Laura Tipton - Urban Forest Champion

Laura Tipton first participated in the LEAF Backyard Tree Planting Program in 2014 and has since planted with us three more times. Our Program Manager, Kim De Lallo, interviews Laura about her experience and her interest in planting native with LEAF.



How did you first become interested in the urban forest?

Growing up, my family had a mature tree in our backyard that had grown with a cavity in the middle. That space was the best fort, playhouse, and hiding spot -- not to mention the tree shade and time spent playing with the sticks and bark.  I didn’t reflect on how special that tree was to me until I found myself living in a suburban home with no large trees other than a dying 40-year-old Ash tree.  I couldn’t imagine my child growing up without trees to climb and bugs to find. Once I began planting with LEAF, I slowly became addicted to rewilding my yard with native trees and plants.


How did you find out about LEAF and how have you been involved?

I went to a York Region seminar about rain barrels and there learned about the basics of native plants and picked up a LEAF brochure. After a tree that I had bought from a nursery died within two years, I thought LEAF could help me select something that would thrive in my compact and seasonally flooded clay. After that first tree, came more trees and shrubs, and now I have removed the grass and made my entire front yard a native plant habitat garden. I knew nothing about gardening when starting this experience but now can identify native plants and insects and have helped others start planting!


Please share an interesting story or memorable moment from your experience with LEAF.

I was upset about losing my mature Ash to the Emerald Ash Borer and having quickly lost the tree I planted from a nursery. I wanted to plant a tree to start growing as soon as possible. I did the DIY program that was available for York Region at the time and I remember the consultant’s suggestions for and descriptions of trees made me feel incredibly excited about the possibilities for my yard.  Not knowing anything about plants, I had previously found tree shopping stressful and overwhelming. Not only did she help me choose the right tree, but she also gave me information on how to make sure it thrived. That tree was a slippery slope to big and exciting changes on my property.


What does the urban forest mean to you and what message would you like to share with others to encourage them to become involved?

The urban forest is a connection with life. It brings me so much joy to know that my little property in the midst of a lot of development and turf lawn has brought in unusual queen bumblebees, toads, cedar waxwings, monarch butterflies and so much more. If nothing is eating your plants, then your garden is not part of the ecosystem -- but if you plant native, they will come! You don’t need to have a green thumb. Start small, learn as you go and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Native trees and plants are adapted to our landscape and are easier to grow than you think.



Kim De Lallo is the Program Manager at LEAF.

LEAF offers a subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program for private property.  The program is supported by The City of Toronto, The Regional Municipality of York, The City of Markham, The Town of Newmarket, The Town of Ajax, Ontario Power Generation and Toronto Hydro. For details on how you can participate, visit