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Fruitful Future: New Garden, New Ministry at Toronto's Metropolitan United Church

Written by Dorcas Beaton, member of Metropolitan United Church.

Native species garden

A corner of our church had an untended garden. After years of renovation work in this area, the ground was pretty much barren. We moved a viburnum tree there from the front garden last year.  It is trying to grow, and we will keep letting it try. This area has many people passing by it, and refreshing this garden could add some life, pollinators and resting spots for birds in an otherwise pavement dominated, hot area of our grounds. Plans for the garden were made with a focus on native plants that are hardy and rugged.

A New garden for a New Ministry

Metropolitan United Church is welcoming a new team of ministers, and their work together will take time to grow, and establish "symbiotic root systems." I asked one of our ministers what would make our new garden special. He said something that would bear fruit even if it needed five years of tending to grow into that phase. So the garden became one to be nurtured with the vision of a fruitful future --literally and symbolically. 

In the fall of 2021 we laid down earthworm castings and mulch to amend the soil after a thorough weeding and clearing. Over the winter, seed growers began to work on butterfly weed, coreopsis and milkweed for the garden. In the spring the soil was added from the donation that arrived from Scott’s Canada. Plants were purchased at the spring sales of North America Native Plant Society (NANPS) and the Native Plants in Claremont and brought to the site for a planting day in May, thanks to the generous support of a TD Friends of the Environment grant, delivered by Faith and the Common Good.  

The garden has a sitting stool in it (cut log) and a meandering path leading up to it. Along the path are special herbs available for those who know and need them – sage, wild strawberries, sweetgrass.  The taller shrubs along the border are red osier dogwood along the wrought iron fence, and elderberry in the warm corner against the church and a Saskatoon berry along the southern open side as a nod to our new minister who comes from Saskatchewan. The central area is backed by sturdy Joe Pye weed, native coneflower, obedient plants, milkweed and an abundance of bright butterfly weed. Along the front are alternating wild geranium and coreopsis with black eyed Susans framing the entry to the small path.  

Flourishing Future

The garden flourished. Old obedience plants rose in unexpected places but they fit right in. In downtown Toronto we do have challenges with theft and damage but we have tried to put in sturdy plants. We have back up shrubs growing to replace ones that were “borrowed.” The butterfly weed was a highlight this year with the bright, long lasting orange and yellow blossoms. The viburnum looks pretty weary but it actually was a resting spot for many birds, and it is sending up new shoots from its roots. We will continue to nurture this garden.

A new era of ministry has begun at Metropolitan, benefiting from the ministries that came before and provided such a rich garden bed in which to grow. Our garden will mirror its growth.

Before: North West Corner Garden After: Flourishing garden


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