Author Archives: Kevin Kapenda

Meet Abby Bushby

RoncyWorks Green Team Profiles

To mark Garden Days 2018, the Roncesvalles Village BIA is showcasing the dedicated community members who maintain our sidewalk gardens and beautify our vibrant street.

Abby Bushby

Abby Bushby is the Chair the Friends of Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden organization and a volunteer gardener with Roncy Works. She maintains the Peace Garden located at the eastern corner of Roncy and Dundas.

The Peace Garden was constructed in 2016, “after a few years of research, advocacy, community collaborations, artistic planning, and drumming up of support.” This collaboration included a partnership with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, who have designated the Peace Garden as a “place of heritage and continued interest through the Moccasin Identifier Project.

According to Abby, advocating for the Peace Garden was about beautification and commemoration. “Gardening at the Peace Garden grew out of a wish to green and beautify a sad and sterile intersection at Dundas and Roncy with an odd, concrete jut of land,” said Abby. “The Peace Garden celebrates the historical origins of this portion of Dundas Street, as both an Indigenous path, and as a military road for the Battle of York 1813.” In addition to the historical significance of the Peace Garden, Abby also appreciates “nurturing the native species of trees, grasses and floral plants, as well as the companionship of other Peace Garden and RoncyWorks gardeners.”

Sprouting Sacred Tobacco

One unique attribute of the Peace Garden is how it features indigenous sacred plants and art engravings, known as the Peace Path. “We continue to work with Indigenous partners to grow and illustrate traditional Indigenous agriculture. Last year it was a Three Sisters Mound of corn, beans, squash, as taught to us by growers at Six Nations of the Grand River. This year we are growing sacred tobacco from seeds gifted by a woman from Sheguiandah First Nation, and planted by Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.”

Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden

Maintaining the Peace Garden and its public square is raft of challenges, due in large part to its location and popularity. “Maintenance of the Garden presents some challenge. Maria Kolos and I sweep up butts and pull coffee cups out of the plant beds. We clear furniture and advertisement clutter from the displayed community arts projects.” However, receiving compliments on the Peace Garden and explaining its purpose to visitors makes all of the maintenance worth it. “More rewarding though, every time we garden, one or more passersby stop to say ‘thanks’, and to chat about the purposes of the Peace Garden, which enriches us all.  In every conversation we learn a little, and impart a little more appreciation of public, streetside garden for a greener community.”

Learn more about the Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden here. 

Meet Mary Wiens

RoncyWorks Green Team Profiles

In celebration of Garden Days 2018, the Roncesvalles Village BIA is showcasing the dedicated community members who maintain our sidewalk gardens and beautify our vibrant street.

Mary Wiens

Mary Wiens has been a volunteer gardener with RoncyWorks since the community group was established in 2011. Mary helped launch RoncyWorks because “she was excited to continue involvement with other people in the community who had been meeting to discuss some improvements to the public realm along Roncesvalles”. Mary maintains the garden at 305 Roncesvalles in front of The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub.

During her time on the Roncesvalles Renewed committee, Mary and her fellow residents advocated for improved greenery on the street. Through community engagement and partnerships with local officials, Roncesvalles Renewed secured funding for various beautification initiatives proposed by residents. This included 21 new garden beds and “better planting of street trees, which at that time struggled to survive in small concrete planter boxes that were both an impediment and an eyesore along Roncesvalles.”

Mary’s Garden at 305 Roncy

RoncyWorks sprung from Roncesvalles Renewed in 2011, after committee members and residents expressed interest in maintaining the new gardens. “Using the friendships and relationships we’d forged in that process, it made sense to build on them, by creating teams to tend the new garden beds.”

For Mary, developing friendships with RoncyWorks volunteers and community members has made public gardening especially rewarding. “I’ve met some of the best people in the neighbourhood through this community work, and my encounters with a growing circle of friends any time I go out on Roncy are enormously enriching.” It is this sense of community that also makes each of the gardeners’ beds unique in Mary’s view. “The tough little rose bushes in my bed in front of The Dizzy surprise and delight me every year, as do the plants tended by my fellow gardeners. The planting beds have a charm and personality that you don’t see in professionally maintained beds tended by the city’s parks and rec department.”

Of course, overseeing a public garden is not easy. It requires flexibility and patience. However, learning from one another has allowed Mary and her fellow gardeners to overcome the challenges affecting their gardens. “We share our victories and failures — everything from painting butt tins to a good rainfall, to our battle with dogs and vandals — with each other online. We take the vandalism,the dogs and the cigarette butts more personally. But we also take every good rainfall and every compliment from a passerby more personally as well.”

Meet Karen Pivnick

RoncyWorks Green Team Profiles

In celebration of Garden Days 2018, the Roncesvalles Village BIA is showcasing the dedicated community members who maintain our sidewalk gardens and beautify our vibrant street.

Garden at 413 Roncesvalles

Karen Pivnick is volunteer gardener for Roncy Works and a resident of Roncesvalles Village for over 30 years. She maintains the garden bed at 413 Roncesvalles Ave, in front of the Westerly Bar and Village Meat deli. 

