Garden Stewards Learn to Prune at the LEAF Learning Garden

Garden Stewards are LEAF volunteers who help maintain our six Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens across the City of Toronto. Every year, LEAF organizes various skill-building workshops for these volunteers on topics related to native plants and sustainable gardening techniques. With the winter season fast approaching, it was the perfect time for a pruning workshop, where the stewards could try their hand at this new skill.


On a gorgeous, warm autumn morning in late October, the Garden Stewards gathered at the LEAF Learning Garden for a pruning workshop. One by one, eager volunteers bonded over their joy of being able to get together and enjoy the sunny day – a scarce experience as the pandemic continues.


We were very fortunate to have Mark Sherman lead the pruning workshop. Mark is a long-time LEAF volunteer, a former consulting arborist with LEAF and the original designer of the LEAF Learning Garden! He had a wonderful, collaborative approach to teaching and a clear passion for tending to plant life. 


Mark walked us around the garden, and we all stood for some time, looking at it as a whole, then changing our perspectives to look closer at each plant for signs of the 3 D’s of pruning: disease, damage and death. If a stem or branch falls into one of these categories, it is time to remove it by pruning it. Some of the signs were obvious, but many more were subtle and took some investigation to find.


After our group looked around, the volunteers grabbed pruning shears and set to work pruning various shrub species in the Learning Garden to improve access across the path, encourage new growth and improve the aesthetic impact of the garden. Everyone worked together with great confidence to rejuvenate our cherished garden.


As I mingled and got a chance to chat with everyone, I started to learn that some of the Garden Stewards had been volunteering with us for close to a decade and some were new and eager for the chance to get their hands dirty. It’s inspiring to see the legacy of stewardship continue and how it brings so many nature lovers together.


After our lovely morning of connection – to one another, and to nature – we all passed by the heap of woody material we had removed from the garden with satisfied smiles and lifelong lessons.



Maiesha Abdelmoula is the Stewardship and Education Intern at LEAF.

The LEAF Learning Garden is supported by Ontario Power Generation and the City of Toronto.


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