Tag Archives: Rosetta McClain Gardens

The Scarborough Bluffs

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Scarborough Bluffs that we see today have changed significantly since 1793 when Elizabeth Simcoe named them while exploring the area around the newly founded town of York. Through her diaries we have the records of the original hiker in the area. The bluffs have been receding inland for the past 12,000 years ever since their exposure at the end of the last ice age. As York grew into Toronto and then expanded to the GTA the bluffs continued to erode and they way they appear today will most certainly change in the future.

The article below contains links to the eleven stories we wrote as we explored the various sections of the bluffs. They are arranged from west to east which is roughly the sequence in which they were written. Before we get started though, we present a new photograph that was taken on December 15th 2020 at Bluffer’s Park. Notice the dark pile of sand at the water’s edge and the horizontal shelf about two thirds of the way up. This is the remnant of a slide that took place on August 24, 2020.

The picture below was taken in January 2016 before the slide took place. In the right of the picture is a section of sand that is topped by two pointed spires. In the recent picture one of those spires is missing and the other is much more rounded.

We now present the detailed blogs about each of the sections of the Scarborough Bluffs. Click on the link to find more pictures and the stories behind each section.

Rosetta McClain Gardens sit on top of the western end of the bluffs and is one of the most beautiful places in the city. The gardens were laid out by Rosetta McClain and her husband and have been in use as a city park since 1959. Aside from all the birds that can be seen in the park it has a view from on top of the Bluffs out over the lake.

Sand Castles was the first one written and tells the geology of the formation of the Bluffs. It also looks at the section of the Bluffs that can be accessed to the west of Bluffers Park.

Erosion at Cathedral Bluffs describes some of the forces effecting the stability of the bluffs and follows them to the east of Bluffers Park.

The Hilarious House Of Frightenstein is located just west of the Gates Gully access to the bottom of the Bluffs. Several houses have fallen prey to the forces of erosion as the land has disappeared out from underneath them. The house in this story used to belong to Billy Van who starred in many roles in the TV show The House of Frightenstein. Just a few years ago the property owners were cutting the grass in the back yard of this house which today is almost completely destroyed.

Gates Gully provides a trail to the bottom of the Bluffs and has quite the history of its own. Along with stories of smugglers and sunken ships it also claims to have buried treasure from 1813. The trail through the gully is named after Dorthy McCarthy who was one of the early artists to take up residence on the Bluffs. The artwork at the bottom of the trail is known as the Passage.

The Alexandria was a steamship

South Marine Park Drive is an old construction road that has been turned into a linear park that runs west from the access road beside the Guild Inn. The road was used to create what is known as a hard shoreline which is intended to slow down the erosion of the Bluffs. Old construction materials and parts of demolished buildings were dumped along the shore destroying the natural interface between the lake and the land.

Guildwood Park sits on top of the Scarborough Bluffs and contains a newly restored Guild Inn. It is also home to pieces that were salvaged from early Toronto buildings that were demolished. These are presented as artwork throughout the property.

Beachcombers is the title we selected for the section of the Bluffs that runs east from the Guild Inn toward East Point Park. Up until now this section of the Bluffs has a natural beach that allows the lake to deposit a wide variety of stuff onto the beach. We met a couple who regularly walk this section looking for the most recent treasures. It sounds like the Toronto Region Conservation Authority will be going ahead with a plan to hardline this shore, thereby destroying one of the last natural sections of the Bluffs.

East Point Park has an upper meadow, wetlands, a segment of the Scarborough Bluffs and a lengthy beach. The meadow is a staging area for Monarch Butterflies as they prepare to migrate south for the winter.

Highland Creek marks the eastern end of the Scarborough Bluffs and has plenty of natural spaces which provide homes to its varied wildlife.

It isn’t possible to hike from one end of the Bluffs to the other at water level because of places where the lake and bluffs meet but you can explore most of it by approaching it in sections.

Google Maps Links are provided in each individual story.

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Rosetta McClain Gardens 2019

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Rosetta McClain Gardens sits atop the Scarborough Bluffs and although it was once a private garden it is now open to the public for everyone to enjoy.  We have previously visited the gardens but having seen the pictures of hummingbirds on the Friends of Rosetta McClain Gardens Facebook page it seemed like a good idea to stop by again.  Our earlier visit contains more details about the history of the property and so it will be linked at the end of this post rather than repeating all of that here.

