Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Paul O'Hara on planting your pollinator garden and acting on behalf of bio-diversity

“There is so much we can do to bolster the bio-diversity of our cities and towns,” Paul O’Hara of Blue Oak Native Landscapes told a well-filled room of community members last Saturday, at the Church of the Nazarene (Ottawa Street).

Building a connected network of pollinator friendly habitat is one such way. O'Hara's workshop offered participants ideas and tips on planting and maintaining a pollinator garden at home: from elements of design, structure to what to grow where, O'Hara covered the basics in under two hours.

O’Hara impressed the room by his expertise, artful garden designs and reach of his work -- including an extensive corporate naturalization/meadow project in Mississauga.
Photo Credit: Madeleine Kay
O'Hara emphasized three main things we should be thinking about when managing our properties:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Set it up and they will come: Pollinator Gardens at the First Unitarian Church, Hamilton

I had no idea of the extent of the native species, pollinator gardens at the First Unitarian Church when they were awarded the 2013 Green Sacred Spaces Award (Faith and the Common Good).
Walking around the property on this warm afternoon in March with Joanne Tunnicliffe, I am astounded by the passion, love and labour that this Master Gardener and Outdoor Educator of over thirty years, has poured into the space in only three years.

All around us, the grounds resound with the coming of spring. A dainty downy woodpecker is at work on a spindly tree. Noisy crows caw amongst bare branches, and Joanne pauses in her description of the virtues of the dogwood tree to imitate their harsh command.
A moment on, she tells me how the dogwood (“well loved by insects”) can serve as a centerpiece around which other native species can be planted to attract the pollinators.

“Pollinators project is also habitat for wildlife,” Joanne says. “If you set it up, they will come.”
With a small team of dedicated gardeners, she’s built a hibernaculum for snakes; an underground place for them to go for the winter, it consists of a base and log cabin topped with yard debris: “The animals and insects know about it—rabbits, snakes chipmunks song sparrow, beetles, slugs.”
Sometimes keeping the dead trees is a wonderful thing—to protect our gardens and provide homes for pollinators. “We leave things if they are going to provide habitat for the wildlife,” Joanne says, pointing out the fallen logs, “we take drills and we make holes in the base of the trees and that is where the solitary bees can go.”
Joanne explains a technique where a hole is dug in the ground and logs are buried in it, then plants are planted on top: “You will get the insects developing the soil and so on,” she says. “The solitary bees can go in, and the top of the log can be used for birds perching and pooing out seeds for you."

The garden team will also often have their dead trees turned to mulch for the soil.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Polination Guelph 2015 Symposium: Lessons learned.

This weekend, the Pollinator Paradise Project team headed out to Pollination Guelph’s annual Symposium in Guelph. What a treat!
Victoria MacPhail Co-Chair, gave the audience an overview of the work Pollinator Guelph (PG) is doing, including remediation, planting habitat, installing “Bee condos,” their work at Wellington Hospice (palliative care) removing turf and planting pollinator plants, planting along the Trans Canada Trail, the Arboretum at University of Guelph and other locations across their city. PG plans to do more around advocacy with the Ontario Pollinator Health Strategy.

We learned about the sex life of plants in Ontario with Dr. Brendan Larson (University of Ontario). Basically, “Pollination is plant sex,” Larson joked. There’s seduction, which works both ways. The pollinators are attracted to the plants, but the plants are seducing the pollinators too!
There are also the plants that self sex (to fertilize or not to fertilize). The advantage is that there is no need for pollinators; the disadvantage? Inbreeding. Then there are the plants that switch gender—like the woodland fern.
We heard a great presentation from April Nix, a planner at the City of Guelph entitled “Supporting Biodiversity—Guelph’s Natural Heritage System” and how local bio-diversity, meadow and pollinator patches are supported and are part of the city’s policy through their Official Plan. It also includes wildlife habitat, woodlands, and more recently more linkages, connectivity, “which speaks to how the thinking has changed over time—much more integrated,” Nix pointed out. City Council adopted the plan in 2010.
Protecting the linkages and connecting with groundwater, wide range of objectives for the Natural Heritage System, not only trees, but also how can we include meadow habitat, patch side, open country breeding birds, monarchs, foraging-meadows, long term protection of the city. One strategy is to focus on one species and in doing so, it benefits other species too.  “Critical function zones” recognize hwer the different systems are meeting dynamic areas serving a host of different functions contiguously –so swamp, wetland, meadowlands etc.

