Monday, April 25, 2016

Plant Sale: Total Hit!

This proves that Hamiltonians are getting it---we need to plant for nature. The attendance at this weekend's native plants sale (at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Rock Garden) was extremely encouraging.

This is our second native plants sale and attendance has more than tripled!

RBG Native Plant Sale - Rock Garden

Sat April 23rd  From 9am-12pm: Back by popular demand.  The first season’s
opportunity to purchase native plants. Suppliers included:

St. Williams Nursery & Ecology Centre -
Matt Mills - no website, local native plant grower
North American Native Plant Society -
Marion Robertson - B Sweet Honey and Nature Company -
Scott Guthrie - new native plant nursery
Hortico Nursery -
Verbinnen's Nursery -
Baker Forestry Services, Nursery and Consulting -
Native plants  included: trees, shrubs, plants and tall grasses!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hamilton Monarch Awards to recognize gardeners planting naturalized, pollinator-friendly gardens.

For immediate release
April 22nd, 2016
Hamilton Monarch Awards to recognize gardeners planting naturalized, pollinator-friendly gardens.

Hamilton— Four local environmental groups have partnered together to recognize gardens and gardeners for their contribution towards a bio-diverse, sustainable environment.

The Hamilton Pollinator Paradise Project (a project of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club and Environment Hamilton), in partnership with local gardeners at the Crown Point Garden Club and staff at the Royal Botanical Gardens have created the Monarch Awards, an annual awards program that celebrates sustainable gardens as a way to help increase pollinator populations. Close to 75% of all flowering plants depending on pollinators such as wild bees, butterflies, small birds and beneficial insects to move pollen grains from plant to plant. When it comes to our food, one out of every 3 bites of food is pollinator-dependent. But pollinators are on the decline.

According to State of Ontario’s Biodiversity reporting portal, there are many potential drivers that affect wild pollinator abundance and diversity, and different environmental drivers rarely act in isolation. Among the most important drivers are land-use change with the consequent loss and fragmentation of habitats, increasing pesticide application (e.g., neonicotinoids) and environmental pollution, decreased resource diversity, invasive species, the spread of pathogens, and climate change.

“Little attention is paid to gardeners who work hard to plant habitat and garden sustainably. Yet these are activities that benefit a very serious conservation issue,” says Jen Baker, Project Coordinator for the Pollinator Paradise Project.

Planting for nature is an area that has been largely overlooked by existing awards programs. “There needed to be an alternative award that would demonstrate appreciation and value for these spaces,” says Bev Wagar, Crown Point resident, gardener and mastermind behind the idea.

The awards are being promoted in Wards 1 through 4 for the inaugural year—since the Pollinator Paradise project has undertaken pollinator habitat plantings in each of these wards and have resident and Councillor support.  The idea is to expand the Monarch Awards initiative beyond these lower city wards in the years to come, which will mean more naturalized spaces and more sustainable practices being followed, helping pollinators thrive and building  Hamilton’s resiliency in the face of climate change.

The initiative has enlisted the support of expert judges including Sean James (Fern Ridge Landscaping & Eco-consulting). Sean is a graduate of Niagara Parks, a public speaker, frequent guest on radio gardening shows, writer, teacher and environmentalist. Also on the judging team is business owner and environmentalist, Lyn Hanna-Folkes. Lyn has designed and installed dozens of naturalization projects from wetlands to prairies and has helped to maintain naturalized gardens. She established the “Christie Prairie” at Christie Conservation Area working with volunteers and the fire department. Read more here

Gardeners in Wards 1 to 4 are invited to apply. Entry deadline for the awards is midnight Sunday June 19, 2016 with the selection of finalists happening between June 20 and 26. Judges’ site visits are scheduled during the week of Monday June 27 and Sunday July 3, 2016. A winner and four finalists will be chosen based on judges’ scores over the six criteria categories which include soil and water management, native plant choices, materials/hardscaping and thought given to cultural practices, and aesthetics.

For more information about the awards an on how to apply visit

Follow monarch awards on twitter.


Media inquiries:  Beatrice Ekoko- Environment Hamilton (Hamilton Pollinators Paradise Project).
TEL: (905) 549-0900                                                                                                    
Jen Baker – Hamilton Naturalists Club
TEL: (905) 523-3339

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bees, Pollinators and Pesticides: An Update From York University's Symposium on Impacts of Systemic pesticides

"The only acceptable dose of these systemic pesticides is just nothing. Zero." Dr. Jean-Marc Bonmartin, Deputy Chairman TFSP.
The Pollinators' Paradise team headed out to York University to attend the Symposium on Impacts of and alternatives to Systemic pesticides: A Science Policy Forum (April 19).

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Glen Murray launched the day's lecture series. Murray stressed that Ontario government is currently taking "most aggressive action" towards climate change, pointing to two "transformative bills"; the Great Lakes Protection Act and the Low Carbon Economy Act. He talked about Ontario's efforts towards getting to 1.5 degrees Celsius and the work begun to get Ontario to zero waste. Minister Murray talked about how 80% of our food comes from California where there is a severe drought. Making the connection between climate change and water: "Lake Superior has 20% of the world's fresh water but is one of the fastest warming bodies of water," Minister Murray said. "The health of our eco-system is interrelated with food production: "We're growing food in a different climate."

