Eric Davies’ refrigerator has a number of overlapping identities: a) cold storage for edibles; b) potential irritant for his roommate (“there’s no room for her food,” Davies admits); c) repository of a future forest. Loaded on every shelf, and filling the vegetable crisper, are more than 10,000 acorns he has collected from large, healthy oaks at various locations in Toronto: Nordheimer ravine, Queen’s Park, the University of Toronto campus, the grounds of the Royal Ontario Museum.
The future forest extends to the rest of his apartment. Every available surface — window ledges, tables, an old wooden ladder— supports an array of glass jars filled with water and the long taproots of germinated oak seedlings. The whole place looks alive. And, indeed, actually came alive one day when a couple of crafty squirrels made their way inside through the open back door—“It was obviously party time in here for those guys,” Davies recounts with a laugh.
And then there’s the front yard of the low-rise building where Davies lives in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. Gone is the lawn, and in its place grows a tree nursery, constructed with permission—and assistance— from the landlord, who is clearly as accommodating as Davies’ roommate is. Made out of salvaged oak boards (which would otherwise have been chopped into wood chips, notes Davies), filled with a truckload of donated soil (“that’s when it got real!” he says), topped with hardware cloth to keep those crafty neighbourhood squirrels out, planted with 1,500 acorns, and taking up an area roughly 12 feet by 12 feet, the tree nursery stops passers-by in their tracks. Davies uses such opportunities to explain to all who are curious that his tree nursery is growing oaks to be given away to anyone who wants to share in this effort to restore the urban forest with locally grown, genetically diverse, provenance-verified, heritage oaks.
Davies is working with schools, residents’ associations, and non-profit organizations such as Evergreen to install portable tree nurseries wherever there’s space — and willing partners to nurture the future forest. This won’t necessarily mean there will be free space in Davies’ refrigerator any time soon, as there is always next year’s crop of acorns to collect.
TEXT BY LORRAINE JOHNSON, WHO REGULARLY WRITES ABOUT TREES AND URBAN FOREST ISSUES.