Sunday, November 12, 2017

Doug Tallamy: A world without insects is a world without biodiversity.

Biodiversity starts with insects.
Doug Tallamy delivered an absolutely riveting presentation last week at the RBG. A Chickadee's Guide to Gardening took the perspective of a (Carolina) chickadee's experience in a regular garden as a place to breed: would there be enough food and shelter for it to live its life, including rear its young?
Carolina Chickadee
Doug told us how he had surveyed over 1176 trees in Portland, Oregon. He noted that of this number, only 100 were indigenous. He observed that there were not that many birds: “Woodpeckers, kinglets, junco etc aren’t breeding in our greenest city, because there are no trees to breed in.The city is a biological desert!”

Most of our cities lack biodiversity, but, as Doug says, we can fix this. He demonstrated how to do so from the perspective of birds, and more specifically, through a year of the life of our little Carolina Chickadee friend.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Major Loss of Insect Biomass in Protected Areas

So this is some sombering, sombering news. A report came out last week in the journal Plos One, talking about a study tracking the devastating decline in flying insect populations over the last 27 years on nature reserves in Germany. More than a 75% decline in total flying insect biomass (the total mass of organisms in a given area or volume) in protected areas. An excerpt from the abstract reads,
Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services. Our understanding of the extent and underlying causes of this decline is based on the abundance of single species or taxonomic groups only, rather than changes in insect biomass which is more relevant for ecological functioning. Here, we used a standardized protocol to measure total insect biomass using Malaise traps, deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany (96 unique location-year combinations) to infer on the status and trend of local entomofauna. Our analysis estimates a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over the 27 years of study. We show that this decline is apparent regardless of habitat type, while changes in weather, land use, and habitat characteristics cannot explain this overall decline. This yet unrecognized loss of insect biomass must be taken into account in evaluating declines in abundance of species depending on insects as a food source, and ecosystem functioning in the European landscape.
The paper ends with the following:

 The widespread insect biomass decline is alarming, ever more so as all traps were placed in protected areas that are meant to preserve ecosystem functions and biodiversity. While the gradual decline of rare insect species has been known for quite some time (e.g. specialized butterflies [9, 66]), our results illustrate an ongoing and rapid decline in total amount of airborne insects active in space and time. Agricultural intensification, including the disappearance of field margins and new crop protection methods has been associated with an overall decline of biodiversity in plants, insects, birds and other species in the current landscape [20, 27, 67]. The major and hitherto unrecognized loss of insect biomass that we report here for protected areas, adds a new dimension to this discussion, because it must have cascading effects across trophic levels and numerous other ecosystem effects. There is an urgent need to uncover the causes of this decline, its geographical extent, and to understand the ramifications of the decline for ecosystems and ecosystem services.

Doug Tallamy is coming to Town!

Yas! Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home is coming to Hamilton. Here is what he'll be presenting on: A Chickadee’s Guide To Gardening

Doug Tallamy
In the past we have designed our landscapes strictly for our own pleasure, with no thought to how they might impact the natural world around us.  Such landscapes do not contribute much to local ecosystem function and support little life.

Using chickadees and other wildlife as guides, Tallamy will explain how plants that evolved in concert with local animals provide for their needs better than plants that evolved elsewhere.

In the process he shows how creating living landscapes sharing by our spaces with other living things will not reduce our pleasurable garden experiences, but enhance them.

Doug Tallamy is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has authored 87 research publications and has taught Insect Taxonomy, Behavioral Ecology, Humans and Nature, Insect Ecology, and other courses for 36 years.

Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. His book Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens was published by Timber Press in 2007 and was awarded the 2008 Silver Medal by the Garden Writers' Association. The Living Landscape, co-authored with Rick Darke, was published in 2014. Doug is also a regular columnist for garden Design magazine. Among his awards are the Garden Club of America Margaret Douglas Medal for Conservation and the Tom Dodd, Jr. Award of Excellence.
Tickets are still available. Get 'em.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Planting Paradise, Growing the Corridor: Corporations Get on Board

Planting Paradise at Terrapure
Building Hamilton's Pollinator Corridor requires all hands on shovels. We need the participation of people from across the diverse sectors of the community. That's why we are thrilled to put two local corporate partners on the map: Terrapure Environmental and the Hamilton Port Authority have joined us in planting critically needed habitat on their properties.

