Harbord Village Gardeners


Monarch butterfly on buddleia flowerDo you love gardening and talking about gardens? Do you want to help make Harbord Village green and livable? Then you belong in the Harbord Village Gardeners, an informal network of people who like growing things in our downtown neighbourhood.

The group includes gardeners of all ages and experience. We work together to encourage gardening and to implement public greening projects. This page outlines our regular events and occasional initiatives, with links to more news on other pages; don’t miss the Advice files.

To receive occasional messages about local gardening projects and events, offers of plants or produce being given away, and questions and answers about gardening topics, email gardeners@harbordvillage.com and ask to be added to the email distribution list. (Past eblast messages are archived here.)

All-Season Sidewalk Strolls — Memories and Photos

2019 Harbord Village Garden Strolls -- flyer

Since 2017, small groups of local garden-lovers have gathered on Tuesday spring and summer and fall evenings at Margaret Fairley Park around 7pm (6:30pm in September). We confer on a route, then set off to stroll around a block or two. We stop to admire plants in front gardens, chat with each other about what they are and how to grow them, and share enjoyment and questions about city gardening. Sometimes we end up talking with—and thanking—the gardeners in person.

Unfortunately, during the pandemic we haven’t been able to gather in groups.

But as a reminder of the pleasures of walking around the neighbourhood, we can sit down and enjoy these slide shows. The first sets (with captions identifying plants) come from solitary walkers in 2020 and 2021, with the most recent first; the final set collects photos taken by group participants in 2018 and 2019, showing the seasonal changes from spring to fall. These photos celebrate the range of local gardens, from designed and cared-for to wild and random, and also appreciate the laneways in our urban environment.

  • Thanks to all the gardeners who created these works of art!
  • And thanks to the photographers who sent the images: Carly Basian, Leslie Carlin, Janice Dembo, Lindsay Duncan, Elaine Ford, Amy Furness, Sarah Hastie, Kurt Krumme, Elinor Levine, Richard Longley, Marilyn Martin, Angela Miles, Margaret Procter, Susan Purvis, Diane Roblin, Regine Schmid, Nicole Schulman, Mina Tommasi, Norman Track, and others.
  • Use the arrows or mousewheel to scroll through the selections.

Amazing June

Now everything is bursting out in the full range of colours, sizes, shapes, and types. Roses in many variations, of course, and vines and trees have been spectacular too. Many of these photos were taken from the sidewalk, and show how blooms complement our fences and hardscaping.


Glories of May

With several shots of warm weather, the season roared through our gardens in May. Tree peonies and rhododendrons showed off huge blooms and delicate colours, with other flowers adding mauve and purple to the palette. More trees are flowering too.


Spring Interrupted and Continuing

The snowfall on April 21 melted almost right away (between 8am and 12 noon in the first two photos here), and spring blossoms then continued apace and mostly unharmed. The famous Sakura cherry blossoms outside Robarts Library recovered perfectly, and the forsythia, tulips and daffodils in Nicole’s sheltered back garden kept bursting with colour.

Early Spring: From Solitary Flowers to Colourful Arrays

Among the flowers depicted here: snowdrops, bloodroot, crocus, dwarf iris, forsythia, flowering almond, Pasqueflower, coltsfoot, violets, pulmonaria, scilla, daffodils, flowering cherry.

Lockdown Winter: Still Interesting


Golden November: Extended Fall Season


Into October: Bees, Trees, and Garden Textures 


After the Fall Solstice: Colours, Pollinators, and Seeds


Mid-September 2020: Early Fall Gardens


Late August 2020: Garden Rewards


Late July 2020: Gardens Thriving 


Mid-July 2020: Gardens in Full Bloom



May and June 2020: Central Tech Gardens

For a note on how these gardens came about, see the sidebar story of August 1, 2020.





