"You're never quite alone," says Steve Poulin, "but what can you do?" On Sunday, June 3, the Cabbagetown Preservation Association holds its annual Hidden Gardens and Private Spaces event. The public is invited to traipse through the district's floral backyards and quiet laneways, but not to dig, damage or otherwise desecrate the cozy residential grounds. Mr. Poulin's and his wife's garden is part of the self-guided tour, but when he speaks of not being alone, he isn't talking about this weekend's paid visitors. No, his more frequent guests have snouts, whiskers and bushy tails; they are poopers, disturbers and diggers of the most unwelcome kind.
"We have a 100-year-old silver maple in our backyard garden," explains Mr. Poulin, "and it seems to be the Trump Tower of raccoon city." The bandit-masked varmint are not the only annoying critters on the block. "It's like the squirrel Olympic games," says Mr. Poulin, referring to the mischievous habits of the twitchy rodents. "They pull up the impatiens and see how far they can throw them."
As they do their best work nocturnally or when people aren't around, the animals likely won't be part of the tour of 10 private patches. But the garden owners will be on hand to talk about their greenery and perhaps to give tips on how to best deal with the raccoons and such. For example, at the Poulins' you'll find rhododendrons in bloom, thanks to the tomato netting used over the winter and into the spring to keep the squirrels away from the buds.
Neighbour Brian Simpson will tell you never to plant a rotten avocado. "Raccoons dug it up," he says, "and then went on decimate our garden every night for the rest of the season." Mr. Simpson not only opens his backyard to the public, but often takes the tour himself. "I'm a hobby gardener," he explains, "so I enjoy talking to the people who are into the science of it all, as well as the art."
The green-thumbers might have advice on how to deal with ruining critters, but, in the end it really comes down to concessions, not precautions. "You just have to expect it," says Mr. Poulin, who buys an extra flat of annuals to account for the damage by squirrels. "You have to live with them."
Hidden Gardens and Private Spaces happens June 3, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. $15. 89 Winchester St., 416-363-9914 or cabbagetownpa.ca.