Monday, July 25, 2016

Lyn Hanna-Folkes (Monarch Awards' Judge): Concerning Gardening for Biodiversity

Lynn Hanna-Folkes
Lyn Hanna-Folkes was one of the three judges for the newly launched Monarch Award, an award to celebrate pollinator friendly, sustainable gardening in Hamilton. I caught up with her in this short Q and A to chat about the value of such an award for bringing awareness about biodiversity to local residents.

Beatrice (B): How long have you been involved in gardening for nature yourself? And what are some challenges people face with this type of gardening?

Lyn (L): All my life, I have been making natural style gardens, working on conservation issues, etc. We all know the general public lead very busy lives these days, so it is difficult for the average person to do the necessary research to educate themselves about a completely new gardening perspective. Therefore, it is a real benefit to have some incentive to change the way people think about the way they garden by way of the Monarch Awards.

After judging, I thought it was very encouraging to see many people keenly interested in this award and what it stands for. I do hope this contest will encourage many more residents to garden with nature in mind. The ultimate goal is to think about how we take care of our property because humans have a responsibility to care for the place that sustains them. Humans are but one part of nature's web and education concerning this has been my life's work.

B: Do you think more people are making connections about the big issues of our times?

L: In general yes, there are so many issues connecting humans to the health of the natural world; climate change; food sources & pollinator health, drinking water quality, energy uses, etc. But people often still see the "economy" as more important than the "environment." One goes in hand with the other though -- they are strongly connected. In Hamilton, the Greenbelt is gradually being chipped away in the name of 'development progress' or 'growth.' But when are we going to seriously think about whether our current ideas of progress & growth are making real positive changes for us in the future? We need the biodiversity of the Greenbelt to sustain ourselves. Making connections to health ties humans to everything in nature. I’ve worked with many elderly residents who use pesticides as their 'go to' measure for any type of weed. How do you make them understand that they'd have less contaminated drinking water if they didn't use pesticides so much?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Programming at the YMCA Summer Camps

Just a small portion of the seed balls that were made by the campers!
The Pollinator Paradise Project had a fun week bringing programming to Hamilton YMCA summer camps. We visited Benetto, Dr. Davey and Queen Victoria elementary schools, coming armed with activities and knowledge, aiming to educate the campers on local pollinators, and how they can get involved in helping protect them.

The campers, all very enthusiastic to play games and make crafts, were split into two groups to be rotated through the first two activities, which were making seed bombs, and a demonstration + game in the gym. The campers loved getting their hands dirty making the seed bombs, which contain the seeds of several species of plants--both native and pollinator friendly. 

One group commented that the clay used made their hands “silky smooth”, while others took full advantage of the opportunity to get dirty by getting clay all over their hands. 

In the gym at the second activity, campers were given cards with an animal, plant or pollinator on the front, and what that organism needed for their life -cycle on the back. They were then linked together using section of rope to demonstrate a food web, and show them how plants and animals are connected. We then removed the pollinators from the web, and saw how the web fell apart without pollinators. 

After the demonstration we played “pollinator tag”, which is a version of many campers' favourite game, “octopus”. The camper who was “it” would be our pollinator, and would tag the “flowers” to get their pollen. When the flowers were out, they became the wind and could also tag, but they had to remain in the same spot which they were tagged in. All the campers had a great time running around and pretending to be their favourite pollinator or flower! 

For the final activity, we brought the campers all back together again, but split them into teams for a few rounds of trivia. This involved spinning the trivia wheel (very popular!) to determine a category, and we would then ask a question about birds, butterflies, bees, plants or from the “mystery” category. Campers worked together in their teams to try to get the right answer to the questions in order to earn points. The competition got intense as each team tried to get the most points, but all campers played fairly and cooperated with each other. 

We certainly had a lot of fun, and we’re sure the campers did as well, as one claimed he “wants to come back to YMCA camp every year!”

Monday, July 11, 2016

First-ever Monarch Awards for the cultivation of pollinator-friendly, sustainable gardens: Winner announced!

Media Release
July 11, 2016

Hamilton-- First-ever Monarch Awards for the cultivation of pollinator-friendly, sustainable gardens: Winner announced!

Hamilton's first-ever Monarch Awards competition has a winner!  Kirkendall resident Glenn Barrett has received the 2016 Monarch Award recognizing gardens and gardeners in Hamilton for their contribution to a biodiverse, sustainable environment.

