Only in Toronto was a wild garden this big of a concern

Sandy Bell once had to fight for her right to maintain a wild garden at her Toronto home.

Sandy Bell spent three years fighting to preserve the garden she wanted in her front yard

Wild gardens, not weeds

26 years ago
Duration 2:19
A Toronto woman prevailed in a fight over the right to cultivate a wild garden at her home.

One of these lawns was not like the others.

Specifically, in the mid-1990s, Sandy Bell's lawn was not as much like her Toronto neighbours' as it was a wild garden.

Her neighbours? They were more fond of a traditional, mowed-grass and well-manicured look for their lawns.

But the thorny situation involving her lawn actually had more to do with the City of Toronto's restrictive bylaws, and it had lasted three years.

"Her lawyers had to invoke her constitutional right to freedom of expression to stop the city's tall grass bylaw from trimming the wild plants in her front yard," said the CBC's Jeffrey Kofman, when he was reporting on Bell's long-running battle on The National in September of 1996.

"And this week, an Ontario court ruled in her favour."

Time to 're-evaluate' lawns?

Sandy Bell believed that it was time to do things differently when it came to household lawns. (The National/CBC Archives)

Bell told Kofman about some of the reasons she favoured the garden she had created.

"I'm saying, let's acknowledge that our small planet is in trouble and let's re-evaluate what we're doing on our front lawns," said Bell.

The ruling meant the city was going to have to take another look at its bylaws.

"I think the compromise has to be something that allows individuals to naturalize their lawns, but to in some way take steps to show that the property is not abandoned," said Peter Tabuns, a city councillor who became a Toronto MPP in 2006.

The city also had to do one other thing — it had to pay back Bell $50 for a fine she had been given over the state of her lawn, according to a Toronto Star report.

Sandy Bell is seen showing CBC reporter Jeffrey Kofman the wild garden she had established in the front yard of her Toronto home. (The National/CBC Archives)

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