Monday, May 23, 2016

Catching up with Paul O’Hara: Trees as pollinator-friendly plants. Native Plant Nursery Launch.

Original Red Oak on West Avenue South. Photo Credit, Wendy Crawford.
The news continues to be depressing. Our fellow creatures have too little habitat to provide them adequate food and shelter. But when we plant native plants, we are helping immeasurably.

We talk a lot about planting wildflowers to attract insects, but aside from serving as air filters and shade providers (amongst a myriad of other services), trees also support beneficial critters.

I caught up with Paul O’Hara, local field botanist, landscape designer and native plant gardening expert, to chat about native trees as pollinators.
“Besides providing nesting and cover for wildlife, the flowers of trees also produce pollen and nectar for bees, beetles, butterflies and many other native insects. In fact, trees are the best pollinator plants in our neighbourhoods,” says Paul.

Quoting from a favourite of his, Doug Tallamy’s book, Bringing Nature Home, Paul enthuses, “Oaks attract over 500 types of butterflies and moths.  They are king when it comes to feeding the most pollinators.  But all native trees are excellent pollinator plants.”  Check out a list of native trees and the number of butterflies and moths that they support at Doug Tallamy’s site here.

With seven trees in his modest front yard, Paul says, “There are opportunities for tree planting in every corner of the city, even the smallest of spaces.  It’s just a matter of selecting the right tree for the right space.”  

For the City of Hamilton, Paul recommends planting bur oak, red oak, sugar maple, red maple, black cherry, trembling aspen, basswood, hackberry, Kentucky coffee-tree, serviceberry, pagoda dogwood, red cedar, and white pine, to name a few.  All of these trees provide flowers and/or fruit, nesting and cover for insects, birds and other wildlife.

Locke Street Native Plants

Paul has been designing and building native plant gardens and naturalization projects as the owner/operator of Blue Oak Native Landscapes since 2004, but this year Paul has started a native plant nursery in his backyard called Locke Street Native Plants. (website under construction).

Paul doesn’t have enough room on his Hamilton property to grow trees, so Locke Street Native Plants will specialize in native pollinator perennials (wildflowers, grasses, and sedges) and shrubs that are custom grown from local seed sources.

His catalogue includes over 50 species from popular native perennials like  wild geranium, solomon’s seal, black-eyed susan, virginia mountain mint and butterfly milkweed to uncommon species like purple joe-pye weed, early goldenrod, spikenard, woodland sunflower and hoary vervain.  

Paul will be selling his wares at the Locke Street Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 9am-1pm starting June 11 and from his backyard at 113 Locke Street North (near Victoria Park) by appointment starting May 24th.  

Call (905) 540-9963 or email blueoak@sympatico.ca to book an appointment today.