Monarch butterfly caterpillars go through five distinct stages of growth, molting after each one.  Each stage is known as an instar and the first stage is translucent.  By the third stage it grows longer tentacles and has the familiar yellow, white and black banding.  This caterpillar below is a third stage instar and in the next two stages it will have white patches on the legs.  The fifth instar will be 2000 times the weight of the first one.  The caterpillar then molts into a chrysalis from which the butterfly will emerge in 8-15 days.  Caterpillars that are seen in late August are the generation that will fly south for the winter.

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Hummingbirds are the smallest family of birds with the bee hummingbird weighing just 2 grams.  They get their name from the noise their wings make during flight while they beat between 12 and 80 times per second.  Due to their high metabolism they consume energy at a substantial rate.  To preserve body mass, every night they enter a state of torpor that is similar to hibernation.  Even in their state of torpor they lose up to 10% of their body mass every night.

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The gardens feature several of the ten species of coneflowers.  The coneflower is formally known as echinacea and has long been used for its immunological effects.  There are studies which show that it can be effective in treating and preventing respiratory infections related to the common cold.  The cone flower is being pollinated by a black swallowtail butterfly.

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Dryad’s Saddle is a large polypore that can grow as large as 12 inches across.  These young ones are just getting started.  They are edible but can be very tough so people will eat the small ones or cut off the outer edges of the cap on larger ones.  This mushroom is also known as Pheasant’s Back.

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The underside of butterfly wings often displays a much different pattern than the top side of the wing.  The Painted Lady below tends to be found in areas where there are thistles as the larvae feed on thistles and burdocks.

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The remains of the McClain house add an interesting atmosphere to the gardens.  Most of the roof is gone as are parts of the walls but what is left makes for some unusual photographs.

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The view from the top of the Scarborough Bluffs out across Lake Ontario often reveals pleasure boats near shore and the smaller shadows on the horizon of the larger ships.

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Rosetta McClain Gardens is one of the best places in the city to photograph birds, flowers and butterflies.  The story of the gardens can be found in our earlier post which is available at this link.

Google Maps Link: Rosetta McClain Gardens

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Rosetta McClain Gardens

Monday, July 3, 2017

Rosetta McClain Gardens is a jewel along the Scarborough Bluffs.  The gardens have been transformed into a place for all to enjoy, especially the handicapped.  Close to the parking lot is a sign showing the layout of the park.  The sign has Braille on it and is laid out in relief so that everyone can find their way around with ease.  The walkways and paths have been created out of different types of material so that the handicapped can find their way around more easily.  Cobblestone, bricks and interlocking stones each create a path that feels and sounds different to aid the visually impaired.

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In 1904 Thomas McDonald West bought 40 acres of land over looking the Scarborough Bluffs.  When he passed away he divided it among his four children with each one getting about 10 acres.  His daughter, Rosetta, and her husband Robert Watson McClain made many improvements to their property in the form of gardens and walkways.

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When Rosetta died in 1940 her husband wanted to find a way to commemorate her and in 1959 he offered the city the land for a park to be named after her.  In 1977 the land was conveyed to the care and control of Toronto Region Conservation Authority.  They’ve added parcels of land three times, incorporating other parts of the original homestead) to bring the total to 22 acres.  To add to the enjoyment of the visually impaired the gardens have been laid out as scent gardens.  There are extensive rose gardens which were, unfortunately, a little past their prime.

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The old McClain house still stands, although in ruins, on the property.  Efforts have been made to preserve the remnants by adding concrete along the top edge of some of the crumbling walls.

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Rosetta McClain Gardens have a good view of Lake Ontario from the top of the Scarborough Bluffs but there is no access to the lake.  A fence keeps people from getting too close to an earlier fence which is no longer moored to the eroding sand.  The concrete pole anchor has been left hanging high above the lake while it waits to eventually fall. Access to the lake and the view of the Scarborough Bluffs can be found just east of Rosetta McClain Gardens at the foot of Brimley Road in Bluffer’s Park.

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The extensive gardens and a wide variety of trees make it an excellent place for birdwatchers to observe their feathered friends.

Google Maps Link: Rosetta McClain Gardens

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