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.

Constantly Changing Garden

The garden is constantly changing. “It gives you an opportunity to express a certain amount of creativity and design,” says Norm, “It’s an opportunity to be working outside. It’s great exercise. I always lose some weight in the summertime which is good. I just enjoy working with the plants and the earth.” Loueen adds that learning about how different plants survive is phenomenal.

"We love the prickly pear! And since this photo was taken on June 30th, one of the prickly pears flowered!"

Spot the bee box!  The Madills were happy to report that their bee box was occupied.
As research on plants increases we’re constantly learning more about them. Norm explains his fascination with flora; “They’re now finding that certain plants can release toxins into the soil to prevent other plants from growing in the area. There’s a scientist in British Columbia doing research on trees who has found that the plants actually can communicate with each other.” He thinks that as research continues we will learn that plants “are much more complicated than we ever anticipated that they were.”

If you want to learn more about plants and gardening Norm recommends looking at some books. He suggests Mark Cullen for some easy and informative reading. The couple says that the major factors a gardener has to consider are light and soil. Norm replaced the soil in different beds with various kinds of soil depending on what he planned to grow there.

We love their veggie garden!

Loueen learned about the Pollinator Project through being a volunteer with Environment Hamilton and became inspired to do even more for pollinators in the garden by building a bee box and planting milkweed for monarch butterflies. The Halton Conservation Authority has a native pollinator “Garden In-A-Box” kit which Loueen and Norm planted to help pollinators thrive.

Both Loueen and Norm agree that gardening is gratifying. There’s joy in learning about it, experimenting and designing. It may be work, but it’s the fun kind of work!

Saige is an intern with Environment Hamilton, focused on local food.