Sahasi Erven snips away at his two-by-six-metre flower garden bed at Chambers Street and Princess Avenue that spells out “Ukraine” in blue and yellow.
This Friday (July 15) at 10 a.m., Erven begins unveiling at Beacon Hill Park what he claims will be the world’s largest Ukraine flag made out of flowers. The bed, located at the all-weather field just east of Mile 0, will cover roughly 10 by 30 metres and continue to grow as more plants and pots arrive up until July 24 to amass an anticipated 100,000-flower flag.
“They didn’t tell me they were going to start dropping all the bombs (in Ukraine), so this is all spontaneous,” Erven said.
In 1986, Erven, who’s worked most of his life as a carpenter, built the original woodchip trails at Beacon Hill Park for the International Year of Peace.
During the war in Iraq, he expressed his upset by releasing two full-length music albums. Now, since no songs have come to mind this time, he’s resorting to flowers – although they haven’t always been a natural form of expression for him.
“My brother would always tease me that I knew so little about flowers.”
Fifteen years ago, Erven had a vision to create the most beautiful place on planet Earth. That place became his vibrant Oneness Heart Park garden at 2201 Chambers St., which now features a flowery green and white smiley face and pink heart in addition to the “Ukraine” garden bed.
“When the war (in Ukraine) started, I was just so shocked,” Erven recalled, who responded by arranging for a much smaller Ukraine flower flag to be assembled at Beacon Hill Park than what he ended up taking on.
His niece caught wind of him making a smaller-size flower flag and secretly created a website for the cause on his behalf, making a commitment to build the world’s largest Ukraine flower flag.
“I said, ‘Wait, stop – there’s no way I’m making the world’s largest (Ukraine flower) flag,’” Erven recounted. “‘It’s way too much work.’”
He quickly gave in and took initiative with his Flag of Flowers website to spread the word and garner thousands more blue and yellow flowers. Already, the colourful plants have arrived in abundance and the priority is now getting enough pots to accommodate them “because we’re a long way from 100,000.”
Groups like nurseries have significantly contributed to the effort and Erven himself has put in roughly 8,000 flowers, but he said most of the plants have come from a single individual whom he did not disclose.
Erven stressed this is not a fundraiser and proudly shared his simple three-step process: He builds the flower flag, love spreads around the world and the war in Ukraine ends.
He explained he hopes to reach “someone who knows someone who knows someone who can whisper in someone’s ear and say, ‘Let’s just have a ceasefire.’”
Erven’s wife, Bhamini McDonald, said the garden on Chambers Street serves as a representation of what’s happening around the world that’s positive and at a level that children can understand.
”Families are so tender, just like a flower,” she said, adding that she and Erven chose Beacon Hill Park for its appeal to families and encouraging them to participate in the flower planting.
An early childhood educator at nearby George Jay Elementary School, McDonald sometimes brings her students to the garden to enjoy the plants.
“They’ll come over, tipping their magnifying glass to watch things grow.”
Erven invited the public to come enjoy the flag at Beacon Hill Park and added that, as of July 24, the entire display will be up for grabs and anyone may take flowers home to add them to their garden or assemble their own Ukraine flag.
“They’re like children, plants – you’ve got to nurture each one in its own way.”
Those interested in volunteering or donating pots and flowers can sign up at flagofflowers.ca.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.