The last few days, we've been digging in the dirt together and planting native plant species in anticipation of drawing pollinators to these sites.

The largest pollinator "patch" within our corridor, Terrapure is transforming a closed landfill into a paradise by planting three acres of  habitat at the Heritage Green Passive Park in upper Stoney Creek.
 “We saw this initiative as a wonderful opportunity to provide much-need pollinator habitat and educate the public about the importance of pollinators to our eco-system," said Michael Jovanovic, VP of Environmental Affairs at Terrapure. "We hope our actions will encourage residents and businesses to consider starting their own pollinator paradise at home or work."

Planting paradise, Terrapure.
Last Saturday, local volunteers from across Hamilton helped plant four unique wildflower gardens on the property that will provide pollinator habitats to feed specific pollinator species. Each demonstration garden will have an interpretative sign explaining the species of plants and the importance of various pollinators to our local eco-system.

Residents were given the opportunity to purchase similar native plants for their home gardens at a native plant sale featuring local growers. Everyone in attendance also took home a package of free pollinator wildflower seeds.

Lynda Lukasik, Executive Director Environment Hamilton, says "It is fantastic to see such a large area of a closed landfill site being transformed into productive pollinator habitat. I'm hopeful Terrapure's initiative will inspire other private sector players to consider how they might do the same!”

Jen Baker, Land Trust Manager with the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, said “Many Hamilton residents have been planting native wildflowers in their private yards, schools and places of worship. Terrapure’s Pollinator Paradise will be our largest habitat to date and extends Hamilton’s Pollinator Corridor into upper Stoney Creek.”
The new project can also serve as a pollinator corridor between Felker’s Conservation Area and the new East Mountain Conservation Area.

Check out the coverage 

Pier 15: Hamilton Port Authority

Port Authority: Pier 15
While Terrapure invites the neighbourhood, the local school and the broader public to join in planting habitat and help with maintaining the site, the Hamilton Port Authority is planting paradise within the seclusion of its gates. 

Last week, staff from the Pollinator Paradise Project assisted Port Authority staff in getting plants into the soil. 

"We had a great experience with the Pollinators Paradise Project, and appreciated the team’s expertise and guidance along the way," says Sharon Clark, Manager, Community Relations.

There are plans to expand the pollinator garden beyond the current site. 

"This garden is the first pollinator garden at the Port of Hamilton,' Sharon says. "We are now scoping out more spaces where the port lands can contribute to a pollinator corridor in Hamilton."

Sharon describes the planting as serving as an educational opportunity for their staff, as well as "a demonstration site to encourage some of our tenant partners to come on board."

With the desire to strengthen connection with community, the Port Authority opened its doors to the public twice in the past week for a tour of Pier 15 site. 

We understand that going forward, there will more opportunities made available for more tours open to the public. 
They're feeding pollinators!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monarch Awards 2017 Winner: Amy Taylor's Garden of Delights.

Garden of Delights
Hamilton Monarch Awards 2017 winner, Amy Taylor has been gardening for more than half of her life. The 48 year old didn’t initially start of gardening for nature, however. What’s more, in the beginning, she gardened in pots because she didn’t have an actual garden space. As a tea leaf reader, tea enthusiast and community herbalist, Amy’s interest was initially in growing medicinal herbs, rather than for habitat or even growing food. That’s when she noticed that growing medicinal herbs correlated with growing for nature. Many Ontario native plants are also medicinal plants, like Echinacea, Bloodroot, Coltsfoot, Wild Ginger, to name just a few.

When Amy and her husband Mick moved to Hamilton from Toronto ten years ago, they counted over 140 plants that they brought over with them. “When we bought our home, we knew it was up to us to be as environmentally sustainable as we could with it and the garden," Amy says. "With Hamilton having the unfortunate reputation of being dirty and polluted, we knew better as we saw the amazing green-spaces and natural habitats for wildlife." It was partly because of the escarpment and the Greenbelt around the city that made them buy in Hamilton, Amy shares, "but it was also that we recognized that we are ultimately responsible for this planet." With that realization, they sought to make their small, 100x20 foot lot of it be as environmentally viable as possible: "We joined Bullfrog Power, we installed a composter, we recycle nearly everything and we planted those first 140 plants with a vision of a better planet."

