Friday, November 20, 2015

Our Hamilton Native Plant Adventure: Guest post by Amy Taylor

What's great about people who garden is that they love to share their stories.
Below is a guest post from one such gardener. Amy Taylor is a Crownpoint resident and owner of The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy. Here is what she writes:

My husband and I bought our 92 year old house in Crown Point back in 2007. The front and back yards had very simple gardens, the front had a small strip garden along the front porch and a yew planted on the other side of the stairs with grass filling out the rest. 

The back yard had grass, low maintenance plants like hosta, clematis and euonymus.
The only two unique plants the back yard did have was a Prickly Pear Cactus and Ostrich Ferns, we kept those but the rest came out before we moved into the house. It had some great features, like a pergola, wired outdoor speakers and lighting already set up. It was a nice back yard. But it wouldn’t do. So began our planning for the next year.

We decided that when we got the house that we would do our very best to have an environmentally viable home and green space to match.  Having plants that we could use as food and medicine (I am a traditional herbalist) and plants that were important to attract pollinators was top of mind as well as using plants native to our region and native cultivars. 

The happy balance was that the above requirements had a lot of cross over. Also we didn’t want to have to focus overtly on taking care of the garden, we wanted it to be a free looking space, so we planted what we knew would survive here, would benefit the local pollinators and wildlife, and not need much assistance from us with water etc. once it was established.

We took possession of the house on August 1st, 2007. August 2nd we dug up nearly 120 plants from our then current garden and moved them into the new gardens at our home. Plants like Echinacea purpura (Purple Cone Flower), Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan), Monarda fistulosa and didyma (Bee Balm), Tanacetum vulgar (Tansy), Achillea millefolium (Yarrow), and Humulus lupulus (Hops) to name a few. We proceeded to pull the hostas and the rest of the existing plants out and put ours in; it was nearly 40 degrees out and the absolute worst time ever to be transplanting!

Needless to say, we didn’t lose too many plants that first year thankfully as the winter in 07/08 was fairly mild. In spring 2008 we began operation ‘NO MOW’ with the front garden, we dug up the majority of the grass in the front yard and put in new Salix purpurea (Blue Arctic Willow) shrubs, a Cercis Canadensis (Eastern Redbud Tree), a Salix candida (Sageleaf Willow) and some more Echinacea, Black Eyed Susan, Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass), Gaura lindheimeri  (Butterfly Guara) and some annuals for colour. 
It was a good start and making a difference in the neighbourhood too as a lot of people were taking notice. Eventually we added in some Chelone oblique (Pink Turtleheads), Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed), Asclepias syriaca and incarnata (Milkweed) and allowed the Pilosella aurantiaca (Orange Hawkweed) to run amok once we pulled the rest of the grass and put down wood chips.

The grass that we took up from the front yard went into creating a small berm type of space in the backyard against the fence, which allowed us to extend that garden by about 10 feet.
Over time that space began to get filled in with some amazing native and native cultivars, among my favourites are the Amphora fruiticosa (False Indigo Shrub) and the Eupatorium purpureum (Joe Pye Weed) planted in among the Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan), Solidago (Goldenrod), Aquilegia Canadensis (Red Canadian Columbine) and a Fothergila shrub. In Autumn the garden is still literally a-buzz as all the asters are in bloom, still seeing some Monarda (Bee Balm), Echinacea and the odd other flower still happily blooming away.
There isn’t much work to do (well for me anyway) just weeding out the invasive Garlic Mustard that creeps in and the Ground Ivy. The Stinging Nettle and the rest of the ‘weeds’ can be eaten throughout the growing season, like Dandelion, Violets, Lambs Quarters and Plantain.
Every year I add a bit more, this last year I added more milkweed to the gardens. We saw many more varieties of butterflies, as well as solitary bumble and honey bees too. Varieties like Brown/Red Banded Bumble Bees,  Mourning Cloak butterflies, Monarch butterflies, Red Admiral butterflies (which use Stinging Nettle as a host plant) Question Marks and Commas (which use the hops as a host plant) Pipeline Swallowtail butterflies, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.
Everyday in our gardens, is always a great adventure for us to see who would fly in for a visit and feed. It really is an amazing biodiverse space for all wildlife and pollinators to live and visit.