Thursday, March 17, 2016

Planting in a post-wild world: Thomas Rainer, Landscape Architect

Earlier this month, the Hamilton Pollinator Paradise team visited the Royal Botanical Gardens to hear a talk by landscape architect and author, Thomas Rainer. “Planting in a post-wild world: Designing plant communities for resilient landscapes” was revolutionary!

Thomas pointed out that by 2030, two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities. Re-wilding our urban centres will become ever more important from a green infrastructure point of view and also because frankly, “people want to remember a piece of the wild,” Thomas remarked.  “It reminds us of the places that we have lost,” himself, reminiscing about his boyhood in the woods of the deep South—today, all cleared and developed for housing.
 It is good sense then, to plan accordingly and plant and preserve remaining wild spaces.

After having worked with private companies, Thomas arrived at the public sector where the challenge was to figure out how to create active gardens as opposed to “pastoral” ones.

Thomas said the question kept reoccurring: “how do we build urban sites that have high ecological value and are pleasing to people? We need to be thinking about the future, that is, traditional horticulture against ecological planting and can we combine the two; can the two work side by side?”

Thomas suggestion is that if we are going to sell people on native plants, it has got to appeal—the tone in the message of the native plant movement being “too much of a bummer.” His position is that we don’t have to give up on aesthetics in order to do good. “You don’t have to sacrifice your peonies, you can still have native plants. It doesn’t have to hurt,” he said, illustrating that ironically, the best examples of North American native gardens are in Europe! “That’s right! They are geeking out on our Joe pies, which are drop-dead, gorgeous plants!”

The thinking goes, according to Thomas, both movements need to understand that we live in a post-wild world and that (happily) plants’ ability to live in the city is “remarkable.”

Thomas showed us a slide of a green site along a busy street in his own neighbourhood, where despite the salt and the dogs who use it as a public urinal, the plants are thriving, dense and diverse. Meanwhile, the nearby library’s rain garden is supposed to be low maintenance and sustainable, but is not. And why is that? Don’t blame the plants for planting failure; according to Thomas, it all boils down to the difference between how plants grown in our gardens as compared to how they grown in the wild.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Flights of Fancy in an Ancaster Pollinators' Paradise

Blooming Redbud
This is a guest post by Angelique Mori, Master Gardener and Ancaster, Ontario resident.
Angelique writes:

We unenthusiastically moved to Hamilton several years ago, accepting as true the rumours of pollution and urban decay. Then unaware of Hamilton’s alternate sobriquet, ‘City of Waterfalls’, nor its proximity to the Niagara Escarpment and Bruce trail; we couldn’t have been more wrong! We had inadvertently discovered an ideal spot for nature enthusiasts.

In our first year of residency, while pulling endless bags of garlic mustard and celandine (relentless non-native invasive plants), I was astonished to discover various native species struggling beneath, and realized we occupied a fragment of Carolinian Canada! Although only 1% of the country’s total land area, this most vulnerable region contains a third of Canada’s rare flora and fauna; more endangered species live here than any other Canadian ecosystem.

As the current age has been designated the Anthropocene, and scientists propose that humankind may be liable for the ‘sixth extinction,’ it seems prudent to give Mother Nature a hand. As an avid gardener, I embarked on an ecological restoration in the attempt to enhance bio-diversity and provide refuge for threatened wildlife. I try to inspire by example, taking any opportunity to entice neighbours over to the wild side... passers-by have been ‘gifted’ with splits and seedlings, fundraisers receive donations of native plants…