Amy talks with captivating passion about the flowers in her garden, including the likes of bloodroot, coltsfoot, buddleia (butterfly bush, which she diligently deadheads), the red flowering crab apple tree, the milkweed, goldenrod, echinacea, obedient plant which starts of stark white, then goes purple, and yellow jewelweed that grows 8 ft tall, and hides her neighbour's garage.

What’s her favourite plant? “Probably my most favourite in the garden is the Cercis canadensis, Eastern Redbud tree,” Amy responds. “My Mum and I bought this tree together. I loved it because it has heart shaped leaves, beautiful purple pink pea shaped flowers in spring and pea shaped seed pods and lovely yellow leaves in fall. We bought it because she and I are like two peas in a pod.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

Mayor to present Monarch Awards

For Immediate Release
September 15th, 2017

Hamilton, Ont--Mayor Eisenberger to present Hamilton Monarch Awards (“for gardens that nature loves, by gardeners who love nature”) to 2017 Winners.
Amy Taylor, Winner of the Monarch Awards 2017 
Mayor Fred Eisenberger will be honouring the winners of the 2017 Hamilton Monarch Awards at a ceremony in the Mayor's chambers, (City Hall), to take place on Tuesday, September 19th at 1 pm.

Now in its second year, the Monarch Awards “for gardens that nature loves, by gardeners who love nature” was created out of concern for declining insect populations, especially Monarch butterflies and bees. The award celebrates gardens and gardeners in Hamilton for their contribution to a biodiverse, sustainable environment.

“In creating the award, we wanted to recognize people who plant habitat in their yards for pollinator species and wildlife in general," says Bev Wagar, one of the creators for this initiative. "The goal is to promote the validity of gardens that are created to be ecologically functional but may fall under a non-traditional aesthetic."

Crown Point resident and last year’s finalist, Amy Taylor, is the 2017 Monarch Awards  competition winner. Finalists include Nadia Coakley, West Hamilton; Kelly Jamieson, Crown Point; Matthew Mills, Dundas; and Katie West, Dundas.

The organizing committee for the award includes staff from the Pollinator Paradise Project (Environment Hamilton and Hamilton Naturalists' Club) along with volunteers from the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Crown Point Garden Club, as well as individual supporters who did much of the legwork. This “alternative” garden awards program had over 50 entrants this year.

"Once again, we are thrilled by the number of applications submitted in our second year, and seeing the incredible gardens across the city" says Jen Baker, Coordinator for the Pollinator Paradise Project. "The interest is there. It just keeps growing."
A volunteer committee evaluated the applications and chose the “Buzzin’ Dozen” semi-finalists, from which seven gardens were chosen for a visit by the judging team.

The five winners will each receive a beautiful hand-crafted wooden plaque by local woodworker Trisha Fraser. All entrants will receive a “We’re Feeding Pollinators” sign, a Monarch Awards sticker, and special early-bird shopping at the upcoming native plant sale hosted by the Hamilton Naturalists Club.

For profiles of the winning gardens, visit

For media inquiries, please contact:
Bev Wagar, Crown Point Garden Club

Jen Baker, Coordinator, Pollinator Paradise Project
905 549 0900

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Roadside Revegetation with Native Plants: An Interview with Stefan Weber

Article by summer intern, Saige Patti.

Thousands of kilometers of highway in Ontario are lined with non-native legumes, which are ecologically useless for pollinators, and have shallow roots that aren’t as good at filtering water or preventing erosion as are native plants.
By Haljackey at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Introduced plants like crown-vetch, black medic, white clover, and red clover have been popular choices for roadside plantings, which are aimed at preventing erosion of roadsides, but short roots and low salt tolerance make them less than ideal for roadside vegetation. A native tallgrass prairie community may be the best option for roadside plantings.

Roadside revegetation with native plants 

Roadside revegetation with native plants is being studied by Stefan Weber, a PhD student in the Biology department at McMaster University. In 2016 the Ontario Ministry of Transportation put out a request for proposals for their Highway Infrastructure Innovation Program Fund to study the best practices for establishing native roadside vegetation. Now, Weber’s project has two sites on highway number 3 outside of Tillsonburg and Norfolk county, and two sites in Saint Mary’s on highway 7.

Weber says the primary step to restoring habitat is preparing the site adequately. It can take two years to get rid of most of the invasive and noxious weeds, and even then the weeds and invasive species can persist. “I love the phrase ‘undressing a salad’,” he says, “It’s impossible to undress a salad. If you want to undo changes that have been made to the biotic community, it might not be possible; so many things have happened in terms of changes to soil structure and soil chemistry. It may not actually be possible to revert some roadsides back to the native landscape.”

blue vervain
It can be extremely difficult to remove non-native seeds from the soil seed bank, and multiple methods can be used. One method includes repeated herbicide spraying and tilling, but excavating can usually be more effective. Completely removing the first foot of soil down to the subsoil can remove the seed bank and nitrified soil. Native plants are tolerant of low-nutrient environments, so eliminating nitrogen from the soil will mainly affect non-native weeds. Prairie plants are adapted to colonize mineral soils; areas with sand, alvar, or exposed rock and gravel. This is because these prairies are early-successional communities – they are made of plants that are the first to appear when plants colonize an area. If the community was left undisturbed it would eventually be succeeded by ‘late successional’ communities like forests.

Weber says that we can keep our tallgrass prairies around by keeping these communities in an early state. This can be done by managing them with grazing or mowing. Historically, these prairies were maintained with fire by First Nations people. In a roadside setting, mowing is an essential activity for keeping prairie plants thriving. It helps eliminate competition from fast growing weeds which can shade these prairie species out.
“A successful project requires choosing species that are most appropriate for the physical characteristics of the restoration area,” says Weber. “The goal is to build what we want to see into the future, not recreate some historical scene that doesn’t exist anymore. We can’t travel back in time, so that’s not really the point.”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Monarch Awards 2017: Winners Announced!

Winners have just been announced. There's a profile article on the Monarch Awards web site as well as the media release. Congratulations to all the finalists, the Buzzin' Dozen, and all the entrants!

The 2017 Monarch Award winner is Amy Taylor!!
Amy, a 2016 finalist who lives on Edgemont Street North in Crown Point, is a herbalist and tea-reader who has an eclectic and broad knowledge of plants. An experienced gardener, Amy made some changes to her garden over the past year, removing some most of the aggressive non-natives (despite their herbalism usefulness) and ramping up the native plant content. Amy’s garden showcases the potential for blending unusual native plants into a traditional—and small—garden setting.
Amy's Garden.
One judge remarked on the overwhelming “interestingness” of the space. There’s a huge diversity of species to guarantee blooms right from April through November, along with personal whimsical decor, several amenities for wildlife (bird baths, bug bath, bee boxes, nesting spots), a shed made entirely of recycled materials, and a pergola with natural shade provided by hop vines that are harvested for beer making.

There is always a “mess” potential in gardens designed with ecosystem benefits in mind but Amy has cleverly and discretely sited the composters, brush piles, and all three water barrels. The front yard is completely planted and, although the needs of the plants have trumped the aesthetics somewhat, the effect is respectful of the streetscape and neighbours.

This year the judges chose to award four finalist prizes.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Creating a Pollinator Paradise: video

What's the buzz about pollination?
Learn why pollinators and native wildflowers are so important, why they have a problem, and find out what you can do about it!

Script, video, and audio by Saige Patti, Hamilton Naturalists' Club Summer Intern.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

How the McMaster Prairie Project is Influencing Bee Biodiversity

Another great piece by our summer intern, Saige Patti!

Native bumble bees pollinate using a unique method called "buzz pollination."

For fifty years, a 149 acre McMaster property sat on Lions Club road with a faded fence and invasive buckthorn so thick that you couldn’t see through it. Now, it’s flourishing with biodiversity.

The change began 2014, when the McMaster Biology department removed the buckthorn, conducted a controlled burn, and reseeded the property with 40 native species to create a tallgrass prairie. This is a type of Carolinian habitat with a stable community of grasses and wildflowers such as blazing star and bergamot. Carolinian prairies support a wide variety of wildlife, including bobolinks, deer, voles, and butterflies.

