Monday, September 18, 2017

Monarch Awards 2017 Winner: Amy Taylor's Garden of Delights.

Garden of Delights
Hamilton Monarch Awards 2017 winner, Amy Taylor has been gardening for more than half of her life. The 48 year old didn’t initially start of gardening for nature, however. What’s more, in the beginning, she gardened in pots because she didn’t have an actual garden space. As a tea leaf reader, tea enthusiast and community herbalist, Amy’s interest was initially in growing medicinal herbs, rather than for habitat or even growing food. That’s when she noticed that growing medicinal herbs correlated with growing for nature. Many Ontario native plants are also medicinal plants, like Echinacea, Bloodroot, Coltsfoot, Wild Ginger, to name just a few.

When Amy and her husband Mick moved to Hamilton from Toronto ten years ago, they counted over 140 plants that they brought over with them. “When we bought our home, we knew it was up to us to be as environmentally sustainable as we could with it and the garden," Amy says. "With Hamilton having the unfortunate reputation of being dirty and polluted, we knew better as we saw the amazing green-spaces and natural habitats for wildlife." It was partly because of the escarpment and the Greenbelt around the city that made them buy in Hamilton, Amy shares, "but it was also that we recognized that we are ultimately responsible for this planet." With that realization, they sought to make their small, 100x20 foot lot of it be as environmentally viable as possible: "We joined Bullfrog Power, we installed a composter, we recycle nearly everything and we planted those first 140 plants with a vision of a better planet."

Amy talks with captivating passion about the flowers in her garden, including the likes of bloodroot, coltsfoot, buddleia (butterfly bush, which she diligently deadheads), the red flowering crab apple tree, the milkweed, goldenrod, echinacea, obedient plant which starts of stark white, then goes purple, and yellow jewelweed that grows 8 ft tall, and hides her neighbour's garage.

What’s her favourite plant? “Probably my most favourite in the garden is the Cercis canadensis, Eastern Redbud tree,” Amy responds. “My Mum and I bought this tree together. I loved it because it has heart shaped leaves, beautiful purple pink pea shaped flowers in spring and pea shaped seed pods and lovely yellow leaves in fall. We bought it because she and I are like two peas in a pod.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

Mayor to present Monarch Awards

For Immediate Release
September 15th, 2017

Hamilton, Ont--Mayor Eisenberger to present Hamilton Monarch Awards (“for gardens that nature loves, by gardeners who love nature”) to 2017 Winners.
Amy Taylor, Winner of the Monarch Awards 2017 
Mayor Fred Eisenberger will be honouring the winners of the 2017 Hamilton Monarch Awards at a ceremony in the Mayor's chambers, (City Hall), to take place on Tuesday, September 19th at 1 pm.

Now in its second year, the Monarch Awards “for gardens that nature loves, by gardeners who love nature” was created out of concern for declining insect populations, especially Monarch butterflies and bees. The award celebrates gardens and gardeners in Hamilton for their contribution to a biodiverse, sustainable environment.

“In creating the award, we wanted to recognize people who plant habitat in their yards for pollinator species and wildlife in general," says Bev Wagar, one of the creators for this initiative. "The goal is to promote the validity of gardens that are created to be ecologically functional but may fall under a non-traditional aesthetic."

Crown Point resident and last year’s finalist, Amy Taylor, is the 2017 Monarch Awards  competition winner. Finalists include Nadia Coakley, West Hamilton; Kelly Jamieson, Crown Point; Matthew Mills, Dundas; and Katie West, Dundas.

The organizing committee for the award includes staff from the Pollinator Paradise Project (Environment Hamilton and Hamilton Naturalists' Club) along with volunteers from the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Crown Point Garden Club, as well as individual supporters who did much of the legwork. This “alternative” garden awards program had over 50 entrants this year.

"Once again, we are thrilled by the number of applications submitted in our second year, and seeing the incredible gardens across the city" says Jen Baker, Coordinator for the Pollinator Paradise Project. "The interest is there. It just keeps growing."
A volunteer committee evaluated the applications and chose the “Buzzin’ Dozen” semi-finalists, from which seven gardens were chosen for a visit by the judging team.

The five winners will each receive a beautiful hand-crafted wooden plaque by local woodworker Trisha Fraser. All entrants will receive a “We’re Feeding Pollinators” sign, a Monarch Awards sticker, and special early-bird shopping at the upcoming native plant sale hosted by the Hamilton Naturalists Club.

