A (condo) garden grows in Leaside

Ray Greene. Photo Mitch Bubulj.
Ray Greene. Photo Mitch Bubulj.

“Call me Ray!” was the enthusiastic greeting I received at her garden gate. Ray Greene – Marianne on all her documents (the nickname has been her preferred moniker since elementary school) – has many accomplishments to her name but the most tangible, colourful and fragrant has to be her garden.

Ray explains modestly, “I am not a gardener; I just like nice things.” Exploring her urban oasis, you are compelled to think otherwise. And so is the Leaside Garden Society. Ray is a longstanding member and she has been a stop on their annual Magical Gardens Tour more than once. On this year’s tour, in June, she again wowed folks with her bountiful bed of hostas, five flowering clematis skillfully entwined around trellises, meandering paths surrounded by vibrant perennials and annuals, and soothing water features. Very much in tune with nature, Ray’s garden features
birdbaths and bee and butterfly friendly plantings such as echinacea and lavender.

Her retreat has been a work in progress for the past 35 years. Ray, 92 years young, works daily maintaining the garden and patio, which is made of a beautiful Wiarton limestone she had installed soon after moving in, in 1988. The outdoor area was not much more than a muddy patch, she says. “Everything in my life just sort of happened.”

And fate has been kind. She took a chance when she purchased her unit in the spring of ’88. Millwood at Randolph was a very different intersection at that time. There were gas stations, auto shops and small businesses like Stanley’s Cleaners within sight, not the apartments and condos there now. She has enjoyed the evolution of the area and the transformation of her muddy outdoor space into a calming, blooming, unique sanctuary.

In fact, “unique” is a fitting word to describe Ray herself, her story and her condo. Her father Elliott Greene was a decorated Canadian World War I officer who worked in Iraq for the British government after the war (Ray recalls the funeral of King Faisal as the cortege made its way through Baghdad right under her window). A 19th century ancestor, Anson Green (for a time the family had dropped the “e”), a Methodist minister, was the “Green” in Greenwood Avenue and also in Woodgreen, a social services agency providing housing and help to marginalized Torontonians for close to a century. Ray herself defied gender stereotypes in the ’50s and ’60s by working – as a teacher and real estate agent – while also raising her son. Ray is optimistic, powerful and willing to take calculated risks.

Her indomitable spirit explains her taking a chance when buying her home at Leaside Gate. The building is unique in Toronto because it was not proposed by a developer but instead by retired Leaside residents who wanted to stay in Leaside. (See Leaside Life, January 2016.) It was the brainchild of Bob Hart and other community-oriented individuals who came together to design a condominium meant for seniors and built on a human scale. Evidence is the fact the building is set back from the street, allowing for private patio and garden spaces for residents as well as well landscaped grounds for all passersby to admire.

Ray is an inspiration to us all with her energy and horticultural aesthetic; Leaside Gate is a model condominium built as a people-friendly residence. Both make Leaside a beautiful place to lay down roots.

This article was guest contributed by Mitch Bubulj.

About Mitch Bubulj 11 Articles
Mitch is a born and raised Leasider. He worked for many years in South East Asia but ended up back in South Leaside where he raised his family. A member of the North York Community Preservation Panel and a retired English and Social Science teacher, Mitch has a passion for neighbourhood, history and a good story.