Sebastian Irazuzta is a 3rd year PhD student at McMaster looking at how bees recolonize native habitats. He is comparing changing bee populations between the McMaster prairie and a similar remnant prairie habitat, located on Hamilton Conservation Authority property on Jerseyville Road. Irazuzta says that most research that has been done on this topic has been done in a controlled laboratory setting with fewer species.

After surveying the McMaster property from 2014 to 2016, they’ve found close to 180 species of bees. “For all of Ontario we know that there are around 410 species. For this area on the Niagara escarpment, the only other sizeable research that has been done has been around Brock University… they found around 132 species.” Irazuzta tells us.

Bee specimens from Irazuzta's collection show that native bees vary a lot in size.
There is great value in biodiverse bee populations. This is because different bees have different strategies for collecting pollen. While some bees stick pollen to their abdomen, others stick it to the hairs on their legs. Some even eat the pollen and regurgitate it later. When a flower receives visits from different types of bees, they access pollen from different areas of the flower.

Laboratory research has shown that enhanced seed production is not only determined by frequency of visits, but by diversity of pollinators.

Certain pollinators are most efficient at pollinating certain flowers, because they use unique methods. For example, bumblebees use ‘buzz pollination’. They vibrate the flower so that pollen comes off more easily and sticks to the bee. High bee diversity means plants produce more high-quality seeds. This is important for crops since more seeds means more food production.
Bees are important to us, but loss of prairies is making it harder for bees to find a food source.
Our native bees have ancient relationships with Carolinian wildflowers. They contain nectar that our native bees have relied on for centuries.

Prairie habitats once covered 14% of Ontario, but they were the first habitat to be destroyed when settlers arrived. Grasses were easier to remove than forests, so prairies were set on fire to make way for crops. Tallgrass prairies quickly disappeared. “Now we’re down to less than 3% prairie habitat, but that number is actually deceiving” Irazuzta says. Most of the habitat is left in very small sections, often on road sides or railway side. “Once you drop below a critical size, it can’t sustain lot of species. Fragmentation is a huge issue for all types of habitats, but it really does affect prairies.”  These fragmented prairies lead to extirpation of species they once supported.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Will Your Avocado-Toast Push Monarchs to Extinction?

Post by our summer intern, Saige Patti!

Millennials may be giving up on the idea of house ownership as they spread their toast with creamy, delicious, green fruit – but are avocado lovers giving up on monarch butterflies?

Monarch populations have dropped by 90% since the 1990’s.

In the past, the decline in monarch populations has been largely correlated with loss of common milkweed – the only plant on which monarchs lay their larvae. Milkweed decline has occurred mostly in agricultural crops. The plants can’t survive contact with the chemical glyphosate from Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide. Agricultural milkweeds in the Midwest are significant: they have 4 times more monarch eggs than non-agricultural milkweeds, and in 2012 an 81% decline of agricultural milkweeds correlated with a decline 81% monarch production decline.

Unfortunately, declining numbers of milkweed plants are not the only thing affecting the monarchs.

A new threat has emerged: our beloved avocados.

While planting more milkweed and avoiding Roundup Ready GM crops are key steps to restoring habitat for monarch butterflies in North America, an increase in demand for avocados may annihilate crucial portions of their habitat in Mexico.

Popularity of avocados has surged in North America in recent years. With avocado being used for guacamole, sandwiches, smoothies, salads, pastas, and even desserts, it’s no wonder the versatile fruit is in demand. The market is also starting to expand globally; distributor Mission Produce Inc. is aiming to find ways of increasing avocado sales in China, which would greatly increase demand if it became popular.

The avocado business in Mexico is lucrative. With prices rising, it’s a good deal for land-owners to clear cut the forest and start growing crops.

The problem is that avocado crops grow in the same climate and altitude as the pine-oak forests which contain oyamel trees, or sacred fir trees. These are the trees on which monarchs spend the winter. When these forests were abundant, monarchs would overwinter in expansive areas of the sacred fir trees. Now, they cluster in a few groups of trees in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.

Oyamel forests are Mexico’s most endangered forest type with only 2% of the original forest remaining.

Monarchs are adapted to a delicate microclimate created by these forests, which changes when the forest is thinned or the perimeter is eliminated.

