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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Tree Tuesday: New townhomes

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Every Tuesday, Todd Irvine of LEAF posts a stop from the Toronto Tree Tours, a collaborative project of LEAF and the Toronto Public Space Committee. The Toronto Tree Tours offers walking tours in neighbourhoods across the city as well as virtual tours on its web site. The aim is to introduce Torontonians to the individual trees in their neighbourhood while telling stories of our city’s ecological and cultural history.

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Dovercourt park and neighbourhood: Stop 4

These new townhomes reflect development trends taking place throughout Toronto. They were built after a furniture factory, which sat empty on the site for many years, burned down. Building homes such as these is an efficient use of resources — their compact design enables more people to live in a smaller area, and if planned well, they can make the city a vibrant place to live. This kind of development is also good because it curtails the need for people to move further away from the city where the sprawling suburbs are replacing fertile farmland and our remaining forests.

One drawback to higher density housing, however, is that little space is left for trees. The bluish coloured evergreens in front of many of the town homes at this site are skyrocket junipers (Juniperus scopulorum), trees native to the western United States, often planted because of their blue colour and relatively compact form. These trees can reach a height of 20 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The ones planted here are still young and quite small, but are already pressing against the walls and do not have enough space for their roots to grow. With some creative design and a greater understanding of growing requirements, this development could have been made more accommodating for trees.

Read more stories from the Dovercourt tree tour . . .

Photograph by Dougal Bichan

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Are you passionate about Toronto’s urban forest?

Join LEAF staff and volunteers at the Victory Cafe for LEAFy drinks this Thursday December 13th to have a pint and meet other Toronto tree enthusiasts. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, volunteer, or just meet others who share your interest in Toronto’s trees, this is the place for you.

Date: Thursday December 13th
Location: Victory Cafe (2nd floor), 581 Markham St.
Time: 7 pm onwards



  1. There is a horrible example of this at the development at the end of my street at St. Paul and Queen street just east of Parliament.

    New Norway Maples planted in a 2′ wide strip directly against the raised front landings and each tree is in between two front entrances.
    If they ever do manage to grow and I doubt it given the soil prep they were given the owners will have no choice to hack back the entire back half of the tree if they want to enter and exit their homes.

    This is clearly a case where the City demanded a certain number of trees but did not demand form the developer adequate space to plant them in.

  2. Alex > funny you mention this site. I was walking by there yesterday and could not believe the tiny space that they squeezed those trees into. My favourite is the yews they stuffed into a 10 inch space between two brick stairwells.

    As you alluded to, growing space is actually more important than trees because trees can always be planted, but once something is built adding growing space is nearly impossible.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Actually I think this style of development is quite nice. It looks much better than what we are getting in Calgary, in the City you get traditional suburbs. But in the Environs you are starting to get super suburbs. Take the environ of Chestemere, it has the same population as any suburb within City Limits, but it covers 4 or 5 times the surface area.

    Anyways looking at that one picture, It could be possible to add trees into the mix if the developer were to turn that ally into a one way and then plant on one side of the ally with trees.

  4. It is a clear example of quantity over quality.The forestry department is furious with the city, they have a small budget but a growing forest that they have no hope in hell to keep healthy.Who knows where the direction the city is going when we pay thousands for trees but don’t bother building bicycle lanes.And what will happen when we find out that all those trees don’t make a great impact on the environment.

  5. George: Last night on Goldhawk Live you thought Rob Ford was the greatest thing since sliced bread but today he tried to cut your beloved forestry budget by millions of dollars. Which one is it?

  6. well actually I liked that rob ford published what should be public information about councillors expenses.Today I asked the mayor to do the same with all other financial information.He lied of course when he said councillors expenses and all other data is available on the toronto city website.That’s why it costs 50 cents a page to get the information only if the staff will release it.Most of the time they don’t “staff eyes only”.
    Now back to the topic,I don’t like the millions spent on trees when the forestry department can’t handle what they have.Did I not make that clear???.Sliced bread?????

    PS interesting name!