Harry-Jongerden

Toronto Botanical Garden set for multimillion-dollar expansion

The plan has inspired a new wave of young people to get involved

As it gets set to undertake an ambitious expansion plan that will see it grow from four to a whopping 35 acres, the Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG) has seen a surge of interest from younger generations, which TBG is hoping to target in the years to come.

Located at 777 Lawrence Ave. E., TBG is a non-profit public garden offering a variety of programs meant to educate people about plants and connect them with nature.

“I’m going to brag a little bit and say it’s the most beautiful garden in Toronto,” said Harry Jongerden, TBG’s garden director.

In April of 2018, Toronto City Council approved TBG’s expansion via merging it with the adjacent Edwards Gardens Park. The city will be contributing $4.85 million for capital improvements, whereas TBG will be responsible for the garden’s construction and design.

Jongerden said that TBG and other botanical gardens, which he said number around 3,000 worldwide, are connected professionally and, through their conservation programs, are at the forefront of plant conservation and the restoration of healthy ecosystems.

“We’re modern age kick-ass environmental organizations,” said Jongerden, who said that both he and his counterparts have noticed an increased interest from a young demographic.

“We’ve all noticed this interest of that younger generation who, I guess, align with our values, the environmental values, but also see that we’ve got information, we’ve got answers to their questions about how they can grow their own food and in some ways live more sustainably,” said Jongerden. “We’re finding that they’re here, they want to take the courses, they want to buy the seed, they want to learn how to do it.”

On Oct. 23, TBG hosted a talk by Darryl Cheng, a houseplant specialist with over 400,000 Instagram followers, highlighting the role of social media when attracting people to a botanical garden.

“Most of us [botanical gardens], we’re non-profits. Where’s our massive marketing budgets? Well, we don’t have them,” said Jongerden, who said social media is increasingly the main vehicle for TBG’s communications with the public.

“We use it to the best of our abilities to connect with the interests and passions of people of all ages, but of course it’s young people who tend to hang out on social media more.”

Jongerden said the increasing interest amongst young people will help the bottom line.

“When people are taking an adult course, they pay for that here, that helps. And they’ll buy something at the café, and it all helps. What we’re here to do is serve the public and benefit the environment. We’re not here to make money, but we do need to cover costs of course.”

Article exclusive to TRNTO