What is left of Oyamel forests is crucial to the survival of the monarch species.
Most of the butterflies overwinter in the Mexican State of Michoacán, where 20,000 hectares a year are converted for agricultural use, according to the attorney general's office for environmental protection. Avocados account for 30-40% of annual forest loss.

Deforestation as a result of avocado farming further adds to the effects climate change is already having on the forests. A 2012 study predicted that a changing climate could account for a 69.2%, decrease of sacred fir trees, and that increasing temperatures might require people to move trees 275m higher to cooler temperatures, and out of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve by the end of the century. Additionally, trees are felled to create single-use crates in which the avocadoes are shipped.

Mario Tapia Vargas, a researcher at Mexico’s National Institute for Forestry, Farming and Fisheries Research, says that even where deforestation has not yet happened, there are areas with avocados growing in the understory. This alters the natural forest ecosystem and it’s ability to support wildlife. Tapia Vargas says it won’t be long before the forest around these crop trees are cut down as well.

With monarch populations already headed for extinction in the next 20 years based on milkweed decline, the effect of avocado crops would contribute even further to eliminating vast numbers of monarchs. This is dangerous, since small populations are more vulnerable to sudden environmental changes, which are increasing with the effects of climate change effects.

Additional loss of monarchs as a result of future avocado crops could quickly lead to monarch extinction.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Respect the Park: More than just a kid's playground.

Parks and wide open spaces need to be elevated to the highest levels of importance in our planning and budgeting process, reflecting their potential as an organizing principle, not as afterthoughts. Beverly Sandalack, Associate Dean, Landscape and Planning Environmental Design, University of Calgary.
Victoria Park, Hamilton.
Back in March, staff from the Pollinator Paradise project travelled to Calgary to learn about the role parks play in the city, for the 21st century. Heart of the City Conference (Shaping the future of city parks in Canada) (Park People) explored many functions of a public park--one of the main ideas being that parks, for many reasons, are the heart of a city.

Parks support green infrastructure.

We have challenges. Many challenges. With climate change comes high temperatures, droughts, flooding, and habitat decrease. But in our cities, we can do much to mitigate and adapt to these changes. Urban parks and open spaces have an enormous role to play in this respect.

Parks provide habitat, food and shelter for wildlife as well as trees which filter from air pollution and offer shade and comfort. When it comes to wide open spaces such as meadows, these are not generally thought of as being attractive or useful, unfortunately. But in the city, we need these spaces urgently because like urban parks they support local biodiversity.

Urban parks are important in the effort to create more resilient cities. They are green infrastructure that should be invested in. It's time to step up the role of parks as not just a playground for the little kiddies. We need to view parks not just as an add on, but as part of a complex system, incorporated into planning and design. We need to think of these spaces the way we do with natural areas – using a systems, multifunctional approach that can greatly contribute to increasing resiliency in the context of climate change and stormwater management.

Urban parks, open spaces, along with schoolyards, faith communities with outdoor space and even areas around parking lots can capture all stormwater from a given site as well as serve as a carbon sink, and reduce heat island effects (these occur when urban development such as buildings, roads, and other infrastructure replace open land and vegetation. Surfaces that were once permeable and moist become impermeable and dry. These changes cause urban regions to become warmer than their rural surroundings, forming an "island" of higher temperatures in the landscape).

Park as a public space
Parks have a long history as democratic spaces open to all in a city, acting as catalysts for interactions between people of different backgrounds and reducing intolerance.The contribution of local parks, Alexsandra Kazmierczak
There are not that many public spaces to gather in. The park therefore is an asset that ought to be cherished in any community. The potential for community involvement is massive. Not only as a way to engage residents in animating and using the park (animation is important, people need to feel there is a reason to go to a park), but also to make use of the public space on engaging residents around other issues.

At the conference, we learned about ways to "catalyze" the social impacts of parks including connecting people and reducing isolation. Park People (which is an independent charity that builds strong communities by animating and improving parks, placing them at the heart of life in cities) focuses especially on the work community members, municipalities and partner organizations in underserved neighbourhoods in recognition of growing inequality and the prevalence of neighbourhood-based inequalities. This is critical. We can't all go to the cottage or skiing, or camping, or hiking in Algonquin park. Newcomers, people of low income might not even have back yards. Of course, another main benefits of park spaces are social--reducing isolation and increasing connection between people.