This is Karen’s second  season gardening with RoncyWorks. Karen joined RoncyWorks to combine “her love of gardening” with community involvement. She took over maintenance of the native plant garden planted by former RoncyWorks Green Team volunteer, Heidi Eisenhauer, after she moved away. What she finds most inspiring about gardening is watching her plants evolve and flourish, as well as seeing the joy her garden brings to people.

Karen Pivnick

Karen began gardening at a young age, experiencing the “creativity and work that was required” through her parents early on. As a homeowner, Karen has been “maintaining the plants on her property for over 30 years”.   

Despite her experience, being “a part of RoncyWorks and working with a dedicated group of gardeners” has allowed her to learn more about gardening from fellow community members. Furthermore, maintaining a street garden has given her a different perspective of the craft. “We can care for street gardens as you would a personal garden,” said Karen. “However, you need to manage expectations when a garden is in a public space. Selected plants must be able to survive wear and tear, worn soil and drought conditions.”

Garden Days on Roncy

While celebrating Garden Days 2018, the Roncesvalles Village BIA reflects on the importance of streetside gardens to our community and streetscape. Garden Days is Canada’s national celebration of gardening and its impact on communities across the country. Garden Days begins on Saturday June 16 and concludes on Sunday June 24.

RoncyWorks, the Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden, and the Roncesvalles Village BIA will be hosting a garden tour on Sunday June 24th from 1:00 to 3:00 pm starting at the Peace Garden, at the intersection of Dundas and Roncesvalles.

Garden at 233 Roncesvalles Avenue

The planting and maintenance of streetside  gardens is an ongoing collaboration between all three groups to create a colourful and scenic environment, and is supported by the Roncesvalles Village BIA.

Established in 2011, RoncyWorks is a community volunteer group made up of residents that aim to enhance the Roncesvalles Avenue streetscape.

The history of the existing sidewalk gardens on Roncesvalles Avenue dates back to 2009, when the Roncesvalles Village BIA set up the sub-committee named Roncesvalles Renewed to focus on potential enhancements for the street during the anticipated reconstruction. Composed of community members and the BIA’s Beautification Committee Chair, Roncesvalles Renewed consulted local groups, residents’ associations and key stakeholders. The group recommended the construction of garden beds, made design recommendations to City planners, and assisted in the planting of more than 100 diverse, native trees. In 2011,  the City of Toronto constructed 21 garden beds along Roncesvalles. The RVBIA assumed responsibility for their maintenance, and began the collaborations with volunteers to maintain the street’s garden beds, along with help from member businesses.

The Friends of Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden is a sister organization formed in 2009 to turn a barren jut of concrete at a busy intersection into a green, commemorative, community gathering place. Multiple community partners pressed forward the remarkable design and interesting features seen today. The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation joined in to share history identifying the origin of this portion of Dundas Street as an Indigenous path, and local participation in the War of 1812. They worked together with the Peace Garden group on the City’s first cooperative community arts project with a Toronto youth group, which produced a set of 24 engraved pavers known as the Peace Path. It winds around the Garden. These projects are illustrated on a jointly sponsored plaque. At the entrance to the Peace Path is the City’s first utility box painting by an Indigenous artist, created to celebrate the opening of the Peace Garden in 2016. Each year Indigenous plantings, complete with story and celebration, are featured. This year, Chief Stacey Laforme and two local children planted sacred tobacco. Watch it grow, in a large circle on the eastern side of the Peace Garden.

Garden Days is about celebrating how gardening contributes to a cleaner environment and happier community, which is something the RVBIA has prioritized with their streetside gardens. The RVBIA, RoncyWorks and the Friends of DRPG volunteers have prioritized the planting of more pollinator, and sustainable perennial plants that can weather Toronto winters and regrow in the spring. Annual plants, typically colourful flowers, complement the perennials to create lush gardens bordering the street and sidewalk. We encourage you to take a walk down Roncesvalles to see or sit by the gardens, watch for a butterfly, and enjoy the close-to-nature ambiance of the street.

We will be producing a series of blog posts to celebrate our gardens and the extraordinary gardeners who volunteer their time to design and maintain them.

Mural Artists to Unveil Preliminary Design Elements at Roncy Rocks for Community Feedback

After two community consultations, the preliminary design elements for the new mural will be presented by artists Philip Cote and Jim Thierry Bravo at Roncy Rocks on June 9. at 1:30 pm. They  will be on hand to discuss their components with community members until 3:30 pm. The community consultation will take place at the site of the future mural oat Garden and Roncesvalles Avenue, next to Solarski Pharmacy. Roncy Rocks will serve as another opportunity for community members to participate in the mural envisioning process.

The mural project is being funded by the Roncesvalles Village BIA in partnership with the City of Toronto’s StreetARToronto program.

To learn more about the project, read our post  A New Mural for Roncesvalles Village.

More information on Rocky Rocks can be found on their website.