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Montreal borough deciding what to do with 10,000 sunflowers

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On the site where a munitions factory once stood during the Second World War, there is now a garden of 10,000 sunflowers.

The field in the Ahuntsic–Cartierville borough became a gathering place in an unlikely area.

Walking between the very tall sunflowers, Elena Di Stefano could not help but say, "It is an oasis in the middle of an urban setting!" while standing on one of the boardwalks that crisscross a huge patch of 10,000 sunflowers.

Pollinators, birds and people have been flocking to the area all summer.

Di Stefano works with the Société de Développement Commercial District Central (SDC District-Central) and said pollination is one of the key words. "We are pollinating our ideas," she said.

During the past four months, the area with tables, wi-fi, shelter and lighting has hosted community gatherings, work meetings and even paint nights among the blooms.

"We also had workshops where people could learn about all the properties of sunflowers and learn about heat islands," said Di Stefano.

The SDC aims to enrich this area north of Chabanel, which has long been an industrial wasteland.

A poster onsite shows the history in the region.

In 1942, a munitions factory was built in the area as part of Montreal Works.

That building was demolished in 2016, and Di Stefano said the future here will be different.

"District central has big plans, not just business-wise but ecology-wise," she said. "By 2040, we aim to be the greenest district in the Montreal area."

As autumn settles in, the sunflower season is waning, and the initiative will move onto the next step. Di Stefano said research and development will see what the stalks can be used for.

"Can they be used for urban furniture? Can the petals be used for dye or can we just open the field and let people pick the sunflowers they want?" she asked.

With 10,000 sunflowers to work with, there are plenty of options.

The sunflowers will be planted again in the same area next May, part of the five-year plan. 

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