January 15, 2012

Evergreen Brick Works

A resource for organic and ecological gardening in Toronto

Evergreen Brick Works sign by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog

The Evergreen Brick works (EBW) is a renovated site formerly known as the Don Valley Brick Works. The old site closed in the 1980s and became neglected and dilapitated. Now it is “a vibrant public space featuring a weekly local farmers’ market and retail garden market; a dynamic “living” lab where environmental innovators and companies can share ideas and emergent clean technologies; and a “hands-in-the-dirt” learning space for youth and adults alike”

Source: EBW pamphlet “Explore.  Discover. Play” 2012

My family visited the EB recently. Here are some of the highlights:

Evergreen Brick Works ice rink at Koerner Gardens by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Anticipation at Koerner Gardens

The ice rink in Koerner Gardens was full of skaters enjoying a crisp winter afternoon. We got there just as the zamboni was cleaning up the surface. (Ever wonder why this machine is called a “ zamboni”?  Look at this link: http://www.zamboni.com/)

Evergreen Brick Works ice rink rafters by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog

I like this shot of the old roof rafters, beams and ties against the brilliant blue sky. The geometry of the triangles and rectangles is interesting, throwing shadows on the rink.

Evergreen Brick Works giant coneflower on a building wall  by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Echinacea purpurea "Humongous"

At the Chimney Court  Outdoor Play and Learning Centre, this mega coneflower was fixed to the exterior wall. It’s very realistic, with the crinkled petals and spiky centre. Even the shade of purple/pink is close to the real Echinacea purpurea. Can you imagine a meadow punctuated with these huge models?

Evergreen Brick Works metal raised beds by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Wouldn't lick this right now!

Near the coneflower there were many raised garden beds and containers. Of course, all the plants have died or are dormant so the containers’ form and design are more prominent. I associated these metal (aluminum?) containers with stacked and welded window wells used to protect basements from flooding via below-grade windows. I suppose they’re “edgy” looking but any overwinter perennials will have a much tougher time surviving the colder root zone. Of course, if annual veggies are grown, this point is irrelevant. You won’t have to lug these guys into the house as they won’t crack like terra-cotta ones.

Evergreen Brickworks lookout point overseeing Don Valley by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog

We hiked up to a lookout point to see a birds-eye view of the old quarry excavated during the brick- making times. Plants and animals have returned to, what I imagine, a once scarred and empty pit. The white areas are the frozen ponds with a trail looping around. At this time of the year, the landscape is muted. Too bad we don’t have more snow for a prettier landscape.

Evergreen Brickworks winter sumac by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Come here, my pretty....
On the way to the top, I noticed a patch of sumac. The branching reminds me of many scary claws with wicked fingers, reaching out to nab unsuspecting passer-bys. There's beauty and wonder in a plant's structure, only if you are open to see it.

Evergeen Brick Works garden center organic seed packets by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Ready, set, germinate!

The retail garden centre stocks many native shrubs and perennials so it would be worth a new trip in the spring to see the selection it has. For now, we saw these organic veggie and herb seeds for sale. Should sow many of these within several months!

We lasted only a few hours as the cold set in. It was a very pleasant way of spending some hours learning about a re-purposed landscape that embraces its history. We see the site every time we drive up and down Toronto's main north-south highway and now we know a little more about the area.

The EBW also features a farmers’ market open every Saturday morning, a cafe, skating rentals, and a bike maintenance area. There's a free shuttle bus from outside of the Broadview subway, which is noteworthy as parking (while ample) is not free.

For more information, visit http://ebw.evergreen.ca/


  1. I wish the garden stores in the UK were more appreciative of our native and local plants. Thanks for the blog

  2. Supply and demand dictates what's available. Nurseries will continue to grow plants pushed through by the big box stores, to the detriment of landscapes everywhere! The Evergreen garden centre provides an alternative thankfully! Thanks for commenting.

  3. What a great spot. I remember its old run down state - definitely going to have to put it on my to-visit list! Thx.

  4. Hi Barbara,

    they've (Evergreen) preserved some old walls with graffiti to remind visitors of the site's use before reclamation, nice to see the history not whitewashed. Thanks for commenting!