Friday, August 26, 2016

Active Senior: Planting a Pollinator Paradise at her Retirement Community.

Thanks to summer intern, Saige Patti for this blog post.

Inspired by the Urquhart Butterfly Garden in Dundas, Heather Ridge decided to start a pollinator garden of her own, near a pond in her retirement community of St. Elizabeth Village.

Armed with an encyclopedia of plants, Heather planted the garden in 2014 with her friend Sandy, who is a member of the horticultural society. WHICH ONE?  Since then, she has added many more plants, built two obelisk trellises and a bench, and decorated with other ornaments like birdhouses and birdbaths.

Now, the garden is flourishing with plants including phlox, maltese cross, coreopsis, butterfly bush, heather, lobelia, salvia, sundrops, yarrow, gayfeather, and geranium. “I even have a cactus!” Heather says. There are vegetables, herbs, and three trees including a magnolia tree which Heather finds “messy, but gorgeous.”

Heather used to grow roses on her horse farm. “I always had my farm looking nice, but I’ve never done anything this intense,” she explains. The retirement community supported Heather’s project by helping her pay for it. When she started, she was interested in attracting butterflies, but her main goal was to make something beautiful. Turtlehead, her favourite plant, is planted right by the bench so that people can see it when they are sitting down. “When these bud out they look like the heads of a turtle,” she explains. She likes the plant for its distinctness.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Woodlands Park Literacy Trail: Bloom where you're planted!

We're excited to be continuing our work with the City through Alex Moroz, Community Liaison Coordinator at Parks and Cemeteries--Public Works, to plant more pollinator paradise patches across Hamilton. For instance, we will be part of the great work going on at Woodlands Park, off Barton Street East--an area of the city that can use some tender loving care.

The project will clean up an old alley and create a new literacy trail extension in the park. As well our pollinator patches, the trail will get a makeover with new trees and gardens.

The PPP is proud to be also included in developing the content for panels describing the life cycle of a bumblebee!

As part of the city's goal to reduce poverty by increasing literacy resources, reading pods will be established to encourage children and families to sit and enjoy a book under a tree or surrounded by vegetation. There will also be solar powered lighting and a technology charging station.

With literacy and neighbourhood pride, by enhancing and beautifying the community, that old adage, "you bloom where you are planted" might have a chance at taking root.

Students in the Rotary Club of Hamilton’s Rotary Literacy Program, attending the launch! 
The project is funded through CN EcoConnexions ($25,000) and matched by Councillor Matthew Green ($25, 000 from area rating). Trees Canada is the other partner on this project.

Lucy Day Park: Make Over
We have also been planting a native plant garden at Lucy Day Park, also in the east end of Hamilton.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The rise of the pollinator-friendly front yard.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly. Photo credit: Vesna Stevens.
Dandelions poking out here and there on the neighbour's property? Wildflowers and milkweed shamelessly facing the street? Keep calm; it's a sign of the times. The reign of the manicured lawn is over; the rise of the nature-friendly front yard is upon us.

What was once considered unattractive scruff is gaining in appreciation for its untamed beauty and for the dinner it provides resident bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Undoubtedly, banning pesticides for cosmetic use has helped towards more relaxed attitudes but of greater significance is a growing awareness of the plight of pollinators.
Pollinators supply crucial ecological services but their numbers are in decline; their habitats have mostly disappeared. We have lost meadowlands, grasslands, marshlands suited to nesting sites and feeding and reproduction. Pesticides, climate change all factor in hugely.

Thankfully, urban environments are growing with the potential of supporting large numbers of pollinators.
According to the Urban Pollinators Project (Bristol University), half of Germany’s entire bee fauna have been found in Berlin, 35% of British hoverfly species were sampled in a single Leicester garden and honeybees produce more honey in urban Birmingham than in the surrounding countryside.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Lyn Hanna-Folkes (Monarch Awards' Judge): Concerning Gardening for Biodiversity

Lynn Hanna-Folkes
Lyn Hanna-Folkes was one of the three judges for the newly launched Monarch Award, an award to celebrate pollinator friendly, sustainable gardening in Hamilton. I caught up with her in this short Q and A to chat about the value of such an award for bringing awareness about biodiversity to local residents.

Beatrice (B): How long have you been involved in gardening for nature yourself? And what are some challenges people face with this type of gardening?

Lyn (L): All my life, I have been making natural style gardens, working on conservation issues, etc. We all know the general public lead very busy lives these days, so it is difficult for the average person to do the necessary research to educate themselves about a completely new gardening perspective. Therefore, it is a real benefit to have some incentive to change the way people think about the way they garden by way of the Monarch Awards.

After judging, I thought it was very encouraging to see many people keenly interested in this award and what it stands for. I do hope this contest will encourage many more residents to garden with nature in mind. The ultimate goal is to think about how we take care of our property because humans have a responsibility to care for the place that sustains them. Humans are but one part of nature's web and education concerning this has been my life's work.

B: Do you think more people are making connections about the big issues of our times?

L: In general yes, there are so many issues connecting humans to the health of the natural world; climate change; food sources & pollinator health, drinking water quality, energy uses, etc. But people often still see the "economy" as more important than the "environment." One goes in hand with the other though -- they are strongly connected. In Hamilton, the Greenbelt is gradually being chipped away in the name of 'development progress' or 'growth.' But when are we going to seriously think about whether our current ideas of progress & growth are making real positive changes for us in the future? We need the biodiversity of the Greenbelt to sustain ourselves. Making connections to health ties humans to everything in nature. I’ve worked with many elderly residents who use pesticides as their 'go to' measure for any type of weed. How do you make them understand that they'd have less contaminated drinking water if they didn't use pesticides so much?