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Spot Gardens

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How We Live In Cities launches Spot Gardens, as first steps towards the creation of Garden Corridor for a Garden City. The project offers opportunities to participate using tools that inform and engage through art and materials that create gardens. Provided resources, workshops and event advance idea gardens and work to encourage the removal of sections of grass, cement or asphalt from residential front yards, publicly sited commercial or orphaned civic spaces and then replant with low maintenance, drought resistant, bee-friendly plants, vegetables, flowers, shrubs or trees. The Spot Gardens become linked together to form a garden corridor as a progressive step for imagining a Garden City.

Gardens are a way to lower city carbon footprints while improving the experience of living in cities. Gardens help mediate summer heat, water run-off, provide bee and wildlife habitat, enhance urban appearances and provide healthy, self-directed exercise. Collecting spot garden sites into corridors can link civic, public and commercial space into Walk Here routes that encourage people to walk to work, schools, parks and shops. Walking enables stronger civic engagement; it enables people to live where they live while fostering better health and mindset.






Asphalt garden plans thank you to Guy Walter, Urban Surface


Send your short garden quote; advice or encouragement and we will publish it. See our examples as follows. Send quote to HowWeLiveInCities@gmail.com

MAKING A SPOT GARDEN? Link your garden progress by tagging posts with #spotgardens  #HowWeLiveInCities @CivicStudiesCA

HAVE A GARDEN IMAGE? Post your garden-making and favourite garden pictures with #HowWeLiveInCities #spotgardens


Share your garden wisdom… Jutta Mason If you plant a vegetable garden it will tell you what to make for dinner. Zoe Ryerson Heaven is a place on earth. Selim Berbatovci The roots of life in the hands of our own. Richard Mongiat Gardens are where order and chaos hold hands. Dougal Bichan Garden is a verb. Tim Grant Gardens teach us that change is possible. Ashley Johnson Growing things accentuates empathy for environmental interdependence. Kathryn Bemrose Gardening keeps your mind clean, and your knees dirty. Marjolein Winterink In a garden, you can watch generations of life live and grow in the same patch of earth. Guy Walter No matter how small the garden, nurture it and you will get a closer understanding of how the environment works. Richard Rhodes What lingers into winter are the summer Lindens draping blue shadows over the seed grass soccer field at Emerson Wallace Park.Michela Sutter We should learn from urban plants: their perseverance is unmatched. Helen PosnoBeneath this punishing ice spring yawns. Deenna Sigel A garden grows each day of each season. Take the time to feel the joy & beauty. Jim Melvin Soil your hands in the garden and reap your soils favours.Margaret Atwood Gardening is not a rational act. Linda Carter Talk to your plants – they make great friends.  Claude Monet My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece. Cicero If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Abraham Lincoln We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.  Audrey Hepburn To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. Vincent van Gogh If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere. Frank Lloyd Wright Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. Author Unknown Bloom where you are planted. Albert Einstein Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better. Author Unknown
 Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes. Robert HarbisonGardens always mean something else, man absolutely uses one thing to say another. Robert BraultWhy try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden. Leonardo da Vinci We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot. Chinese Proverb Life begins the day you start a garden. Leonard Nimoy A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Carla Garnet My urban garden blooms with crocus, hyacinth, daffodil, tulip, iris, lily of the valley, tiger lily, periwinkle, mint, shasta daisy, black eyed susan, coneflower, bee balm, butterfly bush, lilac, spiraea thunbergii and japonica, trumpet vine, sage, hosta, foxglove, lupine, current, rose and chrysanthemum annually, providing bugs, bees, birds, squirrels, coons and skunk nourishment, refuge and beauty and me, a little sanity. Darren Christopher if you don’t plant it, it won’t grow. Dyan Marie Change the world one complaint at a time, save the world one garden at a time #spotgardens.



Fingernails evolved as a way to hold earth close to the body. Compacted dirt beneath the figure nail provides sustained touch with health-giving bacteria and microbes found in soil.

A Strain Of Bacterium In Soil Has Been Found To Trigger The Release Of Seratonin, Which In Turn Elevates Mood And Decreases Anxiety

Healthy Soil Microbes, Healthy People

There’s Something About Literally Putting Your Hands In The Dirt, Digging And Actually Creating Something That’s Really Beautiful



Each plant has a unique method for seed dispersal and each seed’s architecture is fascinatingly different. Please enjoy looking closely at flowers as they transform into seed – a magnifying glass can help. Notice a single flower can produce hundreds of seed. A dandelion can makes between 40 and 60 seeds, a milkweed pod contains an average of 250 seeds while a Ragwart plant can make up to 12,000 seeds. Spot Garden kits contain a variety of flower and plant seeds to examine.

Collect and open up a spent fall flower to find its seeds. Soak seeds in spring under a wet paper towel and watch for germination, transplant into soil after they begin to grow.

Growing Flowers
Turn soil, rake smooth, sow seeds directly in the garden after the last frost to early summer. Keep the seedbed moist until the seeds begin to sprout, then thin, if needed, when seedlings are a couple of inches tall.

Pollinating insects distinguish electric signals given out by flowers.

What Plants Talk About


Eden Archive, Images created from seeds collected in West Toronto parks, gardens, railway corridors, laneways and orphaned spaces.
Courtesy of Dyan Marie, Eden Archive, 2017










BIG on Bloor Festival of Arts and Culture | Junction Summer Solstice Festival

Background research for Spot Gardens was collected throughout summer 2016 in west end neighbourhoods and at the BIG on Bloor Festival of Art and Culture and the Junction Summer Solstice Festival both 2016. The related Green Asset map was published in November 2016 at civicstudies.ca/greenassetmap/

Friends of the Visual Arts

Studio presentation and workshop for the Friends of the Visual Arts, November 17, 2016, Studio 9A.www.tfva.ca

Urban Land Institute

How We Live In Cities’s, Spot Gardens, in partnership with Junction Triangle Rail Committee, community advisory presentation to ULI,  Bloor-Dundas Study Launch, November 19, 2016. toronto.uli.org

Canadian Urban Institute

Canadian Urban Institute Annual Urban Leadership Award hosts the launch of Spot Gardens. The Great Hall, 1087 Queen Street West, November 21st, 2016, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM. canurb.org/2016-urban- leadership-awards/


A yearly celebration of women in the arts established in 1990. 14 woman stand in for the 14 missing to commemorate the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. Dyan Marie presents Spot Gardens through poetry and the Garden Tool Kit. Secret Handshake Gallery, Toronto Star Article
Dec. 6, 2016, 170 Baldwin, 7:00.

BIG: Bloor Improvement Group

BIG community meeting with Spot Garden introductory information.
Dec 7, 2016, New Horizons Tower, 6:30.

Place and Placement

The exhibition, Spot Garden workshops and discussions towards an art and garden corridor, open to the public. See more >

Opening Reception: Thursday, May 18th, 2017
Date: May 18 – July 15,  2017
Location: Re-Imagine Galleria, Community Collaboration Space
Galleria Mall, 1245 Dupont Street, Toronto, Ontario, M6H 2A6


West Room: Presence
Large-scale sculpture.
David Acheson

Middle Gallery: Way Finding
Corridor Collective garden sculpture.
Catherine Beaudette, Edward Burtynsky, Eldon Garnet, Darren Leu, Heather NicolJohn Dickson,Noel Harding, Reinhard Reitzenstein, Time and Desire 

East Room: Earth Room Worm Hole
Interspecies architectural environment.
Interspacial: Natalia Bakaeva and Mark Francis

Outside / Overhead: Sun Lights
Installation of hanging, solar-powered lights, constructed from recycled materials.
Eric Anthony Charron 

Work Room: Spot Gardens
Spot Garden presentation: art, toolkit, seeds, workshops and activities.
Botanicus Art Ensemble, Toronto Seed Library, Tool Exchange and HWLIC

Monitor: Eden Archive
Images developed from seed collected in local parks, gardens, railway corridors, laneways and orphaned spaces.
Dyan Marie


Guerrilla Gardening Seed Bombs
Workshop Saturday, May 20th, 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm.  Free / All Welcome
Seeds balls are an ancient technique for propagating plants without opening the soil. Join the hands-on workshop to create Seed Balls, led by Kristen Fahrig, seeds provided by the Toronto Seed Library, MacGregor Park Chapter. Use and share the Seed Balls to start Spot Gardens at home and in overlooked spaces. 
Kristen Fahrig, Botanicus Art Ensemble

Garden Markers
Free Workshop Saturday, June 20th,  2017
Creating garden stakes as art-garden markers 
Darren Leu

Thank you to those that joined us for Spot Garden, Art Garden Corridor discussions:
Canadian Land Institute: Spot Gardens kit demonstration and Cities poetry reading
Canadian Urban Institute: Spot Gardens kit project exhibition, distribution and discussion
ReImagine Galleria Mall, Opening reception for Place and Placement
BIG meeting, New Horizons Tower
Ryerson Life Institute, Reimagine Galleria
Toronto Friends of The Visual Arts

Spot Gardens Art and Garden Corridor planting activity









Program to encourage garden-making with Spot Gardens toward  Art Garden Corridors: summary of activities for 2017 and offerings steps include:
• Designation a start-up corridor route to encourage garden-making as a linked art and garden corridor
• Created Place and Placement exhibition with Art Garden Corridor workshops, discussions and exhibitions.
• Information posters installed along the corridor and in surrounding neighbourhoods with the announcement of free Spot Garden Tools Kits with shovels, seeds, markers and information as well as hands-on assistance in garden-making.
• All homes along the corridor have hand-delivered flyers
• Planted seeds in the HWLIC studio, distributed resulting plants
• Door-to-door outreach along the corridor, offering hands-on support and materials to plant gardens.
• Supplied plants and kits to respondents
• Designed and created way-finding markers: flags, flower tags, and painted garden stakes.
• Installed Spot Garden Markers in newly created gardens and in refreshed gardens as requested to become part of the Spot Garden Program
• Document gardens sites with Hashtags #Spot Gardens
• Celebrated progress at the BIG on Bloor Festival where we also encourage further Garden-making, distributed plants, garden-markers, collected feedback and hosted 16 garden-themed workshops that encourage garden-making.
• Document project for web and social media
• Gather all project materials, create a pdf publication overview.

BIG on Bloor Festival of Arts and Culture

The Garden Centre: Spot Garden Pavilion, July22/23, 2017. bigonbloorfestival.com


Voice K Interview
BIG video
Councillor Ana Bailao newsletter
Now Magazine
BIG on Bloor Festival Website
The Toronto Star

NOW Magazine article by FRAN SCHECHTER, May 30, 2017

Toronto Star feature by MURRAY WHYTE Visual arts, Mon., May 29, 2017

AKIMBO feature by TERENCE DICK, June 14, 2017



The Spot Project start-up is made possible with financial support from:
TD Friends of the Environment Foundation
If you are interested in donating time, materials or funds please contact: HowWeLiveInCities@gmail.com

Spot Gardens start-up is operating under the charitable organization umbrella of the Centre for Local Research Into Public Space (CELOS)

Thank you to BIG Bloor Improvement Group for the Canada Summer Jobs Student Program.

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