Mid and Late June 2020



Early June 2020 



Late May 2020


Early May 2020


PAST Sidewalk Strolls 2018-19

Early Summer Plant Fairs

adult and kids planting at HVRA Plant Fair
Rose Rodrigues and helpers; Ann Eyerman surveying.

In early June each year (except 2020, and now 2021), Harbord Village neighbours mingle with longterm-care residents and visitors on the south patio of Kensington Gardens Residence. We reminisce about past gardens and look forward to future ones, and everybody enjoys the display of donated plants. They’re all given away free of charge (with a donation jar on the table). We also share books and magazines, equipment, and ideas about gardening.

        • See photos and notes from past Plant Fairs on our page in the HVRA Events section.
        • In 2020 and 2021, since we can’t hold a public event during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re experimenting with contactless giveaway of seeds, seedlings, and perennial divisions. Read about the rotating offers in our weekly email messages. (Sign up for the mailing list by writing gardeners@harbordvillage.com.)

    Protocols for Contactless Sharing, 2020 and 2021

    These processes maintain the principles of social distancing, but also support neighbourliness and collaboration.

    1. When you have extra seeds, seedlings, perennial divisions or other garden material to give away, write gardeners@harbordvillage.com to describe your offer. It will be listed in the next Gardeners’ eblast, with your email address so people can contact you directly. Keep doing this all season!
    2. Also feel free to write gardeners@harbordvillage.com and ask if anybody has specific items that you want. Those requests will also go into the next Gardeners’ eblast. Chances are one of the 100+ people on the mailing list will have something in the category you’re craving.
    3. When you see an item described that you’d like, email the donor directly to arrange a pickup date and method. Don’t meet in person; expect to collect items from a porch or walkway.
    4. DONOR: To minimize the risk of virus transmission, put plants where they’re easily accessible (not in a closed box or in a shed) so they can be picked up without the recipient having to touch anything else.
    5. RECIPIENT: To minimize risk of viral spread, avoid touching your face after handling the items, and wash your hands frequently. For extra high caution, you could leave the items undisturbed for a couple of days before planting.

Winter Outings

The Harbord Village Gardeners periodically create other local events–a book club comparing our favourite books about gardening, for instance, and occasional group visits to sites of interest. Here are two outings from February 2019 (desperately needed) and February 2020 (very welcome).

An informal excursion in February 2019 was particularly welcome. Kate Hamilton interrupted the bleak winter with a suggestion that we visit Allan Gardens, a short streetcar ride away from our icy streets. Nine of us took that trip on Sunday 17 February. Kate describes the experience: “Green everywhere—my eyes are filled up with green—and a glory of textures. I knew a visit was a good idea, but hadn’t anticipated just how satisfied I’d feel after an hour in a livable environment with friends, and feasts everywhere for the eyes and mind.” Here’s the evidence–photos by Leslie Carlin, Carolyn Franke, Marilyn Martin, and Angela Miles. Put your cursor on the first photo, then use the arrows to see sights that brought solace in a hard winter.

The winter of 2020 wasn’t quite as desperate, but a small group greatly enjoyed Allan Gardens on February 22. We breathed in the plant-laden air, soaked up the colours, basked in the tropical heat along with the turtles, and enjoyed meeting several volunteer guides–one of whom turned out to live in Harbord Village and promptly joined the Gardeners’ group. Here are more photos to keep us believing in summer, at least in the form offered by a sunny greenhouse.

Concrete Street Planters

Harbord Village residents have been trying for years to make green spaces out of the concrete planter boxes placed at internal street corners by Toronto Transportation Services to remind drivers about our traffic maze. They were never things of beauty in themselves, and the trees they came with seldom survived. But residents created colourful miniature gardens in them nevertheless.

In 2018, the City began to replace these in-ground plantings. This initiative addresses a goal of the Harbord Village Green Plan, to take under-used public spaces and make them green. It rests on the City’s respect for our gardeners, who saw the potential of the ugly concrete boxes originally, transformed them into small gardens, and now continue to care for the new plantings. Local residents Jennette Boehmer and Amy Furness have coordinated their efforts with the resources of the city.

