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Course Description

Close up shot of orange flower

Naturalizing and Restoring Urban Gardens covers practice and theory to convert degraded urban greenspace into ecologically functional areas, especially using native plant species and ecological principles, and restoration of heritage gardens. Students will learn the processes involved in planning naturalized areas, design, site planning and soil preparation, plant selection and maintenance. Students will also learn about ecological connections among landscape plants, other plants, animals and people, and how they contribute to healthy urban environments. Students will also learn about municipal by-laws affecting garden design and management, nuisance and noxious weeds acts, and the control of urban wildlife and weed issues.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe and compare the interconnectivity of plants, people and the rest of nature in an urban environment;
  • Research and interpret additional resources on urban ecology, naturalization, issues surrounding sustainable urban gardens and naturalized spaces appropriate to your specific site and intentions;
  • Discuss the basic issues such as native plant use, invasive species issues, pollinators and other urban wildlife, and the processes that work over time in any garden or ecosystem to bring about change;
  • Research and create plans to naturalize or restore an urban site, including site selection and characteristics, remediation, planning permissions, plant and landscape feature selection, site preparation, planting and garden management; and
  • Develop and use your own “tool kit” of guidelines to assist you in assessing sites and assessing projects for sustainable naturalization or restoration.

Course Topics

Course Units

Unit 1 - Considering Sustainability and Urban Ecology - Landscape Sustainability from Different Perspectives; What Are Naturalized Gardens? What Are Restored Gardens? Importance of urban gardens and natural areas to human well-being

Unit 2 - Functional Roles of Naturalized Gardens and Urban Greenspace - Green Spaces for Activities; The Human Element: Green Spaces and Human Well-Being; Characteristics of the Urban Environment; What is an Ecological System? Urban Spaces as Ecosystems

Unit 3 - Characteristics of Urban Green Space - Gardens as Living Things – Change Happens; What is "Degraded?" Heritage value of Gardens and Historic Landscapes; Contemporary vs. Historical Practices in Garden Management; Remediation and Positive Change;  Adaptive Management – Steering Change  

Unit 4 - Design Choices: Native Plants and Habitats - Different Styles of "Naturalization" and "Restoration"; Naturalized: Adjective vs. Noun; Is a 'Naturalized Garden' an Oxymoron?  Is a garden always an improvement? Do we crave green?

Unit 5 - The Details of Plants and Planning - Plants that fit criteria for "sustainable"; Use of Native Species;  Avoiding Invasive Species; Plants for Pollinators and other Ecological Partners;  Heritage plants and provenance;  Alternatives to "Big Box" approach to Horticulture

Unit 6 -  What is Sustainable? - Introduction to the Checklist; The Sustainable Sites Initiative 


Assessment Item Weight
Quizzes (2 x 15%) 30%
Graded Assignment A, Part 1 8%
Graded Assignment A, Part 2 8%
Graded Assignment A, Part 3 8%
Graded Assignment A, Part 4 8%
Graded Assignment B 8%
Online Discussion (2 x 15%) 30%
Total 100%


Applies Towards the Following Certificates

*Course details are subject to change.


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