Greening of Roncy Part 1

Plant bed on Roncesvalles Ave.

Photo Credit: Jackie Taschereau

When plans for the reconstruction of Roncesvalles Avenue were in formation, trees and plant beds were one of the top features that residents and businesses wanted to see along our main street. So, when the sidewalks were reconstructed in 2011, the City installed 21 plant beds and several hydrants with the agreement that they be maintained by the Roncesvalles Village BIA.

After local residents began compulsively weeding and watering some of the beds, RoncyWorks formed a Green Team to coordinate the efforts of these local volunteers. For over two years, the RoncyWorks Green team has tended these 21 “gardens” along Roncy.

Leading the efforts of our now 21 Green Team volunteers, are Heidi Eisenhauer, a native plant specialist and co-lead Barbara Japp, member of the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto. Supporting the team are the Roncy Sweeps who clear litter out of the beds including the infestation of cigarette butts. Fortunately, we’re seeing a decrease in the volume of cigarette butt litter this summer, since the installation of ashcans along the street.

Our approach to urban street gardens

Photo Credit: Jackie Taschereau

Plant bed on Roncesvalles Ave.

In planning the gardens, plant choices are based on xeriscaping, a water-efficient approach to gardening. Although the BIA has hired a company to water the plants three times per week, without a good rainfall and adequate watering the beds can go dry. To keep the aphids in check, ladybugs are added.

The volunteers assigned to each garden are encouraged to design the space based on what’s already thriving in their plant beds, the soil composition, available light, empty spaces, and input from nearby shopkeepers who are particularly interested. Heidi encourages a selection of perennials, particularly native plants. After putting together the list of new plants desired, Heidi orders the plants over time as needed, starting in June. This gives the team a chance to observe what has survived over the winter, how the plant beds are faring against local foot traffic including dogs, and other design criteria for urban street gardens.

Learn what’s involved in urban street gardening along Roncy.


Planting for spring

Volunteers from the RoncyWorks Green Team and their kids plant spring bulbs in the street planting beds near Copernicus Lodge.

Undaunted by the rain, new volunteer Robin Poole and her three friends came out with their children to plant bulbs along Roncesvalles. Three cheers for the big and little volunteers. From Left to Right: Back row – Robin, Michelle, Amanda (holding Ruby) Front row – Georgia, Jules, Finn, Spencer and Alex.

In the week before superstorm Sandy blew in, volunteers from our Green Team got out to plant 800 spring bulbs among the 21 planting beds along Roncesvalles. Several beds were planted by volunteers in the cold and wind as the storm approached. Three cheers for the big and little volunteers.

The bulbs were provided by the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. Next spring you’ll see a splash of yellow, orange, white and blues from the Narcissis Hawera, Red Devon, Fortune, Geranium and Scilla Siberica as these new bulbs spring forth.

Thank you to Barbara Japp and Jackie Taschereau who led the effort and to the the ten others who helped out with the planting. Thanks also to the Sweeps who got in there ahead of time to clear the planters of trash and cigarette butts. And, thanks to the rain, they got plenty of water.

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New tree sustains damage

Young tree damaged on Roncesvalles.It was truly disheartening to see that a large branch broken on one of our new Black Locust trees between 111 and 113 Roncesvalles one Friday evenng in early October. And it was shattering to see a huge branch torn off the same tree a few days later. The RMRA’s Greening Committee Chair, Bill Montague, called 311 and was told that Forestry would check it out.

This damage had us fearing the worst, that it might have been a victim of vandalism. But, it might also have been a case of extreme carelessness. There had been substantial construction at 115 Roncesvalles Avenue for quite some time, and it is possible that the damange was somehow related, or that a delivery van or something similar snagged the branch.

We’re hoping the cause is the latter and that no one in our neighbourhood would damage a street tree on purpose. At the same time we’re aware that there are great misunderstandings about how trees fit into an urban environment. For example, many people think that tree roots are the cause of pipe damage, whereas it’s leaking, broken pipes that attract tree roots to the available water.

Thankfully, there are tree experts in the neighbourhood keeping a watchful eye. We’ll have to see how this one recovers.

Exploring solutions to butt litter

After the removal of our home made ash cans, cigarette butt litter on Roncy has definitely increased. We need to explore more permanent solutions to this problem. This should include the addition of cigarette receptacles interspersed between the trash cans near spots where there is a larger volume of butts accumulating.

Other cities and communities have been grappling with the problem, so let’s learn from them. In San Diego, their longest running environmental non-profit, I Love a Clean San Diego, runs regular cleanups and is addressing prevention. This year they have partnered with other non-profits to install ash cans along their streets. They are piloting the program in three communities and are monitoring the volume of butts before and after ash can installation.

The DropPit is a solution used in the Netherlands to address the most widespread form of litter: cigarette butts and chewing gum. Makes you wonder how they handle this in the winter time.

Even Paris wants smokers to stop tossing butts in the street. This year they have started attaching little ribbed resin disks to public waste bins where smokers can put out their cigarettes.

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Earth Hour on Roncy 2012

Hundreds of millions of people, businesses and governments around the world, unite each year to support the largest environmental event in history~ Earth Hour.

More than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide, switched off their lights for earth hour 2011 alone. Thus sending a powerful message for action on climate change. It also ushered in a new era with members going Beyond the Hour to commit to lasting action for the planet.

And we helped. Our last year contribution gained national recognition from WWF Canada and I personally cannot be any prouder to have initiated the now annual, Roncesvalles Candlelight Walk. Not only did we as a community “flick off”, but we also gathered together to walk in solidarity.

On the day of, please consider; RONCY CELEBRATES Lantern Making Workshop at  High Park Baptist Church (Hewitt & Roncesvalles) anytime between 12 – 4:30. Then you can have your very own, hand crafted, Earth Hour Lantern.

Before you leave…. turn your lights off

Earth Hour Revellers are invited to gather in front of the Reveue Cinema at 8:15, then commence the walk at 8:30 with 2012 Earth Hour Walk Marshall;  Sandie Drake.

Everyone is encouraged to bring their own candle, although some will be on hand – courtesy of the RVBIA. Please  consider using a recycled container such as a pre used glass jar or tin, as your carrier.

All are expected to cross the street and walk along the commercial side, toasting fellow participants who will be enjoying reduced lighting in the various, dimly lit bistros, restaurants and bars.

New to our coordination masthead this year  is Fern Avenue Public School Eco Team Master; Joanne Somers. She has been engaged to provide a beautiful visual treat at the conclusion of our community supported walk.

Afterwards, try to frequent one of our many supporting eateries and enjoy a little quality “Do it in the Dark” post walk celebration.

Thanks to Keith Denning from the RVBIA for securing the participation of our local businesses and a bigger thanks to you, for being a part of this fabulous community!

Hope to see you all there!

Yours truly

Karyn Klaire Koski