"Out of concern for declining insect populations, especially Monarch butterflies and bees, we decided to recognize people who garden sustainably, and create habitat in their yards for pollinator species and wildlife in general," says Bev Wagar, one of the organizers for this initiative. "We want to promote the validity of gardens that are created to be beautiful, functional and beneficial but fall under a non-traditional aesthetic." 

The organizing committee for the awards includes staff from the Pollinator Paradise Project (Environment Hamilton and Hamilton Naturalists' Club) along with volunteers from the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Crown Point Garden Club.
The idea for an “alternative” garden awards program has quickly gained momentum.

More than 50 residents submitted applications.

"We are thrilled by the number of applications submitted in this our first year," says Jen Baker, Coordinator for the Pollinator Paradise Project. "We plan to extend the invitation for applications beyond the range we set out at the start of the initiative. That is, although it's mostly volunteer powered, we want to include even more wards next year. The interest is there."  

Barrett and his partner Kim both have a deep awareness of local conservation issues--Barrett works for Environment Canada and Kim at Conservation Halton. "It’s fabulous that there is now an award to recognize that there are gardens pleasing to the eye and beneficial to nature. I hope it continues!" says Barrett.

Photo Credit: Glenn Barrett
The judging team included:  Sean James, owner of Fern Ridge Landscaping & Eco-consulting; Jodi Healy, Gardens Manager at Royal Botanical Gardens; and Master Gardener Lyn Hanna-Folkes, expert in public naturalization projects. The judges participated in evaluating the applications and visited the finalists' gardens.
Runners-up were Peter Queck (Kirkendall) and Amy Taylor (Crown Point). 

For a more detailed update please visit the Monarch Awards blog.

For media inquiries, please contact:
Beatrice Ekoko, Communications at PollinatorParadiseProject, Environment Hamilton
905 549 0900

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Joy of Gardening

Written by Saige Patti, Summer intern.

The Madills' front yard.
On a sunny afternoon, Norm and Loueen Madill's flower garden is buzzing with life.
There's trees such as Serviceberry, Lilac, and Ginkgo in the front yard; flowering cacti; vegetables; and nearly twenty varieties of hostas along the side of their house.

It wasn't always this way.
When the Madills moved into their Westdale home back in 1976, “The person who owned the house before us was a rose expert and a rose judge," Loueen explains, "there were 183 rose bushes on this property!”

 Opposed to the monotony of monoculture, the couple keeps a pollinator garden because they love flowering plants. Loueen says that she has always loved butterflies, and learning about which flowers will attract them to the property. Her favourite plant on the property is in the evening primrose family: "It’s a beautiful sunshine yellow!" she exclaims. “Tonight when the sun goes down you can come stand out here and watch the flower unfurl.”

Loueen explains that this flower is for night pollinators. Very prolific, the primrose started in the backyard but grows in a different spot each year; “It just comes up on it’s own. How it got to the front yard, I don’t know!” she laughs.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Westmount Eco-Ninjas Fundraised for us!

Angela Dittrich is a Hamilton student and avid environmentalist. She is a member of Environment Hamilton's Youth Taking Root and the Westmount Eco-Ninjas. She graduated from Westmount this past June, and is starting her Bachelor's Degree at McMaster for Integrated Sciences this fall.

This wonderful youth helped organize a fundraiser (the Pollen Project) at her school for out Pollinator Paradise Project.

Here is what she writes:

This past April, Westmount's environment club (the Eco-Ninjas) teamed up with the Students Promoting Leadership Action Team (SPLAT) to raise awareness of pollinators in Hamilton, as the decline of pollinator populations is a major concern today.

Westmount's Pollen Project ran for two weeks as part of Westmount's Earth Day activities, collecting donations in the cafeteria from staff and students. Volunteers presented information about Pollinators Paradise Project as well as facts about the impacts of a declining pollinator population. Anyone who donated was given a paper bee or flower on which they could write their name. These flowers and bees were used to create a garden mural outside of the Learning Commons to represent the amount of support the Pollen Project had received.

Over 100 staff and students donated, and $123 was raised for Environment Hamilton's Pollinators Paradise Project. The Eco-Ninjas and SPLAT would like to thank the staff and students who donated, as well as Pollinators Paradise Project for bringing light to such an important topic and making a difference in Hamilton.

Lovely! Thanks Angela and the Eco Ninjas!