Old Mill Garden – A little bit of green

Toronto has so many green spaces, but not all of them are big like High Park, the Humber or Don River valleys. Some are just small bits of green tucked away next to our subway stations. But everyday thousands of commuters pass by them and that little bit of green adds a peaceful ease to the surrounding urban environment.

Nestled alongside the Humber River valley, Old Mill Station is the furthest west of LEAF’s Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens. Located directly across from the bus platform, the garden offers an array of native trees, shrubs and plants to be admired by those waiting for their bus to arrive. Our garden has some wonderful plants – an entire strawberry patch, roses galore and some mighty trees.

One end of the garden features a honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos). Native pasture roses (Rosa carolina), fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), common ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) fill in the middle. And on the other end, a beautiful maple (genus: Acer) oversees serviceberry (genus: Amelanchier) and highbush cranberry shrubs (Viburnum trilobum). Scattered throughout are wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and other native perennials. I love our highbush cranberry the most. It’s a beautiful shrub that has small white flowers in the spring and is so leafy throughout the summer.


This is my first year as a garden steward, but I have been volunteering with LEAF for a few years on the outreach team and helping with Tree Tours. Being a garden steward is a great way to spread LEAF’s message in an active way. I loved outreach and talking to people about LEAF, but sitting behind a table at an event just can’t compare to being amidst the trees and plants of the demonstration gardens.


I love the sense of community when caring for a garden. It’s a great way to get to know fellow LEAF volunteers – we all love being outdoors and we all share ideas about the garden.

Like so many people in Toronto, I don’t have a backyard garden, just an area on my balcony big enough to grow a handful of herbs and some lettuce. Being a garden steward gives me a green outlet. Tending a garden is very fulfilling. I love watching the garden change over the seasons and playing in the dirt.


Remember to take a moment and appreciate these small patches of urban green space. And if you have time – VOLUNTEER! We cannot have enough help to keep the weeds at bay.

Katy Lalonde has been volunteering with LEAF since she stumbled upon Tree Tenders training in 2012. Along with tending to the Old Mill garden, she'll do anything that involves being outdoors - hiking, reading under a big tree or exploring the city. During the week she fills her time writing policy for the Ontario government, where her office window offers a view of maples and honey locusts. 


LEAF’s Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens are located at 5 different TTC stations across Toronto, and are supported by Ontario Power Generation. They showcase the beauty of native species and help build Toronto’s urban forest.  They also provide an opportunity for local residents to play an active role in improving their communities. To become a garden steward, please fill out LEAF's Volunteer Application Form and indicate that you are interested in stewardship at one of the Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens!