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Rogers Employee Engagement Tree Plant – Tommy Thompson Park

Posted: July 10, 2019

Three volunteers planting one of the shrub species

A few weeks ago, 120 Rogers employees took part in a community tree plant at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto, as a part of Rogers National Volunteer Week.

Tommy Thompson Park takes up the northern half of the Leslie Street Spit.  Named for a former Toronto Parks Commissioner, Tommy Thompson is managed by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).  The park is on a man made stretch of land across from the east end of the Toronto islands. The city created the spit in the 50s as a breakwater when Toronto was expected to become a port city. Toronto never quite became a port city; even so, the city got a fabulous park out of the deal. Today the park is a popular destination for bikers, hikers, and families looking for a quick getaway from the city.

The planting took place in three stages.  At the first stop, the volunteers planted three species of shrubs; chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), nannyberry (Viburnum lentago), and peachleaf willow (Salix amygdaloides).

Chokeberry is native to Ontario.  Chokeberries are antioxidants, can help with digestion, weight loss, reduce inflammation, prevent diabetes, improve eye health, slow the effects of aging, reduce the risk of cancer and lower blood pressure.

Nannyberries are useful in treating respiratory diseases, digestive, and menstrual problems.  Nannyberry is a resistant species and can survive well in heat and drought, thus it has proved itself as a good option for urban landscapes.  In spring it blooms with bundles of cream coloured flowers and dark blue berries.  The large bloom makes it a popular choice for landscaping.

Kaitlyn Lefeaver pulls garlic mustard at Tommy Thompson on Sunday June 9, 2019

Peachleaf willows are the largest native prairie willows.  Depending on where they grow, they can be either short trees (around 12 m) or, more commonly, tall shrubs.  They can grow in up to 50% shade but thrive best in sun.  They are a common choice for wild planting because many native animals feed on their twigs, foliage, and bark, and their dense roots system provides good protection from erosion.

Later, participants planted wildflowers along the shore. Wildflowers are crucial in sustaining pollinator populations.  As such populations have been continuously on decline in recent years, the planting and maintenance of wildflower species is increasingly important in maintaining pollinator health.

Closer to the entrance of the park, participants pooled their muscle to remove garlic mustard, an invasive plant species often used in cooking (and as Judy Reda from TRCA advised is great for making pesto pasta sauce – recipe below).  Garlic mustard displaces lilies and trilliums, native plants that are important to the ecosystem.  Garlic mustard is incredibly resilient, with seeds capable of surviving in the soil for 30 years.  It can grow in wide range of habitats both wet and dry, and often interferes with the growth of fungi that brings nutrients to the roots of other plants, preventing further growth.

The volunteers worked incredibly hard all morning.  By the end of the pulling stage they had managed to pull enough garlic mustard to overflow the back of a large pickup truck.

After a long day of planting and pulling in the hot sun, all the planters gathered together for a well deserved lunch of sandwiches, fruit, and cookies.


Garlic Mustard Pesto Recipe

11 Cups lightly packed garlic mustard leaves and tips loosely chopped (avoid using the darker leaves as they are bitter)

¼ cup pine nuts

1 garlic clove

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon sugar

2 squeezes lemon juice



  1. Grind together the garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan in a blender
  2. Add in the garlic mustard
  3. While blending, pour a stead stream of olive oil until smooth (around 1 minute)
  4. Add in salt, sugar, and lemon. Pulse in blender until mixed