The Guelph Official Plan is clear about how to include pollinators and hearing about it made us want to dash home and dust of Hamilton’s official plan and demand that it be immediately updated. Other elements Nix covered that are part of the plan included wildlife management, invasive species (when they review applications they have policies that say “we want you to use native plants” etc), stewardship and monitoring—recognizing that it needs to be city wide and how do we measure and share these activities, working with partners to do better inventory of what we know etc).

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ninety-seven per cent support Ontario's plan to restrict bee-killing pesticides

Great news! Close to 50,000 comments were submitted during the official consultation on Ontario's pollinator health proposal last month. The proposal received an overwhelmingly positive response from the public. 97% support Ontario's plan to restrict neonicotinoid pesticides associated with bee deaths.

Last year, the European Commission placed a moratorium on certain uses of neonics to protect the environment. Ontario's proposed regulations would take effect July 1, 2015.

Ontario is proposing North America's first regulatory restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides. On November 25, 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs invited public comments on a pollinator health proposal that includes regulations to reduce the use of neonic-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 per cent. The proposal was posted on Ontario's Environmental Registry for a 60-day comment period, which concluded January 25, 2015.

A second round of public consultation will take place this spring with the publication of draft regulations.
Read the entire article from the David Suzuki Foundation.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Seedy Saturday: A blast!

Juby Lee with Hamilton's Dream Team of Pollinator Plants Poster
We had a blast at Seedy Saturday! The Melansons did a fantastic presentation on raising monarchs in their backyard.  Their workshop was standing room only.  The family was out in full force with dad, Devin, mom, Sunila and their boys Calvin and Sean.   One the resources they used was a book, "How to Raise Monarchs" and they have been tweaking the process. A huge thanks to the Melansons for pouring so much time and energy in their presentation!

And we were handing out our brand new "Hamilton's Dream Team of Pollinator Plants" - a poster of native plants specific to our City! The coolest part of the poster is that each plant was hand drawn by local, talented artists.

Shout out to our artist volunteers:
Thank you to local landscape designer, Paul O'Hara for helping us identify which plants to include on our poster.

Want a poster? 
The posters are free (thanks to Copydog for the discount!) and we have them available at Environment Hamilton office and we'll be bringing them to our workshops and events.  Limited edition!
For more details, contact Juby
jlee (at) environmenthamilton (dot) org

(Thanks to photographer Mathew Eng for this picture).

William Dam Seeds: Bee and Butterfly Trial Garden

Chatting with Connie Dam-Byl about the trial Pollinator Patch on their William Dam Seeds property (Dundas), you can feel the enthusiasm for the project she helped design and plant last summer.

This garden took one summer to grow, using plants and 1/3 seeds.
"There is a big trend in the seed industry about pollinators, especially the studies around bees. A lot of our focus was on the bees and how to bring that back--because colonies are going down," Connie says.

Known for selling quality, untreated seeds, William Dam has always had gardens and bees but when people were coming into the store inquiring about what they could plant for the bees, "We decided to test out what we could grow for food for bees, looking at that from early spring on to frost."

Not surprisingly, this is the reverse of what has been happening over the years, where Connie's personal hunch is that as communities, we had been slowly going away from flower gardens—the trend being up until now, for low maintenance, leafy perennial-type landscapes.

This pollinator garden (planted in their "trail gardens") would not only be dedicated to the bees and butterflies but would also be used to demonstrate and educate costumers on the importance of food for pollinators.