Creating a Garden of Eden in Mississauga
Updated: Sep 13
by Heather Raithby Doyle
Meet a Member: Patty Duquette
A new native plant garden at a busy intersection in Mississauga is attracting pollinators and people, and a whole lot of positivity. The Peace Garden and Peace Pole at Eden United Church of Canada now brighten the formerly weedy corner of Winston Churchill and Battleford Road. Despite it’s lush appearance, the garden was only planted three months ago. A new bench welcomes people to relax and enjoy the view.
Amazingly, in June, as volunteers nestled 300 tiny seedlings from Blooming Boulevards into their new home a brightly coloured Canadian tiger swallowtail appeared and rested in the garden. “I was almost in tears. There’s a butterfly right here and we’re not even finished the garden yet,” says Patty Duquette. When it comes to the garden, Patty is a key player, volunteering her time and linking community groups to help make it happen.
The garden has many positive, unexpected spin-off effects. But first, let’s meet Patty. Retired from the fitness and recreation industry, Patty, along with her husband Pat have two grown daughters. Patty is an active member of Eden United which is minutes away from the house where the couple has lived for 30 years. She works out regularly at the nearby recreation centre, and is also an avid scrapbooker.
She describes herself as a lifelong environmentalist. “I’ve had a rain barrel, a compost, and a clothesline before it became vogue.” Her father was an early recycler: “He used to save all the newspapers, bundle them, and they would get driven to a depot on Kipling Avenue, ” Patty remembers with a smile. As Patty got involved with the Peace Garden, she and her husband decided to put a Blooming Boulevards garden area at their house. She says the garden is a good conversation starter when she is out walking her dog Fergus, and hopes a neighbour will be inspired to plant a boulevard garden of their own: “People stop by, it’s lovely.” The idea of a Peace Garden had been floating around for a while, but with the church’s upcoming 200th anniversary in 2024, church volunteers got down to business. A committee was formed. In March, 2023 Patty helped organize Eco Day at Eden. She presented a vision for the Peace Garden to members of the congregation and the public. She invited author and native plant activist Lorraine Johnson, the Credit Valley Conservation corporate greening program, and Jeanne McRight, president of Blooming Boulevards to give presentations.
Above: Eco Day at the Eden United Church
“From there we were on a roll. We found out about a grant from the United Church of Canada, Jeannie got involved to provide a plan and the plants, and it happened fast,” says Patty. The Peace Garden received a grant from The Watkins Fund, through the United Church of Canada’s Seeds of Hope program. The Peace Pole, which features the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in eight languages, and the sign which will be installed in late September, are funded by the United Church of Canada through their Justice and Reconciliation grant.
Below: Installation of the church's Peace Garden in June
The garden is having a ripple effect. Patty estimates up to 40 people at the church have been involved in making the garden come to life. Also, “people realize what a difference it makes to how the property looks… That area used to be quite an eyesore.” Now, she says, the idea has spilled over and people are starting to care about other parts of the landscape. Members of the congregation tend to planters, and a student was hired to weed the property.
In an era of declining congregations, she says, it’s a way to attract people to the church. “If it’s all overgrown and horrible looking, then who’s going to drive by and say, ‘Oh, I want to go to that church.’ Plus we have a daycare, and meeting space for rent. If it’s not looking taken care of, then who’s going to want that space?” Recently, the habitat garden attracted a star visitor, and gave the church the chance to share the news through social media (IG: @edenunitedchurch_mississauga). While the Peace Pole was being installed in early September, Patty was there to move plants so workers wouldn’t trample them. “I was just walking around, pulling the odd weed and there was a monarch butterfly! I got out my phone and was like Muhammed Ali, chasing this butterfly around to get a photo. I sent it to the church’s communications person and within 10 minutes it was on social media: ‘Monarch butterfly visits Eden Peace Garden’.” The social media buzz about the garden is a positive thing for the church. “You want to bring people back to church life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be religious. It could be helping at the food bank, or with the Peace Garden, or the clothing mart, all those different things,” says Patty.
The church gets a lot of foot traffic with the seniors’ residence next door and a high school and middle school nearby. “A lady who lives in the seniors’ building said how thrilled she is to walk by here and see the garden blooming, and it just makes her so happy.” The bench is also a popular feature. “Whenever I see the seniors sitting on their old bench, I come running over and say, ‘We have this new bench and you can see this lovely garden…We wanted to make it a place where people could come, and sit and relax, and reflect and have a peaceful moment.” In future, Patty says, the group hopes to expand the garden to the other side of the path and add more seating.