Following this address, Dr. Laurence Packer (York University) took the floor to help us understand popular misconceptions about bees. Blame it on the domesticated honey bee--that's the reason for the confusion. Not many of us know that bees don't make honey, or at least the vast majority of bees don't. That's right. Packer says he likes honey, but isn't it interesting that most of the research dollars to study bee health go to this fraction of the bee population. Discrimination much?

But there is a great diversity of bees. There are over 20,000 described bee species in the world. Ontario has over 300 of these native bees. But they get no credit for the work they do pollinating in fields and such. What's more,  greater diversity of wild bee pollinators increases crop yields.
Jen and Bev: Lunch time

Other misconceptions about bees (once you've properly identified them!): bees are mostly solitary. Most of them are ground nesting, (250 nests per square metres), most are not hardworking (some are cuckoo bees) and more than half of all individual bees can not sting!

What do native bees need to thrive?
Well drained soils (oak savannah/prairie), "no pesticides zone," diversity of habitat
(adding wildflower mixes increased bee abundance and diversity.) We need to maintain hot spot habitats. Packer pointed out that wild bees need places where honey bees are excluded (Watch for a post on this!). Minimize bee keeping: "Wild bee abundance and diversity increase with distance from apiaries," Packer said. South facing rockery is good.

What can we do in the city? Packer suggests minimizing mulching because bare patches of soil are good for the bees, plant bee friendly flowers (or plants like raspberries. Additional bonus: bees nest in the dead raspberry canes). "Thousands and thousands of bees are being composted. Leave the dead stems alone!" Packer pleads.
"Spectacularly beautiful," the second edition of Packer's Bees of Toronto: A Guide to their Remarkable World (second edition) is forthcoming.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Complete Garden: Blending biodiversity and function with Candy Venning (Venni Gardens).

Candy Venning @ Co-Motion on King.  
April 9th-- "If you have something in the garden that you love, you've got a place to start from."
That's landscape designer, Candy Venning (Venni Gardens) talking at last Saturday's workshop on blending biodiversity and function in your garden.

 It's a very reassuring starting spot for people like me who get immediately overwhelmed and intimidated at the sight of beautiful gardens (Candy showed numerous, jaw-dropping slides of the many gardens she's worked throughout the GTHA).

Through photos, we discussed common design issues and how to create and support habitats for bees, birds, and butterflies, demonstrating once again, that beauty is a garden that is biodiverse.

"We should be able to see pollinators in the garden," says Candy. Not to mention humans!
She asks, "where do you find the children?" You find them far away from the neatly manicured lawn. "Children want to play in the areas they're not supposed to. So do adults." Why? Because they are abundant with interesting plants, stimulating the imagination and delighting the eye. "It makes people happy to see things moving in the wind, bees, butterflies."

About spaces and remaking them so that can be used, Candy says that useful spaces are loved spaces; "they become part of your everyday life." In before and after photos, we see this in action where before, a client avoided going outside but then once the garden was made attractive, spent all summer in it. "More people want to have a cottage in the city," Candy says.

Unearth it
Candy suggests that when planning your garden, look for the structure in it. Find out what is already there, what can you build upon or enhance?  Also, can you reuse elements already in the site--like materials?
When planting, think about planting in drifts, that is fifteen or more of the same plant (things that mimic nature). Consider interesting folliage as opposed to flowers.
Candy mentioned that she always includes a "pee rock" for dogs--because they have to go--right?

Check out more tips from Candy here.

Oh and did I mention, Candy is hilarious? "I bought a garden that came with the house." You get it.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Starting Plants From Seeds

We had a great workshop with Crown Point Garden Club Master Gardener, Bev Wagar (April 2nd).

Bev provided really handy tips on starting your (native) flowers from seeds.

You missed it? No worries.
Here's a two page primer on Seed Starting that Bev has developed--just for you:

Plan Your Seeding Schedule
Seeds are started a certain number of weeks ahead of the planting­out date, based on how quickly they
germinate and grow. The back of the seed package (or the internet...) will tell you the number of weeks­­ usually between six and ten weeks.

Although May 3 is the “official” average last frost date for Hamilton area be aware that this is the historical average. Climate change has made it very difficult to rely on historical data. Also, these dates are averages. There is still a 50% chance of frost on that date.

Seven days after the average LFD the risk decreases to 25%. At 14 days the risk is down to 10%.

Choose Your Container(s)

The type of container to use depends on the size of the seed and how well the plant tolerates being
transplanted. Plants that resent being disturbed, such as Lavatera, or those that grow very quickly (most large seeds) can be planted direcly into 3 or 4" pots, peat pellets (sometimes called "Jiffy 7s.

If you use a “flat” (a conventional tray container) or something similar, scatter the seed thinly and, when the seedlings develop their first set of "true" leaves, transplant them to larger containers. The tiniest seeds can be mixed with sand to reduce the density of the seedlings.

Prepare the Soil Mix

Use a sterile seed-­starting medium, not garden soil. For most seeds the mix should be moistened before it goes into the containers. The mix should be moist enough to hold together nicely when you squeeze it into a ball, then crumble when you release it. For "no­fail" varieties such as Cosmos and Stocks it is easier to fill the plugs with seeding mix first, then wet it down. Gently tamp the mix down to get rid of the larger air pockets and use a flat edge to level the surface of the mix.