Just Offshore from Downtown Toronto, Verdant Islands with Personality to Spare
Ward Island is part of the Toronto Islands, just a few minutes ferry ride from downtown Toronto, Canada. That short ferry ride transports you between what feels like one world and another.
You leave the bustling hub of a city of 2.6 million people. You arrive in a place of small cottages and modest houses, no motor vehicles (the Toronto Islands are the largest urban area in North America without cars), and gardens lovingly tended and often creatively inspired.
Actually, Ward Island is not an island. Rather it is the eastern-most chunk of Centre Island, the largest part of this tiny archipelago.
Judy and I got to see the Toronto Islands as part of the brilliantly organized 2015 Garden Bloggers Fling. Once the Flingers got off the ferry and had a group picture taken, we were given maps and a list of the gardens that were open to visitors.
After that, we were free to spend the afternoon wandering at will. This post will focus on Ward Island, and in the near future I’ll write something about Algonquin Island, which had a slightly different feel.
To be honest, I can’t remember enough to write about the individual gardens we saw on Ward Island, but I can write about the general impression they made on me.
The overall feel was certainly informal, often with a Bohemian vibe. These Bridalwreath-type Spirea were popular, and obligingly at peak bloom at the time of our visit.
Lots of originality could be found in materials and objects used for hardscape, containers, and garden art.
Why shouldn’t a toilet be repurposed as a planter?
I liked this cow-themed mailbox.
Watch out for the spider!
As for color, it seemed as if all the flowers of spring were blooming simultaneously in June rather than sequentially throughout the season.
Tulips, Alliums, and Irises, Lilacs and Hellebores – all could be seen blooming at once.
Perhaps there were all rushing to catch up from the long winter, knowing there was no time to waste.
After seeing a number of gardens, Judy and I walked to the bridge leading to nearby Algonquin Island. Our route was a boardwalk along the south side of the island, facing Lake Ontario.
We passed empty beaches.
We saw quite of a few of these signs during our ramblings. On the opposite end of Center Island there is a small airport servicing propeller planes. There is a push to extend the runways so that jets can also land, but it is running into determined opposition.
Today’s Toronto Islands community actually owes its existence to such civic protest. In the 1950s a plan was devised to empty the islands of people and turn it into a park. A few hundred residents resisted, and a lengthy struggle ensued that did not end until about ten years ago.
The final resolution is that while the land is publicly owned, the residents own their houses and hold a 99 year lease on the land they live on. Development is severely restricted: there is a school, a senior center, three cafes, and a children’s amusement park – but no stores. Supplies must be brought from the mainland. People visit from the mainland to enjoy the Islands, but only on foot.
Eventually Judy and I came to the Algonquin Island bridge. The narrow channel between the islands was full of boats.
And the bridge took only a minute or two to cross.
Next: Algonquin Island.