The replacement is happening in two phases. In late 2018, Phase 1 reconstructed and replanted the intersections at Lennox and Borden, Sussex and Major, Ulster and Borden, and Major and Ulster. The other installations will take place in late 2019 or 2020; meanwhile, local gardeners continue to care for the boxes.

As the photos below indicate, the new structures form larger barriers to wrong-way drivers. In spite of a late planting and some initial disappointments with tree and plant survival, most are starting to show their potential as public gardens. (All plants are guaranteed by the grower, and will be replaced if necessary under warranty.)

Pollinator Study, Summer 2018

Lydia Wong in Harbord Village garden, Summer 2018In Summer 2018, a dozen Harbord Village back yards became sites for a student’s study of pollinators in urban residential gardens—a very special experience for all. Undergraduate Lydia Wong was an intern at U of T’s Centre for Global Change Science, supervised by Harbord Village resident and Forestry professor Sandy Smith. She visited the gardens at least weekly to watch closely and take photos.

Her study was on pollinators in urban habitats, and participants learned a lot about that subject—for instance, that most of the bees in our gardens don’t live in hives or produce honey. Lydia’s excitement about her topic is contagious, and she has generously shared images and notes about what she saw in our gardens.

Lydia sent amazing closeups and fascinating short movies to the people whose gardeners she visited, showing pollinators at work on individual flowers. In her Photo Album, 5 June to 17 August 2018, click on any image to open an information bar identifying the insects and flowers.

In addition, these two movies (tagged MVI) will open automatically after a short loading period:

  • A leafcutter bee going in and out of a fencepost hole. See Musing #1 below for an account of leafcutter bees.
  • Syrphid flies mating. They’re not bees, but they function as pollinators because their hairy bodies carry pollen from one plant to another.

Lydia also sent periodic brief messages to the gardeners in her project, modestly calling them Musings.Click on the links below for her PDF files:

  • bird toad cartoon


    Mirvish Village Plant Rescue, Summer 2017

    With encouragement from the site manager, a group of Harbord Village Gardeners managed to save plants from the Markham St. stretch of the Honest Ed’s site just before construction took over. A stalwart group arrived on August 10, armed with shovels, bags, and pots. We admired the persistence of abandoned plants, including some large shrubs and many weeds, and took home several shopping carts and a car trunk full of perennials. Many have been planted in the Croft Street planters; others are recovering in the rescuers’ gardens. The photo slideshow below tells the story.

    Kensington Hospice Sensory Herb Garden, 2014-17 and continuing

    Members of the Harbord Village Gardeners designed a Sensory Herb Garden in the back courtyard of Kensington Hospice at 38 Major Street and maintained it from 2014 to 2017. In 2018, maintenance was taken on by a volunteer from Kensington Hospice. The collection of traditional herbs and other garden produce brings joy to residents, staff, and visitors, and can be visited by the public when the back gate on Brunswick is open.

    It started in 2014 with a few large pots, then expanded to include in-ground plantings. The photos below show the original designer, Jess Lemieux, and one of the caregivers, Ann Eyerman. They also display the garden’s recovery after being crushed by a fallen tree branch in June 2016. The garden increased each year in size and variety. In 2017, it included both nasturtiums and mini-tomatoes. In 2018 and 2019, hospice volunteer Katrina Buchanan experimented with growing vegetables as well as herbs. (Photos by Margaret Procter. Click on the arrows for a slide show with captions.)

    Advice from Expert Gardeners

    What can I grow in a container? Should I try perennials instead of buying new plants every year? Is this a weed? Why didn’t my lilac bloom this year? Use the green links below to get written answers to questions like these. They were prepared by Harbord Village experts for specific projects, and remain valuable as practical advice.