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News 2015

News 2015

From the October 2015 Newsletter:

Defensive picnicking

Many of the city’s big trees were planted during a big tree-planting drive, soon after World War Two, in the 1950’s. Their age means they’re more likely to lose a branch or fall over in a storm. Even when there’s no storm, branches can come down. On the Saturday of Labour Day weekend there was a heat wave, and the city’s parks were full of picnickers. At Dufferin Grove, at about 6.45 pm, there was suddenly a loud crack and a silver maple branch as large as a tree fell to the ground. A group of people nearby said they had just moved their picnic blanket from that spot two minutes earlier, because they were bothered by the evening sun shining in their eyes. If they had still been next to the tree they would have been badly hurt. The thing is, there was no breath of wind, and no warning before the branch fell. The broken section was rotten inside, with insects jumping out.

We wrote to Dean Hart, the manager of Forestry, to find out if there is really no way of telling that a tree might be weak before it actually falls down. He replied right away, explaining that while there are certain danger signs Forestry inspectors look for, in this case the silver maple looked healthy. And in fact when the Forestry crew came a few days later and cut off the remainder of the broken branch, they pointed out that there was no rot in any of the rest of it – just solid, fine-looking maple wood.

The manager also wrote that “the trees in this high use park will be inspected this fall for any required maintenance, with the associated work to be completed over the winter. “ But happily, the pruning of park trees started much sooner, on September 14. Five days a week since then, two or sometimes more Forestry trucks with 4 to 6 staff have been in the park, cutting and pruning. The staff said they expect the work to take about a month.

Even so, in a park with so many old trees, people need to look out for where they put their picnic -- defensive picnicking! Before you spread your blanket or move your picnic table into a shady spot, look up and try to guess whether a branch might hit your picnic if it suddenly came down. Tree evaluation – a useful skill for every Torontonian, in this city of many trees.

From the Summer 2015 Newsletter:

29 new trees planted in the park June 24 and 25

Sometime last winter the little honey locust tree that the park’s garden club planted near the bake oven must have accidentally been run over by a Parks vehicle. When we asked Lennox Morgan, the Parks supervisor, if the stump could be replaced, he took a walk around the park with a Forestry natural resource specialist. They decided to get a contractor to plant an additional 28 trees as well as the missing honey locust. So Dufferin Grove will be even more of a grove than it already is. They sent CELOS a google map of the park (we’ve reproduced it on the website). Except for the soccer field, the map looks like almost solid forest. Most of the older trees are still in fine condition, especially the giant Norway maples by the playground. Maybe all that water from the sandpit tap is helping the trees…

From the May / June 2015 Newsletter:

What works: flowering trees planted at the park by park friends

The City Parks Department has a memorial tree-planting service which charges donours $700 a tree. Dufferin Grove has a few such memorial trees; they’re very nice. But most of the donated trees came more informally, and cheaper, planted by park friends over the years.

weeping cherry: memorial for Emma Frankford

Some of the informally donated trees flower in the spring. Here’s how they came to be in the park. During the 1930’s, Dufferin Grove Park was known all over the city as a showplace for trees and flowers. But by 1990, the last few flowerbeds had been grassed over by the city (too expensive to maintain) and very few trees were being planted. Then in 1993, a new garden bed was dug by park friends, to be followed by fourteen more such garden beds before 2000. In 1996, a neighbour brought over a little serviceberry bush and planted it across from the first bake oven, at the southern tip of a newly planted vegetable garden. The following winter the Zamboni ran over the bush while dumping snow. In spring the bush came back, a bit bedraggled but still growing. The next winter the rink’s program staff put temporary barrier fences around the serviceberry, but the Zamboni driver moved the fences and ran over the bush again. When summer came again, a split-rail fence was put up around the garden, and from then on the Zamboni dumped the snow elsewhere in winter. The serviceberry made a brave comeback, and now it’s the height of a small tree. Kids balance on the split-rail fence and eat the berries (they’re close to blueberries in colour and taste).

The next flowering tree planted was a Bing cherry tree, bought with snack bar funds, and community-planted with permission from the city staff. When it turned out that every Bing cherry tree needs a mate, park friends planted another one nearby. But by mistake we bought a sour cherry tree. Even though it was the wrong tree, it grew well, so we kept it. The next year we planted a real Bing cherry tree. All three trees now provide cherries to raccoons, to birds, to tree-climbing kids and – if they’re quick – to the Friday Night Supper cooks looking to make some pies.

Next came two wild plum trees donated by former city councillor Mario Silva, and planted by park friend and long-time garden advisor/helper Gene Threndyle. Gene also planted some elderberry bushes which grew tall and provided more fruit for birds and for pies. Then in 2006 the family of Emma Frankford planted the dwarf weeping cherry tree in Emma’s memory, beside the cob courtyard café. It’s always the first flowering tree to bloom in the park.

More recently, John Ota added two pink-flowering Japanese cherry trees near the rink, in honour of the Japanese-Canadians who grew up in this area (mainly on Gladstone), and who loved the park as children. All these trees have become part of the spring story of the park. In the years since the first community plantings, city staff have planted lots of new trees as well, including ones that are covered with flowers in the spring. So many trees! A win-win.

What works: the park as a source for local (and some wild) foods

Recently, a surprising number of cooks in famous restaurants have begun to cook with foraged foods, including weeds, found in the restaurants’ own hinterland. Dufferin Grove seems to be ahead of the curve. The tree nursery just south of the field house has lots of stinging nettle, planted years ago – great for making nettle soup and nettle pasta. (Foragers: wear gloves and long pants when picking!) Plantain grows all over the pesticide-free park, tasty in salads and cooked greens. Linden flowers can be gathered from the trees to make tea and cooling summer drinks. Soon the cherries near the rink house will ripen, also the serviceberries by the oven and down in the hollow, and after them the elderberries, and the gooseberries by the cob courtyard. So many opportunities for foragers! Plus, the farmers’ market is selling wild leeks and fiddleheads and lamb’s quarters, soon to be followed by wild mushrooms, and elderberry jam. Foragers and market shoppers, get out your bags.

Of note: The problem that people (including us) encounter in working with the city bureaucracy is well illustrated here, in the remarkable story of the Ravina Community Garden (now cancelled).

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