I walked outside the other day, into the street garden with scissors in hand to clip some flowers intended for the host of a party I was attending. As I bent over to snip a few Black-eyed Susan stems I discovered that the flowers were completely gone. All that remained were the ragged ends of about a dozen torn stems. And so Operation Garden Terrorism continues. Sigh.
It turns out that despite the damage and attacks that have occurred this spring and summer, I’ve had it kind of easy. At least I have not found the entire garden gone as Scarborough homeowner Deborah Dale did when she returned home last week to discover that her entire front garden, filled with native plants, had been mowed down by City of Toronto bylaw enforcement officers! To make matters worse, Ms. Dale, a former president of the North American Native Plant Society, will have to pay for the “removal” of her 10 year old garden from out of her own pocket.
Several other sites have already written about this event, and while I don’t have much to add to an already thoroughly explored discussion the thought that goes through my mind when thinking about this incident is the question of how we define a garden. The City of Toronto publicly promotes growing native plant gardens for environmental reasons but is seemingly confused about how to support the efforts of gardeners who break the mold of what a garden is supposed to look like — support that is especially needed in suburban areas where the lawn still reigns supreme. Ms. Duncan’s garden was leveled based on the complaints of her neighbors and was told that her native plant garden would have been protected had she applied to have her garden officially designated a “natural garden.” On the one hand it is good that at least The City is trying to address this idea of what a garden can be by providing a provision that has the potential to protect unorthodox gardens. Yet at the same time it seems slightly absurd and a little bit bonkers that a gardener would have to assume that their garden required protection from the biases of their neighbors in the first place and then have both the presence of mind and knowledge of the system to apply for that kind of protection in the first place.
Fundamentally how we define a garden and how we conceptualize a “carefully tended” garden comes down to our own subjective biases. And for better or for worse those biases are about as diverse as gardeners and their gardens.
To add insult to injury it The City is reportedly set to go after Ms. Dale’s backyard woodland garden next.
More Reports on This Incident: