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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 to 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 Posno Beneath 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 Harbison Gardens always mean something else, man absolutely uses one thing to say another. Robert Brault Why 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 seed bed 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











Bee Friendly Gardening



List of Bee Friendly Plants

Native perennials
• Common and Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca and incarnata)
• Beardtongue (Penstemon)
• Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricatus)
• Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
• Beebalm (Monarda spp)
• Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
• Evening Primrose (Oenothera spp)
• False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
• Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium)
• New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae angliae)
• Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)
• Sunflowers (Helianthus)
• Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

• Alyssum
• California Poppy
• China Aster
• Cornflower
• Cleome
• Cosmos
• Heliotrope
• Love in a Mist
• Pot marigold (Calendula)
• Marigold
• Sunflower
• Sweet Pea
• Zinnia
• Herbs
• Borage, Chives, Lavender, Oregano and Marjoram

• Catmint (Nepeta spp.)
• Coneflower
• Clover
• Flax
• Primrose
• Sedum /Stonecrop
• Tickseed
• Yarrow

Trees and Shrubs
• Crab Apples
• Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
• Hawthorn (Crataegus)
• Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
• Yellow wood (Cladastris lutea)
• Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
• Sugar, Red, Silver and Striped maples (Acer saccharum, A. rubrum, A. saccarhinum and A. pennsylvanicum)
• Amur maple (Acer ginnala)
• Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)
• Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
• Basswood (Tilia Americana)
• Linden (Tilia cordata)
• Catalpa (Catalpa bignonoides)
• Pussy Willow (Salix spp)
• Serviceberries (Amelanchier spp)
• Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)
• Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius)
• Deutzia
• Golden Currant (Ribes aureum)
• False Spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia)
• Raspberries
• Blueberries
• Snowberry (Sympharicarpos alba)
• Caragana or peashrub (Caragana arborescens)
• Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)
• Japanese Lilac (Syringa reticulata)
• Privet
• Bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)
• Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)
• Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)

List of Bird Friendly Plants

Early Mid-season Late
Blueberry Blackberry Aster (perennial)
Cotoneaster Cat mint Beggar’s tricks
Crabapple Catnip Borage
Cranberry Chives Coneflower
Crocus Dahlia Cornflower
Foxglove Hyssop Cosmos
Heliotrope Lavender Goldenrod
Hazelnut Raspberry Pumpkin
Heather Sunflower Sedum
Primrose Yarrow Squash


This list includes only a few of the many available plants. Check out the resources listed below, talk to your local nursery or visit the Fletcher Wildlife Garden and its web site. Notes for each plant are a guide only. Some plants will grow in less than ideal conditions, but fruit and seeds may be limited. Information after each plant indicates average height (not given for herbaceous plants), light, and soil requirements.

Light: Sh = shade, Su = su
Soil: W = wet, M = moist, D = dry

Fruit-bearing shrubs and trees
Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) to 22 m [Su-Sh, D,M]
Chokecherry (P. virginiana) 2-3 m [Su-part Sh, M,D]
Common or Canadian Elder (Sambucus canadensis) to 3 m [Su, M,D]
Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) to 12 m [Su-Sh, D,M]
Flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) 1-2 m [Su-Sh, M]
Hawthorns (Crataegus spp.) to 12 m [Su, D,M]
Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) to 12 m [Sh, M,D]
Red-berried Elder (Sambucus pubens) to 4 m [Sh, D]
Red Osier Dogwood (C. stolonifera) 1-3 m [Sh, M]
Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) to 6 m [Su-Sh, M,D] (spreads quickly, keep in check by pruning)
Pin Cherry (P. pensylvanica) to 12 m [Su, D,M]

Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) [Su-part Sh]. Need both male and female plants for fruit.
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus vitacea and P. quinquefolia) [Sh-Su, 5 m +]
Wild Grape (Vitis riparia) [prefers sun, 5 m +]

Seed and nut-bearing shrubs and trees
Birch, Paper (Betula papyrifera) to 25 m [Su, M,D]
Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) to 15 m [Sh-Su, M,D]
Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) 3-4 m [Sh-su, M,D]
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) to 25 m [Su-part Sh, M]
Sugar Maple (A. saccharum) to 35 m [Sh-Su, M]
Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) to 20 m [Su, D,M]
White Pine (P. strobus) to 30 m [Su, D]

Herbaceous plants (unless noted, the following provide seeds for birds)
Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) [Su,Sh, D] Nectar
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) [Su, D] Nectar
Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) [Su, D,M]
Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) [Su, D]
Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) [Su, D,M] Nectar
Gray-headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) [Su, D]
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) [Su-Sh, M] Nectar
New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) [Su, D,M]
Panic Grass (Panicum sp.) [Su, D]
Phlox (Phlox spp.) [Su, M] Nectar
Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) [Su, D]
Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) [Su, D]

Attracting birds to your garden

  • Trees – Mountain Ash, Shubert Chokecherry, Birch, Crab Apple and Hawthorn
  • Smaller Shrubs– Serviceberry, Highbush Cranberry, Quince, female Winterberry, Pagoda and Gray Dogwood, Russian Olive, Honeysuckle, Elder and Sumac
  • Vines– Boston Ivy, Virginia Creeper, Wild Grape and American Bittersweet
  • Annuals– Sunflowers, Cosmos, Zinnias, Marigolds and Celosia
  • Perennials – Globe Thistle, Black-eyed Susan, Asters and Ornamental Grasses in the winter garden are valuable seed sources during a long, cold winter.
  • Berriesfrom – Fairview, Iowa, and Spartan Juniper, female Holly, Oregon Grape, and Wintergreen.
  • Some birds love Sweet Cherries and Blueberries so be prepared to cover your fruit with black netting if you hope to harvest any for yourself!

Front Yard Edible Gardens article


Research assistance thank you to: Simone Weir


BIG on Bloor Festival of Arts and Culture | Junction Summer Solstice Festival
Background research for Spot Gardens was collected throughout the 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/

Yearly celebration of woman 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,
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
Exhibition, Spot Garden workshops and discussions towards an art and garden corridor.
All Free, All welcome.

Opening Reception: Thursday May 18th, 2017, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. Opening remarks 7:00 pm.
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, tool kit, 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, 2:30pm to 5:00pm.  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

About: How We Live In Cities and the Corridor Collective focus attention on population and climate change with art and ecology projects. The redevelopment of Wallace Emerson Park, and the Galleria Mall in the Dupont Street West area of Toronto is an opportunity to invest the site as the start-up location for an art- garden corridor.

Gardens lower the city’s carbon footprint. They mediate summer heat, water run-off, provide bee and wildlife habitat, improve air quality, enhance urban appearances and provide healthy, self-directed exercise. Collecting Spot Gardens, (small designated or new gardens sites) into a corridor 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.

The exhibition presents works by leading artists with practices in sculpture, public art, and place-making. They offer art as garden sculptures to be imagined as public art and theoretical examples of way-finding markers for the Art Garden Corridor route.

Drop In! Participate! Free! Discover art and be encouraged to make gardens. Hands-on, garden-making resources are available to create Spot Gardens with seeds, tools, information and events.

Proposed Art Garden Corridor Route: West and south: Wallace Emerson Park Place > Lappin Ave. > under the MetroLinx proposed overpass bridge > Campbell Park > Wallace Ave. > West End Rail Path > The Bent Way. North and east: Wallace Emerson Park Place > Lappin Ave. > MetroLinx pathway > Green Line.

We encourage garden-making along this route and everywhere. Make, mark, share and follow garden progress on social media with: #spotgardens #HowWeLiveInCities

Spot Gardens Spring/Summer 2017 Action 
Program to encourage garden-making: activities and offerings steps include:
• Designation a start-up corridor route to encourage garden making as a linked art and garden corridor
• Information posters installed along the corridor and in surrounding neighbourhoods with announcement for 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 studio, distributed resulting plants
• Door-to-door out reach 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
• Celebrate progress at the BIG on Bloor Festival where we also encourage further Garden-making, collect feed-back and host 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


Growing Plants From Seed

Seed Bomb:

  • Throw your seed bombs – ideally, timed to coincide with rain, so the seeds have a good start. (It’s best to use them straight away, as they could start to sprout. But if you do need to save them, keep the seed bombs in a cool, dark, dry place.
  • Watch for seed bomb growth. Seedlings should be visible within two to three weeks and flowers within 12 weeks depending on rain fall.


How to Grow Sumac Trees from Seed:

Sumacs are considered small trees or large shrubs. Sumac trees provide emergency food and nesting cover in the winter for many creatures. Sumac leaves turn many brilliant colors in autumn.

1st Step: You received your Sumac tree seeds in the mail, now what? Options:

  •   You can plant the seeds outdoors in the fall and let them naturally stratify during the winter and they will germinate in the spring.
  •   If the seeds require cold and or warm stratification period – you can stratify the seeds inside in your fridge during the winter months and then plant the seeds outdoors in the spring (after the last frost).
  •   You can stratify the seeds indoors in your fridge and then germinate the seeds indoors during the winter, growing the seeds into tree seedlings and then transplanting the seedlings outdoors in the spring.
  •   If the seeds don’t require a stratification period, you can store the seeds in plastic bags in your fridge and plant the seeds outdoors in the fall or spring. Generally, spring is the best time to plant tree seeds outdoors because they have the spring, summer and fall to mature enough to survive the winter weather conditions.Soil Types:Sumacs grow in many different types of soils but are mainly found in wetlands and uplands.Watering:Sumacs are drought-resistant but plan on watering regularly if planted in the middle of the summer or during times of drought. Be careful not to overwater sumacs because it can cause root rot.Fertilizer:Most Sumacs do not require fertilization. Don’t give a nitrogen fertilizer when planting or during the first year.Pruning:

Prune back dead wood in the spring time. Prune back suckers to keep the tree from getting scraggly looking and to maintain a symmetrical shape.


Sumac Tree Seed Stratification Requirements for Germination

  •   Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina): Scarify seed for 50 to 80 minutes in sulfuric acid or use sand paper to nic the seeds. Zones: 4 to 8
  •   Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra): Scarify seed for 50 to 80 minutes in sulfuric acid or use sand paper to nic the seeds. Zones: 3 to 9Hot Water Treatment/ScarificationSeed that has a hard seed coat-induced dormancy requires a stratification to break down the seed coat so that the seed may germinate or begin its stratification process. Hard seed coat induced dormancy means the seed coat is too hard to allow water to enter. By stopping the entry of water, the seed coat stops the seed from germinating or being able to start any required moist stratification period.One method to scarify many seeds is the hot water treatment, which is as follows:
  1. Pour (4 times the volume of seed) almost boiling water over the seed and allow the seed to cool for 12-24 hours. Seed that is properly scarified will sink or swell depending on the type of seed.
  2. Seed that is not properly scarified may take several years to germinate in an outside seed bed. Non-scarified, hard seed coat seeds planted in a flat may never germinate at all or only at very low percentages.
  3. Another method of scarification is to rub the seed on a nail file or sandpaper. Be careful not to go too deep into the seed itself. Scratch the seeds just enough to nick the seed coat. Scarification via nicking the seed coat allows the seed to easily soak up water and moisture to begin the stratification and or germination process.

In nature, scarification is accomplished when the seeds pass through the digestive tract of some animals, through freezing temperatures or microbial activities that break down the seed coat.

How to start tree seeds indoors:

1. Stratify the tree seeds in the fall or winter. Fill a plastic sandwich bag with a handful of damp peat moss or vermiculite and place the seeds in the bag. Store

the seeds in a refrigerator at 33-41 degrees F for recommended stratification


  1. Fill a seed tray with 3-4 inch layer of rich, but well-draining seed starting mixture.You can also use a mixture of equal parts peat moss, organic compost,vermiculite and coarse sand.
  2. Plantthetreeseedsaquarter-inchto1-inchdeepintheseedstartingmixture,spaced about 1 or 2 inches apart. Plant the stratified seeds indoors in late winteror early spring.
  3. Water the seed starting mix to keep the seeds evenly moistened, but allow thewater to drain thoroughly. Let the seed starting mix dry out completely betweenwatering’s.
  4. Set the seed tray in partial sunlight (about 50%) when the seeds begin togerminate. Keep the seed tray at room temperature while germinating andsprouting the maple tree seeds.
  5. Transplant the strongest tree seedlings outdoors or into individual planter potsafter they’ve developed their second set of leaves, or “true leaves.”


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)

Download PDF Booklet

More information contact: dyan@dyanmarie.com / 647.973.2349