Canada’s first “smartphone friendly” public garden opens
(September 2, 2011) Today LEAF (Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests) officially opened the LEAF Learning Garden (LLG), Canada’s first “smartphone friendly” public garden at Toronto’s Artscape Wychwood Barns. The LLG is open to everyone and contains nearly 50 native plants found in southern Ontario. Each plant is labeled with a small sign containing common and Latin names, several educational symbols and a QR code. Each QR code, which can be read by smartphones and tablets, is linked to a webpage containing species specific information about each plant.
“How much more informative and fun can a public garden get?” said Amanda Gomm, Manager, Volunteer and Public Engagement, LEAF. “By simply using a smartphone, members of the public can experience native plants in an entirely new way. They can actually look at the plant in front of them and then scan the code to learn about its habitat, what time of the year it blooms, any traditional uses and even if it is edible or threatened.”
The LLG is the product of over two years of work, mostly by volunteers who designed the layout, conducted research and did the planting. It is cared for by community stewards using organic gardening techniques such as mulching, feeding the soil with compost, and ensuring resilience through biodiversity.
“The garden is designed to be a welcoming space and to serve as an inspiration to others to create similar habitat gardens in their own yards and communities by following the same principles,” said Gomm. “Here, people can see a large variety of native plants, see how beautiful they are, learn interesting facts and imagine how they might look in their own yards.”
Native species are those plants which grew naturally in southern Ontario prior to European settlement. Native plants have adapted to local climatic conditions over thousands of years and once established, are able to stay healthy with little watering and without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Native plants are also important to the survival of urban wildlife, such as songbirds and butterflies, since they provide essential food and shelter.
The garden's smartphone friendly technology, hands-on outdoor learning environment, its prime focus on community engagement and ongoing stewardship help to make this public space unique.
Support for the LLG was provided by the Ontario Power Generation Biodiversity Program, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Evergreen, The Home Depot Canada Foundation and Livegreen Toronto.