September 16, 2018

Weeding Raised Beds in a Central Toronto Courtyard

Getting Gritty in Downtown Toronto


Working as a gardener in Toronto over the past 15 seasons has given me many opportunities to see various city neighbourhoods. Some areas are enclaves for the extremely wealthy while others are occupied by those barely scraping by. The size, condition and the mere existence of gardens, of course, reflect these differences in income and wealth. I was reminded of this during a recent garden cleanup for a condo located in the downtown Toronto neighbourhood called the Garden District

To describe the area as diverse is an understatement: I walked by many renovated million dollar homes and condominiums (although in Toronto's frothy property environment, that dollar value seems not to carry much cachet) located next to garbage-strewn alleys and tired-looking rooming houses and hostels.  And while I don't intend to generalize, some of the folks living in the area are rather...interesting. (If you've ever been in the Moss Park area, you know exactly what I mean.) 


I usually don't work for/around condominiums as our needs normally don't coincide. Most condos have a few containers or shrubs by the front door, that's about it. So it was unusual for me to be contacted by a condo board member named Sheelagh to see if I could do some gardening around the building. We met recently and she showed me around the condominium's interior courtyard which is accessible only to the residents and not visible to the public. The courtyard, more or less, is a series of paths leading to the various homes with many raised beds. There's also a common sitting area nestled among some mature (but declining) Paper Birch trees. 


Looking around the various beds and all those yews (!), I considered such commercial work (maybe that's the wrong word) under the purview of a traditional landscape maintenance company. A crew would come in with their leaf blowers and gas-powered clippers roaring away and be in and out within a hour, tops. Weeding may or may not occur as, for some reason, many companies loathe to pay staff to hand weed: hence, the "mow-blow-go" moniker given to such maintenance companies. I asked Sheelagh if this was the experience in the past and she confirmed that it was but going forward, the board prefers to have a long-term relationship with one gardener. And that gardener, after our initial interview, would be me!


Since there are so many garden beds, I'll show you the "before" and "after" pictures of the same bed. I do like the curvilinear shape of the beds and paths which make the space seem larger than it really is. The plantings (and architecture), though, seem to be stuck in the 1980s: yews and wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) of various shapes and sizes are everywhere and a deep love for Fiveleaf Aralia  (Acanthopanax sieboldianus) very evident. I can understand why these plants were chosen since the require very little care but being surrounded by all these yews especially gave me the impression I was visiting a cemetery! The exciting news is that the board is interested in remaking some of the beds and updating the plant selection. And, yes, that means getting rid of some of the beloved yews. This is a spring 2019 project and I'm looking forward in designing with and transplanting new perennials and deciduous shrubs at this location.




Toronto Downtown Garden District Courtyard Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Downtown Garden
District Courtyard Cleanup Before


Toronto Downtown Garden District Courtyard Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Downtown Garden
District Courtyard Cleanup After 



Garden District Toronto Downtown Courtyard Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Courtyard Cleanup Before 



Garden District Toronto Downtown Courtyard Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Courtyard Cleanup After 

Toronto Downtown Courtyard Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Downtown Courtyard
Cleanup Before



Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup After by Paul Jung--a Toronto Organic Gardener
Garden District Toronto Downtown
Cleanup After 



By Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup Before
District Toronto Downtown
Cleanup Before



By Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup After
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Cleanup After



Toronto Downtown Courtyard Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Services Company
Toronto Downtown Courtyard
Cleanup Before



Toronto Downtown Courtyard Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Services Company
Toronto Downtown Courtyard
Cleanup After



By Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardening Company Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup Before
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Cleanup Before



By Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardening Company Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup After
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Cleanup After



Garden District Toronto Downtown Courtyard Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardening Company
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Courtyard Cleanup Before 



Garden District Toronto Downtown Courtyard Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardening Company
A herd of newly shorn Fiveleaf Aralia 



Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Cleanup Before 



Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
Clipped meatballs



Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup Before by Paul Jung--Toronto Organic Gardener
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Cleanup Before 


Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup After by Paul Jung--Toronto Organic Gardener
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Cleanup After 



Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup Before by Paul Jung--a Toronto Organic Gardener
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Cleanup Before



Garden District Toronto Downtown Cleanup After by Paul Jung--a Toronto Organic Gardener
Garden District Toronto
Downtown Cleanup After




The weeding and pruning took up the entire day but thankfully the weather was cool and dry. I'm looking forward to the glorious weather coming up later this month and October which means, for you dear reader, many posts about fall cleanups.

I apologize in advance....