Native plant garden beds that are the heart of Roncesvalles Village are threatened by those that want a more organized colour coordinated approach.

Friday, June 11, 2021,
RoncyWorks, a team of volunteer gardeners tended to the 21 garden beds along the Roncesvalles strip for 10 years with their native-plant, bee-friendly eco vision.

The Roncesvalles Village BIA wants to remove the current plants and to bring in a more “organized” traditional approach with repeating patterns of colour. A group within the Roncesvalles Village BIA is pressing for this more organised style as part of the rebranding of the garden beds. 

This shift in the vision for the 21 gardens along the Roncesvalles strip has caused a rift between the local volunteer gardeners who maintained the gardens and the Roncesvalles Village BIA.

The group of volunteer gardeners who manage the gardens quit en masse to protest Roncesvalles Village BIA’s choice to re-brand the gardens.

Here is their open letter:

The RoncyWorks volunteer gardeners have already started to rescue the native plants by removing them from the Roncesvalles strip and transplanting them into neighbourhood gardens.

For the past 10 years Roncesvalles has been leading the way in providing a city habitat for pollinators. The plan to remove an established ecology and replace it with plants whose purpose is to look organised, pretty and uniform is a step backwards. It’s heartbreaking, walking down Roncy today and seeing the volunteer gardeners ripping up blooming native plants in an attempt to rescue them by transplanting them into local private gardens. I have always enjoyed walking by the garden beds on the strip and seeing the bees buzzing about. Each garden was like small piece of a High Park meadow and knowing that this was a community initiative made it all the better. Community-led grassroots volunteer initiatives such as this are the heart of the Roncy neighbourhood. It is such a loss on so many levels and all for an organized commercial flower bed rebranding that I feel does not suit the neighbourhood.

Rebranding with organized colour coordinated flower beds I do not think will bring more costumers to the neighbourhood. While being an innovative ecofriendly leader in urban gardening throuhg a community building approach defines Roncesvalles character as unique and forward thinking and I think will draw people to the neighbourhood.

Since the volunteer gardeners posted their open letter the Roncesvalles Village BIA made an unofficial statement and put out a survey asking people to tell them about their vision for the garden beds.

The thing is, the survey has bias towards a more traditional approach.  For instance, although it does mention pollinators it never mentions native plants. Native plants are an important aspect of eco gardening because they support a wide variety of insects. Also, native plants generally require less care than ornamentals because they do not need as much water and do not require pesticide. There also is no risk that they will become invasive.  

When asking about what look people wanted there are two choices in the survey: 1. I want to see consistency in the garden beds with similar colours but different plants and 2. I want garden beds to look all the same. These two options indicate an “old school” flower bed approach. There is a third choice marked “other” that requires you to write in your own answer. The other category will never ‘win’ because everyone will write a different answer”.

My “other answer was:

“I would like to walk by the flower beds and feel as if I have walked by a wild meadow full of native, bee-friendly plants. Sort of like a feeling that I am getting a glimpse of a High Park meadow on the Roncesvalles strip.  So, no colour matching and uniformity as there would be in traditional gardening. It also is important to me that the flower bed project be a community-led, grass-roots project. For me, this gives the gardens such a sense of heart.”

If you have time please pass on your own feedback through the Roncesvalles Village BIA survey. If you feeling similar to me you will need to mostly used the “other” option and create your own answers in order to override the survey’s bias towards traditional colour-matching gardening. You are welcome to use or adapt my answer if you are in a rush and need a cut-and-paste. The survey is at the bottom of this page

I feel passionate about this issue and so I have also created a petition asking the Roncesvalles Village BIA to repair the relationship with volunteer gardeners which has gained more than 250 signatures since it was started on June 10.

See petition at:

Kathleen Rea danced with Canada’s Ballet Jorgen, National Ballet of Canada & Tiroler Landestheater (Austria). She fell in love with contact improvisation (CI) 21 years ago and has been involved in the CI community ever since. She has choreographed over 40 dance works and been nominated for 5 DORA awards. Kathleen has a learning disability that throughout her life has meant that writing takes 6 to 8 times longer than the average person. It is one of life’s great surprises and mysteries for her that despite her struggles she developed a love of writing and is a published author (“The Healing Dance” -Charles C. Thomas Publisher, as well as blog and academic writing). She has a Master’s in Expressive Arts with a minor in Psychology. She has a passion for functional movement and is a teacher candidate of the Axis Syllabus. She is the director of REAson d’etre dance productions a not-for-profit contact improvisation-based dance company that produces a weekly dance jam in Toronto, the Contact Dance International Film Festival, and dance-theatre productions. She was the project manager and access consultant for Fantagraphics’ “Dancing After TEN” book. Kathleen identifies and being on the autism spectrum. As a neuro-atypical person, she works to educate the world about neurodiversity. She co-facilitates David Campt’s tool-kit with Leslie Heydon. It is a program that they offer that teaches white people how to talk with racism deniers as part of anti oppression’s ally ship.

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