle the branches.




6:25 p.m.  Ouch!  A thorn from the pasture rose sticks me in the hand. I scramble for my gloves and in the confusion I lose my ring. I feel around for it as the sun sets.


6:30 p.m.  Miraculously I find the ring! The scene reminds me of the week I spent retracing my steps all over town, looking for my Blackberry - After looking everywhere I finally went to the last hope I had: the TTC lost and found. No luck. Feeling hopeless, I headed back to St. Clair, looking forward at least to a relaxing time in the garden. As I gathered garbage I saw a flash of metal and a leather case.  My Blackberry!  (It must have been hiding under the tree of heaven.) By this point it had survived two waterings and a rainfall.  I brushed off a few slugs and after a day of drying – it still worked!


6:40 p.m.  We keep bundling branches. Helen lays on more from the highbush cranberry shrubs and sweet oxeye as she trims them back. John adds weeds and cut grass to finish off our huge pile, which we leave behind for our friends at the TTC to compost.


Group photo


6:50 p.m. We call it a night, posing for group pictures before heading to Second Cup. We drink hot tea and reminisce over how much the garden has grown. I share my name for it: our Secret Garden.  You can take a step away from the concrete of mid-town and lose yourself in the shrubs and trees. It’s where anything lost can always be found.



Hi Great that you maintain this Secret Garden. How the general public gets to see native plants incorporated into our urban scape is critical ... especially now as the city is reviewing the bylaw on Natural Garden exemptions. If you are concerned about how this bylaw and how it will directly affect residential naturalized gardens, you should send an email to before November 27 with the following subject line: My comments for 2012.LS17.2 on November 27, 2012 City Council. Please check in with your local councillor and let them know how you feel about this matter before November 27. Also, a detail to note .... re " trimmed back.... waterspouts from the grey dogwood tree." Grey Dogwood is a shrub, not a tree, so of course will grow "water sprouts". It is very hardy and will grow into a good size fairly erect, many branched shrub depending on conditions. It will also sucker out and want to develop a thicket. Keep up the good work. M

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