Guest post by Dorcas Beaton, Chair of the Outreach Pillar at Metropolitan United Church.
During the fall of 2021, in the midst of the fourth wave of the COVID pandemic, tiny bellflowers in our newly planted entry beds bloomed. The product of planning, planting and blessings, this was the first sign of our garden settling into its new home.
Planning the Garden
The planning for the garden began back in 2019 with a nudge from our arts leader, Lisa Hems and Rev. Karen Bowles, to reach out to the Garden Club of Toronto and see if they could help us on a project to renew and refresh our garden beds. The Garden Club agreed. They set up a project group led by Sayeh Beheshti and her talented team, to liaise with us. Many months of planning followed. We helped the Garden Club understand what we are as a church, and our hope to see these gardens as a statement of our values. They would be welcoming to all, affirming, and embrace living with respect for creation. The result? The Garden Club presented a plan to have a pollinator garden, all native species (pre-settler plants needed by our local pollinators and suited to living in this place), and features that supported the pollinators themselves – seats that served as bee houses for gentle solitary native bees, and water reservoirs (bee baths).
The PRIDE garden, a banner across the front of the west garden, would bloom in the colour of the rainbow during the PRIDE month of June and would sing out a statement of our commitment to be an affirming church. The Garden Club jumped into action with regular posts to our church newsletter and website, and the running of a seed planting workshop.
The other part of the planning was funding. We were successful, thanks to a grant from TD Friends of the Environment via Faith & the Common Good, and rich organic soil donated by Scott’s Canada. The Rotary Club Toronto and Pollinate TO also provided grants, which helped us purchase native pollinator plants. Planning involved improving the earth as well and Met members and Rainscape TO tended to the soil in 2020, weeding and enriching it with organic worm castings and letting it rest under inches of cedar mulch and leaves from our own park canopy.
In Fall 2021, planting could finally take place safely. The nurseries held our stock after a spring planting was postponed due to the pandemic. On September 3, the big trees arrived and the pathway went in. Later, on September 10, shifts of Garden Club of Toronto and Metropolitan United volunteers arrived to plant over 200 plants – luckily, both days were sunny!
On September 20th we had an Aboriginal blessing of the trees offered by Met member, Strong Goose (Andree V.). The blessing called on the seven directions to support the trees as they need it. Moon water and cedar were used to welcome each of the five large trees to this land that will be their new home. We are very thankful for the chance to have this welcoming ceremony with the sound of song and drum and prayer reminding us of our inseparable link to all creation, and of our responsibility to care and sustain it.
A fall planting had the advantage of heavy rain and cooler weather. Within two weeks, the plants were growing. On September 22, while gardening in the rain, we noticed new blossoms on our bellflowers. A sign that things were going well.
The entry gardens at Met are the first of many activities to renew the land around our church as part of Met’s Park Ministries.
We are so thankful for the knowledge, skill and energy of our partners at the Garden Club of Toronto, our Park Ministry Team, Strong Goose, and to our funders who saw the benefit of native species and pollinators finding a place to be in the heart of a busy urban centre.
The gardens are now in our hands at Met United, and they will need our care and support. The Friends of Met’s Gardens group has been established to guide our way.
We are very thankful for our sponsors: the Garden Club of Toronto, Scotts Canada for their donation of their “Nature’s Own” organic soil, and TD Friends of the Environment for funding our garden along with the Rotary Club of Toronto, and the City of Toronto (Pollinate TO).
It truly does take a village. May our plants and trees thrive!