Mayor John Tory has declared Saturday to be Toronto's first-ever Garden Day and the city is encouraging residents to celebrate the occasion by planting, enjoying nature or strolling through a public garden.

Harry Jongerden, executive director of Toronto Botanical Garden, said Garden Day is an excellent idea because it recognizes the importance of cultivated green space in Toronto.  

"There are so many people who are deprived of nature and who actually suffer from it. Nature is so good for us," Jongerden told Metro Morning on Friday.

"I think we know that when we talk about celebrating gardens and garden days, it's all about letting people know how good gardens are for them, how good gardening is for them and how good these great public gardens are for their cities," he said. 

Canada 150 Tulips

A closeup of Canada 150 Tulips at the Toronto Botanical Garden. (Paul Zammit)

Jongerden said he plans to celebrate the day by taking a few visiting gardening professionals on a tour of the Toronto Botanical Garden. The visitors are meeting next week in Hamilton at the annual conference of the American Public Gardens Association. 

"My personal contribution is going to be making our gardens beautiful for those visitors," he said.

Toronto Botanical Garden, on nearly four acres, is the smallest botanical garden in North America but he said its staff is working with city officials to expand the space to a 35-acre garden. He said he believes it is the most beautiful garden in the city. 

If the Toronto Botanical Garden expands, he said it will have a huge impact on the city. Public gardens matter to cities, he said, because two per cent of all tourists say they travel with the aim of the visiting a great public garden.

"Toronto doesn't have that yet. We are the only major North American city that lacks a significant botanical garden," he said. "We have a plan underway to fix that."

Day marks slowest of the performing arts

Jongerden said gardening has been called the "slowest of the performing arts" because gardeners find "artistic expression in the garden" by combining plants. It is also accessible because not everyone can paint, compose music, or write poetry, but many people, with a bit of space and some plants, can garden, he said.

"We are trying to create an environment that we find beautiful and pleasing," he said.

Garden Day recognizes that art form, he added.

Tory proclaimed June 17, 2017 as Garden Day because the city wanted to recognize the importance of gardens to the city, its environment and the health and well-being of its residents.

In his proclamation, Tory noted that gardens add beauty to neighbourhoods across the city while helping to make the city more livable.

"Green spaces provide a variety of ecological functions that are important to the health of individuals and communities, and have impacts across the city and beyond its borders," Tory said.

According to the city, organizations ask the city for proclamations as part of public awareness campaigns, charitable fundraising and arts and cultural celebrations. 

With files from Metro Morning