Toronto’s Horticulture Program of Excellence

Hi I’m Garth Armour and I’m really glad to
be here introducing the next video in our series of Exploring Toronto Gardens. My Name is Yael Freudmann I work as an Organic
Horticulture Gardener at Corktown Common. Today we’re going to be talking about the
City’s Horticulture School of Excellence Program. The program was launched in February 2015
and it aims to educate and inspire parks staff by focussing on approaches to gardening that
reflect the changing needs of our environment. The program contains basic skills advancement
the introduction of new gardening techniques. By focusing on skill development we can educate
staff and inspire staff to do the very best horticultural displays and very best horticultural
methods for management possible. There’s 7 Skills and components to the program
itself. The first component is garden design and really this component is designed to go
beyond just pure aesthetic development of gardens. And really start to create beautiful
gardens that incorporate functionality. The second is a refresher course on proper
gardening and pruning techniques, and the third is a pollinator series which focuses
on the importance of habitat and food for pollinators. Landscapes featuring plants that can support
native pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths are in decline. Pollination is important
because our food crops depend upon pollination for their growth. It’s important to ensure that there is ample
opportunities within Toronto parks for pollinators to thrive. In order to design the pollinator garden we
researched native plants and locations. We chose a spot that was sunny during the growing
season, of a minimum of 6 to 8 hours. We then chose plants that are native to Ontario and
we had a variety of grasses, flowers shrubs. Some of the flowers that we used to plant
there were prairie smoke and columbine for the early spring flowering service berry,
which has flowers then berries later on, and later on in the season we get a lot of Echinacea,
rudbeckia, liatris and late flowering plants, and this is to provide flowers throughout
the season as well as berries. During the installation process we weeded
the area we were going to plant then we laid down cardboard with a mixture of compost and
triple mix. We then planted and afterwards we watered everything thoroughly. We then
mulched the area, we added logs and rocks to provide habitat for bees and places for
butterflies to rest and warm their wings. This project has been a great success. The
plants are flourishing and they are being visited by all manner of insects, bees, butterflies,
moths as well as birds. Next is xeriscaping and this is something
that’s very popular these days. You hear about all of the work and drought that’s happening
in the southwest of the United States and even in parts of Canada, and this will help
our gardeners to design drought resistant gardens using native and other drought resistant
plants and achieve some of the benefits from that. Following that module is the organic horticulture
techniques introducing parks staff to some of the newest most effective ecologically
beneficial practices of organic horticulture. The next component educates staff on the benefits
of installing green roofs and living roofs including the management of storm water, mitigating
the heat island effect and providing food for pollinators. The final component is the integrated plant
healthcare. This is an active management strategy for landscapes that is used to establish and
maintain optimum plant healthcare through landscape design, site and plant selection,
soil health, planting methods and timing of management practices. The goal is to cultivate
healthier plants that are more resistant to disease and changing weather patterns so that
we’re less dependent on more traditional management techniques. There are going to be many benefits that we’re
going to see with the program: healthier, disease, drought resistant gardens that are
beautiful and beneficial to the environment water conservation and natural soil amendments
to maintaining gardens and finally healthier pollinator populations in the urban environment. The great thing about having high quality
horticulture demonstrations in all of our parks is that all of the techniques that we’re
exploring in the school are compatible with urban gardening, be it in your front garden,
your back garden or on your balcony. Really incorporating all of these techniques
into your home garden goes back to that first call to arms where we asked you to bring horticulture
into your lives so you can have a richer fuller life by incorporating plants into your day
to day life.

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