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Creating Native Plant Gardens at Islington United, Toronto

Submitted by the following members of Islington United Church, Toronto: Lorraine McCarthy, Steve Tower and Randee Marquez, Communications Ministry Specialist.

Thanks to the grant from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Islington United Church was able to create two new native plant garden spaces: a sun-shade garden and a full-sun garden. Here is an overview of the stages of preparation of the spaces, followed by the planting and progression of each garden area.

Creating a plan Planted!


Sun-Shade Garden: Preparation

The first step in preparation was to remove the overgrown, non-indigenous Japanese maple that served as a raccoon highway to our building roof and apiary. With the ornamental tree removed, more space was available for planting.

Volunteers removing invasives Plants in the ground


In the spring, with the previously existing plants still in place, the sun-shade native plant garden awaited its makeover. Following the removal of the Japanese maple in the late winter, we took some extra time to reduce the size of the stump in this part of the garden by removing as many roots as possible. Due to the challenges of working in a constrained space, we had to leave the core part of the stump in the garden.

Sun Garden: Preparation

The new site of the sun native plant garden was planned for an area that was home to overgrown, non-native hosta plants. These were removed to make room for the native plants.

We were very grateful to receive two generous donations from Scotts Canada: a skid of organic soil and many bags of garden mulch. Both were stored in our outdoor seating area while the preparation work of the gardens was underway.

Hostas, out! Stack of mulch


Planning the Native Plant Gardens

We collaborated with community partners and together created plans for each new garden space. Once the plan was agreed upon, we ordered the plants.

By mid-June initial planting of the sun-shade garden was complete. Newly labelled plants included blanket flower, blue vervain, dense blazing star, black-eyed Susan and foxglove. 

Due to the hot dry weather in early July, dedicated Islington United Church volunteers watered the garden every one to two days to help the young plants become established. By the end of July, the sun-shade garden plants were very happy in their new home!

Plantings Our plants are thriving!


Planting and Progression: Sun Garden

On June 11, planting of the native plant sun garden began.

In early July, the native plant sun garden was flourishing. Plant labels identified the location of butterfly milkweed, common milkweed, New England aster, pale coneflower, blue lobelia, grey headed coneflower, Missouri ironweed, wild columbine, bee balm.

By the end of July the garden was beautiful and blooming! We were pleased to welcome visitors to the gardens - Monarch caterpillars. This is what it is all about!


Our wonderful, pollinator, native plant gardens were made possible by a generous grant from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and a donation of mulch and organic soil from Scotts Canada Ltd. Thank you! 

Gratitude also goes to the many volunteers whose enthusiastic support made it possible to translate these gifts into a viable new home for native plants and habitat. To all of you - your encouragement, hands-on work and guidance were indispensable!

Specific thanks to the following contributors:

  • Donna Lang, Faith and the Common Good, for her ongoing involvement from start to finish 
  • Douglas Counter, Etobicoke-based Block Ambassador with Project Swallowtail, who was involved in planning, plant selection and planting, and offered steadfast encouragement throughout all stages 
  • Peter Ewins, Heavenly Fusion Gardens, who was an important part of planning and plant selection, and provided enthusiastic support for the project through its entirety
  • Islington United Church members and gardeners who spearheaded the cause and put their ideas and muscles into the realization of this dream. 


Monarch caterpillar on milkweed

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