Did you know Leaside has Garden Angels? I didn’t until we received this letter to Leaside Life from Beth Jones.
“I often walk along the top of the ravine behind Bloorview and the Toronto Rehab on Kilgour. There is a dedicated little group of volunteer gardeners who plant and tend to the gardens in front and behind the Lyndhurst Centre. The gardens are beautiful and offer some positivity to the patients of Lyndhurst as they look out their window or venture outside in their wheelchairs. These Garden Angels come every Monday morning and I think it is a fantastic side of Leaside life that people don’t know about.”
I’d never been to the Lyndhurst Centre, and who are these Garden Angels? It was time to do a little digging of my own.
I contacted Joanna Blanchard, president of the Leaside Garden Society, who informed me that the LGS has been maintaining these gardens since 1990. It all began as a community project initiated by the club president at that time, Desmay Smith.
In 1998, the club’s Barry Schneider became the volunteer coordinator and has been leading this group of gardeners for the past 20 years. He tells me that this year they are a crew of 11 consisting of mostly garden club members and a few friends of members who just enjoy puttering in gardens. They plant annuals in the spring, bulbs in the fall, prune, weed, deadhead, water and handle any other chore necessary to keep the gardens healthy and looking great.
As a volunteer gardener myself, I just had to meet these kindred spirits, observe them in action and see for myself what makes the gardens of Lyndhurst so beautiful.
On the sunny Labour Day Monday morning, I approached the Lyndhurst building. It took only a second to understand why Beth wrote that letter. The front garden is no ordinary and familiar display of organized annuals. This is a large curving island bed that appears more like a park within a parking lot. Green trees and shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous, add a sense of permanence and at that particular moment, a wide drift of brilliant yellow black-eyed Susans drew me in. The closer I got, the more I could see the abundance and diversity of plant material: lavender, salvia, hostas, hydrangeas, goldenrod and Autumn Joy sedums just about to burst into colour, but there were so many others.
It wasn’t long before I saw someone moving behind a shrub (Brooke), another with a watering hose (Alice), and then I spotted Barry. Here were some of the Garden Angels!
After a lovely chat with Brooke and Alice, Barry led me to the back gardens where Rosemarie and Cheryl were pruning. He explained how the gardens have changed and expanded over the past two decades with the growing ambitions of the volunteers; that the facility manager on the property is very supportive and gives them a budget to buy plants and supplies; and how a grant that Lyndhurst received from the Rick Hansen Foundation helped to create a therapy garden for the patients.
As we turned the corner the view of the back garden unfolded. The view is nothing short of magnificent. This is an intimate parklike setting but because the property backs onto the ravine, it appears endless. As with the front garden, the black-eyed Susans and goldenrod were ablaze in huge drifts with even more along the tiered garden wall leading to the lower level.
At this time of year, the burst of yellow is spectacular and I can only imagine how wonderful the spring bulbs must look here (the Angels will be planting more bulbs this month) and how cool and serene the summer must feel when the gardens are mostly green.
These gardens of Lyndhurst are indeed beautiful, changing with every season, but what amazes me most is that all of this is done by 11 loving volunteer gardeners.
As Beth said, “What a gift to all of us who use the grounds – patients, employees, visitors and walkers alike!” Agreed. Here’s to the Garden Angels of Lyndhurst!
Other Garden Angels include: Lenore Pawziuk, Zillah Driver, Victor Perkins, Judy Urquhart, and Susan Brown.