Artscape Wychwood Barns is where artists, designers, social purpose organizations and environmental non-profits come together to build a more vibrant and sustainable community. As one of the first tenants at Artscape Wychwood Barns, Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests (LEAF), an environmental non-profit, has been protecting Toronto’s urban forests by increasing the number of trees, shrubs and wildlife in the city.
Being part of the Wychwood Barns community allows LEAF to provide essential environmental services throughout the GTA. One of the most essential programs that LEAF offers is its Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens, where volunteers plant and maintain beautiful gardens at five different TTC stations across Toronto, including a beautiful garden at Artscape Wychwood Barns.
“For us, being at Artscape Wychwood Barns, allows us to be able to provide this wonderful service,” says Daniela Serodio, communications and marketing intern at LEAF.
“We take advantage of the space we’re in,” Serodio says, adding that LEAF has planted Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens in the park surrounding Artscape Wychwood Barns.
“The garden is beautiful and great for humans, but it’s also great for local wildlife,” Serodio explains, adding that LEAF has planted a lot of flowers, plants, fruiting shrubs and trees that provide great food for pollinators and for animals. “It’s really common to see squirrels and birds and other animals in the garden.”
According to LEAF, trees living in urban environments have more pressures than trees living in a natural environment. Part of the work the organization focuses on is educating people about how to best take care of the city’s urban trees,
A healthy urban forest is diverse, both in species and age, and can support a wildlife population, Serodio says. The problems in Toronto come when new developments hardly have any trees or shrubs at all. This is the problem that LEAF has been trying to tackle for over two decades.
LEAF was started in 1995 by Executive Director Janet McKay when she began to distribute seedlings in her Leslieville neighbourhood. There was a lot of interest from her neighbours, but many trees didn’t survive or reach maturity. To solve this problem, over the next few years McKay worked to provide planting services as well as educational materials for people to care for their new trees. This program is now known as the Backyard Tree Planting Program.
Operating as a social enterprise across the Greater Toronto Area, LEAF provides subsidized tree and shrub planting services as well as maintenance and pruning services to clients ranging from homeowners, businesses and schools. Alongside their planting services, LEAF also offers a wealth of resources, research and education on the importance of urban forests, which includes the trees and plants growing in backyards and along streets.
For more information about LEAF or volunteer to plant an Urban Forest Demonstration Garden, visit www.yourleaf.org.