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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Toronto Flower Market a community in bloom

By Mike Hajmasy

When I visited the Toronto Flower Market (TFM) on a sunny Saturday morning in June, CAMH’s Shaw Park looked unlike I had ever seen it before. What is usually a quiet, open space with few visitors was now full of people, and the grounds of a mental health hospital looked nothing like what one might expect.

People had gathered to shop for the season’s finest locally-grown flowers – yes – but there was much more happening that day. The community had come in. There were people picnicking on the lawn and playing guitar. Kids were drawing at art tables; families were taking group photos. And there were dogs – lots of dogs.

Dog standing beside signThe space had transformed, CAMH and the West Queen West community was blooming, and for the market’s founder Natasa Kajganic, that’s what it’s all about.

“The Toronto Flower Market celebrates and supports Ontario-grown flowers and plants, connecting growers and florists directly with the city,” she explains. “It’s a community event and an opportunity for people to connect. Everyone is welcome here.” 

Natasa KajganicToronto Flower Market founder Natasa Kajganic doesn’t actually have a background in botany, landscaping or horticulture. She’s a project manager, and was inspired to bring people together over flowers after a trip to London, England’s infamous Columbia Road Flower Market.

A belief in community and inclusivity is what drew Natasa to CAMH in the first place. “I saw what CAMH was doing with its Queen Street Redevelopment Project and felt like the values aligned perfectly with how we wanted to build the market,” she says. “Both the flower market and CAMH are communities, and it’s important to be inclusive and to integrate ourselves with the people who are a part of this neighbourhood.”

Toronto Flower Market
CAMH’s Shaw Park was a hub of activity at the most recent Toronto Flower Market.

And CAMH is happy to have the market on our site. As part of its ongoing commitment to changing attitudes surrounding mental illness, the Community Use of Space initiative looks for creative ways to share hospital grounds with artists and community groups throughout the year. This includes events such as Nuit Blanche, the Queen West Art Crawl and Doors Open Toronto.

“We’re so pleased to welcome the market back to Shaw Park,” says Janet Mawhinney, Director of Community Engagement at CAMH. “This event uniquely brings clients, staff and neighbours together to interact in an everyday way, and implicitly breaks down some of barriers or stigma that often surround mental illness.”

The flowers and plants sold at the Toronto Flower Market are grown locally, which means selection depends on the season and month. At the market in June, it was all about peonies.

It’s just the second season at CAMH for the Toronto Flower Market, but Natasa sees the budding relationship as the start of something special.

“The market is a great example of how a public space can be used and shared. And it all comes back to people – the flower market couldn’t exist without the support of the community around it. The vendors, the people who drop by or picnic in the park, everyone at CAMH – we need each other to make that positive change happen.”

The Toronto Flower Market is back on Saturday, July 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Shaw Park, 1001 Queen Street West, and continues once a month until October 7. See the full schedule here.

Published on July 4, 2017

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