For profiles of the winning gardens, visit

For media inquiries, please contact:
Bev Wagar, Crown Point Garden Club

Jen Baker, Coordinator, Pollinator Paradise Project
905 549 0900

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Roadside Revegetation with Native Plants: An Interview with Stefan Weber

Article by summer intern, Saige Patti.

Thousands of kilometers of highway in Ontario are lined with non-native legumes, which are ecologically useless for pollinators, and have shallow roots that aren’t as good at filtering water or preventing erosion as are native plants.
By Haljackey at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Introduced plants like crown-vetch, black medic, white clover, and red clover have been popular choices for roadside plantings, which are aimed at preventing erosion of roadsides, but short roots and low salt tolerance make them less than ideal for roadside vegetation. A native tallgrass prairie community may be the best option for roadside plantings.

Roadside revegetation with native plants 

Roadside revegetation with native plants is being studied by Stefan Weber, a PhD student in the Biology department at McMaster University. In 2016 the Ontario Ministry of Transportation put out a request for proposals for their Highway Infrastructure Innovation Program Fund to study the best practices for establishing native roadside vegetation. Now, Weber’s project has two sites on highway number 3 outside of Tillsonburg and Norfolk county, and two sites in Saint Mary’s on highway 7.

Weber says the primary step to restoring habitat is preparing the site adequately. It can take two years to get rid of most of the invasive and noxious weeds, and even then the weeds and invasive species can persist. “I love the phrase ‘undressing a salad’,” he says, “It’s impossible to undress a salad. If you want to undo changes that have been made to the biotic community, it might not be possible; so many things have happened in terms of changes to soil structure and soil chemistry. It may not actually be possible to revert some roadsides back to the native landscape.”

blue vervain
It can be extremely difficult to remove non-native seeds from the soil seed bank, and multiple methods can be used. One method includes repeated herbicide spraying and tilling, but excavating can usually be more effective. Completely removing the first foot of soil down to the subsoil can remove the seed bank and nitrified soil. Native plants are tolerant of low-nutrient environments, so eliminating nitrogen from the soil will mainly affect non-native weeds. Prairie plants are adapted to colonize mineral soils; areas with sand, alvar, or exposed rock and gravel. This is because these prairies are early-successional communities – they are made of plants that are the first to appear when plants colonize an area. If the community was left undisturbed it would eventually be succeeded by ‘late successional’ communities like forests.

Weber says that we can keep our tallgrass prairies around by keeping these communities in an early state. This can be done by managing them with grazing or mowing. Historically, these prairies were maintained with fire by First Nations people. In a roadside setting, mowing is an essential activity for keeping prairie plants thriving. It helps eliminate competition from fast growing weeds which can shade these prairie species out.
“A successful project requires choosing species that are most appropriate for the physical characteristics of the restoration area,” says Weber. “The goal is to build what we want to see into the future, not recreate some historical scene that doesn’t exist anymore. We can’t travel back in time, so that’s not really the point.”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Monarch Awards 2017: Winners Announced!

Winners have just been announced. There's a profile article on the Monarch Awards web site as well as the media release. Congratulations to all the finalists, the Buzzin' Dozen, and all the entrants!

The 2017 Monarch Award winner is Amy Taylor!!
Amy, a 2016 finalist who lives on Edgemont Street North in Crown Point, is a herbalist and tea-reader who has an eclectic and broad knowledge of plants. An experienced gardener, Amy made some changes to her garden over the past year, removing some most of the aggressive non-natives (despite their herbalism usefulness) and ramping up the native plant content. Amy’s garden showcases the potential for blending unusual native plants into a traditional—and small—garden setting.
Amy's Garden.
One judge remarked on the overwhelming “interestingness” of the space. There’s a huge diversity of species to guarantee blooms right from April through November, along with personal whimsical decor, several amenities for wildlife (bird baths, bug bath, bee boxes, nesting spots), a shed made entirely of recycled materials, and a pergola with natural shade provided by hop vines that are harvested for beer making.

There is always a “mess” potential in gardens designed with ecosystem benefits in mind but Amy has cleverly and discretely sited the composters, brush piles, and all three water barrels. The front yard is completely planted and, although the needs of the plants have trumped the aesthetics somewhat, the effect is respectful of the streetscape and neighbours.

This year the judges chose to award four finalist prizes.