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DGF, MaRS & Deciduous Shrubs
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

March 21, 2004

Last week was a frantic week. On Tuesday I found that the hard drive on my less-than-one-old tablet laptop had crashed. Since I only back-up my desktop in my office at Parksville, BC, that left me with no e-mail addresses, phone numbers etc. while in Toronto. The hard drive was replaced free within two hours of arriving at the Mississauga service unit, but they only install minimal software, such as Microsoft XP. So, in addition to missing all the contact information I found myself using MS Notepad as a word-processing programme--rather like the early days of the computer when I started with one in 1983--no multiple typefaces (roman, italic, bold etc.), no justification of type, no colours, no overtype or insert, only one file open at one time, and no spell-check!

I notice in downtown Toronto that the little Toronto General Hospital (TGH) parkette that was paid for by the Dunington-Grubb Foundation (DGF) has been totally destroyed by the new venture that is going to take the place of the historic old TGH building on the south side of College Street just east of University Avenue. Their various versions of plans that I see in signs and promotions do show some plantings so maybe it will be recreated something like the oasis that it was prior to the construction. At least two new buildings are being built adjoining the historic old TGH building, and that building is to be completely restored. There is a little bit about the building (but nothing about the old landscape) on the new venture's Website:

As secretary of a foundation that has donated thousands of dollars to gardening and horticulture, I continue to be amazed at how hard organizations will work at trying to get a grant, but once they have it, not only does the granting agency not hear again, often the grant is not well- or not-at-all acknowledged (as was the case with the DGF's grant to the TGH), and of course the organization would never think of, out of courtesy, notifying the grantor that the project is going to be destroyed. This is the second such "non-notification in advance of complete destruction" we have encountered--the other one being the total wipe-out of the demonstration gardens at Humber Arboretum about a decade ago.

The MaRS Discovery District is "a not-for-profit corporation founded by leaders from Canada's academic, business and scientific communities. MaRS is the charitable arm of The MaRS Group, which intends to create a scientific research and development centre where the best-in-class scientific and medical and related sciences communities, including universities and hospitals, are brought together with business and venture capital to facilitate the commercialization of academic research in Canada.

"The MaRS Group plans to create a global address for the commercialization of discovery and is dedicated to ensuring that the substantial public investment in research produces a national public benefit--the creation of employment opportunities and new wealth for Canadians. "If that all sounds a little too warm and fuzzy to you, I can tell you it does to me as well! I still wish the TGH had officially notified us that our little parkette was going to be no more, at least for a while!

While I seem to be on a negative bandwagon, I may as well also tell you that in addition to walking around and inspecting the sight of the MaRS Discovery District, this past week, I paid what is now coming to be an annual visit to Toronto's wonderful old Allan Gardens Conservatory on Sherbourne between College and Gerrard streets. It was on my Toronto radio programme a year or two ago that I predicted the gorgeous Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) would be lost due to the installation of a new heating system the need for which some questioned emphatically.

Well, that was pooh-pooed strongly, but that is exactly what happened. Laura Grant called and reported that three weeks ago on the radio programme, and I reminded her that I had predicted it would happen with the work on the heating system. And, as mentioned when I made the prediction, no cuttings had been taken from the Jade vine.

The city is now searching for a source and I shall make inquiries as soon as I return home. It certainly is ironic that back a decade ago or more, the late Tom Powers, when he was the dedicated superintendent of Allan Gardens, and his supervision was the similarly dedicated Jill Cherry (she is now the superintendent at Vancouver's wonderful Vandusen Botanical Gardens), were in agreement that they should take cuttings and once one got growing well, they would donate it to Le Jardin botanique de Montreal. I was to be involved in getting the plant to my friend Pierre Bourque, then the superintendent at the Montreal garden. Somehow, and for various stupid reasons, the transfer of the plant never took place. Had that happened, Toronto could have appealed to Montreal to obtain a replacement for Allan Gardens now.

Ah, so sad. Tom Powers will be turning in his grave I am sure!

Finally this week, an inquiry from Toronto resident Heather Banfield about just which deciduous shrubs would be good to provide some privacy along the Moore Park ravine in an area of almost total shade. I told her that when I was in Toronto I had used an informal hedge of five-leaf aralia (Acanthopanax sieboldianus [although the genus name has now been changed to Eleutherococcus]). It is hardy, very thorny and grows well in shade. It does not grow tall, I don't think I've ever seen one over about 1.5 metres (5') or so.

I thought of a few more that she may also want to consider: golden currant (Ribes aureum), silverleaf dogwood (Cornus alba 'Elegantissima') and jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens). I also told her there are ever so many others.

But, those four would be a good start!

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