Friday, July 31, 2015

(Re) building the Butterfly Garden at Victoria Park: Stage 2

“The butterfly garden was meant to be a place for celebration.” Calla Shea-Pelletier, volunteer caretaker at Victoria Park Butterfly Garden 

“What’s alive in Hamilton” butterfly checklist says the city of Hamilton has over 100 species of butterflies and moths.However, due to factors like loss of habitat and chemical use, populations (such as monarch butterflies) continue to decline.
Hamilton Pollinator Paradise project is planting native habitat to attract and nurture more butterflies and other pollinators. On August 5th, we will be replanting the Victoria Park Butterfly Garden and you’re invited!
The garden was originally planted in 2009 by the City of Hamilton for Strathcona School.

Original Garden
Karen Must, a teacher through the Scholastic, Arts and Global Education (SAGE) at the school, initiated whole school participation within the international Monarch Program, in which students raise monarchs in the classroom, releasing them in the fall. SAGE is a program “of choice” with a focus on community involvement both locally and globally.  

The garden represented a first time partnership between the school and The City of Hamilton -- a $50,000 donation to create an irrigated outdoor classroom in Victoria Park to be included in the redesign of Victoria Park. 

Former parent, volunteer and champion of the garden, Calla Shea-Pelletier is looking forward to carrying on the notion of the garden as a hub for community engagement. “Not only has the Butterfly Garden been a collaboration between SAGE and the larger school community, as well, neighbours and interested visitors have all worked to maintain the garden in Victoria Park,” Calla says. “The outdoor garden was meant to be a place for celebration.”

Monday, July 20, 2015

Urquhart Butterfly Garden

It was a perfect morning at the Urquhart Butterfly Garden (1992) in Dundas. Photographers and a couple of families with small children milled about while I chatted with Joanna Chapman, the founder of this beautiful paradise and haven for pollinators of all kinds. She tells me that the original purpose of the garden was to show people what a garden without pesticides and herbicides could look like. “It is so much more now,” Joanna comments.

"We seem to be on the right track," I say, so many people understand the importance of growing habitat.

All well and good but Joanna still has concerns: while people are growing habitat in their own spaces and naturalizing their backyards, what is required is long swaths of habitat, along side our roads and highways. This is important because of the amount of sunshine available for wildflowers to thrive in.

About Weeds
People are getting the idea that they don't need to have a manicured lawn, but they still need to understand what a weed is. "Weeds are important host plants for caterpillars that will grow into butterflies," Joanne says.

Take action
What can you do? You can write your councillor and tell them you want to see more road side pollinator habitat like they have in Highway 40 Prairie Passage in Lambton, Ontario and the Green Highway in Texas.

You can tweet them too. Use the hastag #hamiltonroadsidehabitat Let's make this thing happen!

Urquhart Butterfly Garden's awesome Summer Series of free public workshops and guided identification walks led by experts in the field continues this summer. Check out their website. I will be sure to attend the August 29th "Making the Community a Pollinator Haven" to get more tips on making Hamilton a pollinator friendly city and getting our city planners and councillors on board!

They are also offering a photo competition! Deadline is August 30th.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Garden is a Thing of Beauty

“Beauty—it turns people on,” says Garden Designer, Candy Venning of Venni Gardens. Candy attributes traveling quite a bit around the world and living in tropical countries to her love of beautiful things—especially flowers.
She claims to have inherited her strong eye for design from her fashion designer, nature-oriented mother. Combining these traits with her appreciation for public spaces (she recently completed work at the city-owned Sunset Cultural Gardens at Bay Front Park), Candy, a fairly recent arrival to Hamilton, has thrown herself wholeheartedly into the beautification of her Gibson/ Landsdale (GALA) neighbourhood.
Planting at the Sunset Cultural Garden
Already, with Simon, her partner, Candy has planted bulbs and seeds on the sly, in abandoned places, random streets and along boulevards. They mow the lawn for the Pearl Factory and give out seeds and bulbs that have been discarded by their suppliers at the end of the season, to GALA residents. “If you live on our block, you will have better gardens,” she promises.

Candy explains that the GALA neighbourhood group that she is a member of, recently received funds from the Hamilton Community Foundation (HCF) and the Social Planning Research Council (SPRC) to plant thousands of bulbs and seeds that have since been distributed at schools and other community venues.

“The idea is to foster pride, even if you are renting,” Candy says.
She owns a rental property where she has ripped out the grass and notes a markedly decrease in doggie poop and garbage. Describing it as an “evolving experiment” where she observes how plants behave, what thrives what doesn’t,  the garden is wild-looking but gets better each year.

In her work as a garden designer, Candy aims to show people that native flowers can be an attractive option for gardens. Even in her most traditional gardens, “I’ll throw in native species and not even tell people!”

I ask Candy what her dream garden would look like. “There has to be a meadow component in terms of a lot of different things that bloom and change from year to year,” she says.
The height of the plants is also important. “Do you recall being a child and walking through the tall grass, the smell of summer, the beautiful memories?” she asks.
Other elements of Candy’s ideal garden would include mowed walkways, shade structure and trees—of course!

For Candy, gardens should serve both art as well as function: “Rigid gardens don’t do much for us. A static garden doesn’t make my heart sing,” she says. “When you look at something that is not sustainable, it offends the eye. When you see a garden that’s changing and evolving, that is far more interesting, more pleasing.

Of course, she would love to get paid to do a public space (her idol is world renowned, Piet Oudolf, who has “the best job on the planet” and designs garden plans for Canada Blooms and the Toronto Botanical Gardens etc) but until that time, the next volunteer project Candy will be working on is the city-owned,  Birch Avenue Green Space.

Over the years, this space has had a lot of dumping (see below). Candy envisions just perennials, trees, and a structure where people can bring tents, “something that represents the neighbourhood in a positive light, that’s interesting, not ugly, but light and airy with some lighting on it.”

This fall, she will be doing a fundraiser with pollinator bulbs for the neighbourhood beautification project, as well as experimenting with plants that are both ornamental and edible too, like thyme, and asparagus: “artichoke has the most beautiful flowers and the bees love it. $1.49 at the market and what an effect!”

Birch Avenue Green Space.

Brenda Duke is the main lead on the beautification project for the Birch Avenue Green Space.
“Candy is my mentor though,” this full time office worker insists. “When it comes to gardens and plants, she knows best.”