Toronto Island Community’s First Tree

Rose Wilson has been living on the Toronto Islands since 1953. Her husband Ken was working for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) back when the Commission also ran the ferries to the Islands and maintained the grounds. It was a long commute from Markham Road where they were living, so when they found a house to rent at Hanlan’s Point they moved over with their three children: Maxine, Willie and Linda. They lived at two different locations on Hiawatha Avenue until the homes were expropriated. In 1961 the family was able to buy a house on Ward’s Island and moved to Rose’s current home at 10 Third Street.

Rose has always been an avid gardener and a faithful composter. Her first compost bin on Ward’s started with a few boards hammered together at the back of the house, just like she had at Hanlan’s Point. Everything went into it long before it was a ‘thing’. She firmly believes in keeping everything on the Island, to build up the soil to help protect it from floods and erosion. One of her strongest opinions is “No leaves should leave!” – and firmly opposes having them collected and trucked into the city.

Back in the early ’60s, in crabapple season, Rose and a friend would bike down-Island to the back of the water filtration plant to a special tree that had the best crabapples. When her children got a little older she sent them to collect the apples, which Rose then made into crabapple jelly. She sold many jars at the annual Island Christmas Boutique, and put them into family Christmas baskets for the turkey dinners. Sadly, the last jar made by the family matriarch has been consumed.

Rose always made a point of ensuring any crabapple discards went into the compost. At some point in the ’60s, a tiny sapling was found sprouting in the compost bin, and Rose planted it in front of her house. 

Almost 60 years and many, many jars of crab-apple jelly later, we have the Toronto Island Community’s first Tree Trust legacy tree renewal. Just in time for Rose’s 104th birthday in July, 2020.

Tyler Ganton as a young boy used to climb this tree and eat the crabapples. Now, as our Toronto Island Community arborist, he has restored Rose’s tree so that it can be enjoyed by all for years to come.

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