My Luscious Backyard, Parkdale’s own farmer florist

Quaint, quirky and sometimes queenly, this is Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, home to My Luscious Backyard

Yesterday, I wrote about a cool art piece we noticed in Parkdale. Today, I’m writing about what we were in Parkdale for – to visit Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard. Sarah’s an urban flower farmer with a novel way to yard share, and we wanted our Toronto Flingers to know about it.

Nixon finds local homeowners who’ll let her plant and tend flowers in their front yards (in 2015, she had 10 of them). Then she harvests those flowers through the season and arranges them in vases and bouquets – sold by weekly subscription or special order, for clients from businesses to brides.

Everyone wins with this (forgive me) arrangement. The homeowner gets a beautiful, maintenance-free garden; My Luscious Backyard harvests from a distributed “slow flowers” urban farm made of micro-plots, within a few blocks of home; clients get hard-to-find, farm-fresh flowers.

Ours was the first of three small busloads of bloggers, and Sarah Nixon welcomed us from her back porch. We were charmed by her daughter, who peeped out to make sure we behaved.
As Nixon explained her business, we checked out her plant propagation area. She starts all her own seed indoors in a heated shed over late winter and early spring, then hardens them off in the collapsible greenhouses in her back garden.
You can see the diversity of plants she grows – 100+ species or varieties. Producing them can be challenging. In 2015, for example, she told us how the extra-cool spring had her hauling plants back indoors after having set them out to harden.
It isn’t only seed in My Luscious Backyard. Isn’t this a smart way to label dahlias?
Nixon’s back yard also produces perennials like these Baptisia and peonies, as well as (not seen) roses for both flowers and decorative hips, large-flowered clematis, and shrubs such as colourful ninebark (Physocarpus) which she likes to use for foliage. She squeezes a lot into her small space.
After explaining how My Luscious Backyard works, as we poked around, Nixon gave us a quick demo of how she creates a typical arrangement. The vase is from her collection of vintage milk glass. No nasty floral foam required.
She gave us good tips to take home, and this was a time when I wish I’d had a notepad in my hands instead of a camera. Peonies, for instance, are best harvested before fully opened when at the springy “marshmallow” stage. That image handily stuck in my brain. Nixon always conditions her stems to prolong the life of the foliage and flowers.
Starting with the foliage stems, to hold everything in place, she worked quickly, and soon produced this lovely arrangement. The trailing stem of clematis vine and its flowers was the finishing touch. Then we all uprooted on foot to go see one of her clients’ gardens nearby.
There were sights and delights on the way that made some of us dawdle. Are you looking at me?
You are looking at me.
Soon, we were around the corner to see a newly planted garden in early June. I think I recall her planting method as this: after clearing the site of major weeds or grasses, she lays down landscape cloth and puts all new soil on top – something I would never do in a perennial garden. But these are annuals, remember. The garden will be renewed every year – and likely the landscape cloth along with it. And, of course, I could have dreamed the whole thing. One thing for sure: she plants each seedling in a little well to capture rainwater, which is a good way to conserve watering and further these babies along.
After that, we loaded back onto the bus for our next stop – with a few distractions along the way.

I’ll admit to having had misgivings about how we’d manage to shoehorn 70 bloggers into Sarah’s tiny back garden. Yet, with the high-precision bus scheduling of fellow Toronto Fling committee member Lorraine Flanigan of CityGardening,
manage we did (or for the most part; the last bus ran short on time and missed the demo). For this I send Lorraine my undying admiration and all of our thanks. It was a treat to show off this
Toronto urban agriculture biz to our guests from far and wide.


  1. I really enjoyed exploring Sarah's garden & seeing a borrowed plot in action. Unfortunately, I was one of those on the last bus that missed the demonstration…but we did get the benefit of the finished product and her inspired use of non-traditional plants was evident. Now I have a good use for all that Queen Anne's lace that pops up!

    1. I love Queen Anne's lace in an arrangement — even the dried heads can be pretty (though watch out for them seeding themselves around your garden with those long tap roots, and don't put them in the compost pile afterwards!). There is an annual with similar flowers, and less invasive: Ammi majus (though the seed does have some toxicity — but so many plants do!). Also, I love dill flowers and seed heads in arrangements, too. Oh, those beautiful umbellifers!

  2. Isn't Sarah a gem? She's done wedding flowers for me and I'm a big an of her urban farmer-florist approach to wedding floral design. She also provides blooms to some of Toronto's best florist shops. Great to see so many garden bloggers make the trek out to her home/workshop and learn more about Sarah and her work.

  3. Thanks, Helen! So nice to revisit that spring day! It was great fun. About the landscape fabric… I do use it on the surface of the soil for a few crops that get very dirty from rain splash, such as scented geranium. There was one yard where used landscape fabric under the soil. This was a plot that was infested with bind weed. Infested soil was removed to several feet down, the thickest fabric laid along bottom and sides and new soil and compost added. It worked like a charm but only for desperate situations – it's a lot of work!

    1. Thanks for clarifying, Sarah — this is the downside of writing from memory after a few months have passed. And thanks again for allowing us to invade your garden. Our Flingers really enjoyed and appreciated it!

You might also like