Do More with our Parks.
Here in Hamilton, we are fortunate to be surrounded by much green space in general. How are we maintaining these spaces? what can we do better to increase engagement and make them more enjoyable to be in?
The City of Hamilton's The Adopt-a-Park program is a year round volunteer program where volunteer groups sign up to help maintain and care for trees, flowers and shrub beds in our local parks. Many groups hold events to promote park usage or fundraise for park enhancements such as benches, trees and play structures.

The City also has other programs for community members to get involved in, including the Community Clean Trailer and the Clean & Green Trailer which provides volunteers with the tools they need to beautify our city parks, alleyways, trails and neighbourhoods.

Our own Pollinator Paradise project has worked in many parks across the city to plant habitat and we plan to do more. In particular, we have been thrilled to work with Crown Point volunteers and residents to create habitat along the Pipeline Trail. A group that evolved from this work is the Crown Point Gardening Group. This wonderful group of gardeners share ideas as well as plants, and organize around other issues concerning their neighbourhood.

Park People have many great resources include Sparking Change, Catalyzing the Social Impacts of Parks in Underserved Neighbourhoods, and how to engage residents to participate.

Sparking Change has identified five different social impacts of park engagement: creating a sense of change and shared ownership, building confidence and inspiring civic leaders, reducing social isolation and creating more inclusive communities. providing a place for diverse people to gather and supporting local economic development. "Parks are not simply green places of respite--they are critical pieces of the social infrastructure of our cities. And we believe they have a role to play in creating more inclusive, equitable places that are shaped by and for the people living there."

Parks have massive potential for community development, according the the Sparking Change report. Think: social gathering space, recreation, cultural exchange, and of course, green spaces for habitat. Municipal spending on city parks still falls at the bottom of the queue when it comes to ranking the relative importance of a city's property tax funded services.
Their other resources include:
Financing City Parks in Canada: What Might be Done?
Green City A landscape approach for the 21st century.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Gothic Boat and Contemplations of the Pollinator Universe

Check out this beautiful piece by Monarch Awards' entrant, Calla Shea-Pelletier.

Chance is one important component in our garden. The beauty of it, entirely the collaboration of pollinators and humans. The placement and shape of a deck last year builds upon years of cultivating a theme of sanctuary. The gothic boat deck is suggestive of a human conveyance slowly moving through. It is an echo of the windows of the porch and the shape of the gardens. A subtle emphasis of the gothic theme, found in the choice of (almost) black and white plants, both native and non-native, punctuated with feature colours.

The lawn has been entirely replaced over the years, with the intention of cultivating pollinator gardens, pathways and rest stops.  Each year more opportunity for imaginative interactions unfold. The beauty we aspire to, embrace whimsy, multiple histories, and locations for foraging or refuge.

There is an abundance of inhospitable urban environments out there. If beauty is also compassion, our efforts bring together communities of plants, creatures and human built environments for gentle collisions to contemplate the pollinator universe.

Poem inspired by a seven year old, who volunteered this information:

“I want to be a pollinator,
I will carry small brushes with me”
she said making the motions
of pollinating with tiny instruments.
In the moment I understand,
she is compassion itself,
“I hope you won’t have to live in a world
where such a job is necessary”, I say
fearing that she already did.

June 24th, 2017
Calla Shea-Pelletier

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Urquhart Butterfly Garden: Summer Series and Competition

Clouded Sulphur 2016 Photo by Michelle Sharp

We love sharing pollinator-supportive events in our community, so we are excited to let you know about the free Summer series at the Urquhart Butterfly Garden.

The series kicks off on Saturday July 15 with Matt Mills leading a Guided Butterfly & Bird Identification Walk.  Matt is an experienced naturalist, with a vast store of knowledge and an engaging manner.

The Garden is humming with life, “I am never disappointed by what I see at the Urquhart Butterfly Garden,” Matt said recently. If there are rare butterflies to be seen Matt will find them, as well as locating all the bird life hiding in the bushes or flitting among the trees.

The Guided Walk takes about an hour and begins at 11 am on Saturday, July 15. You are requested to wear a sun hat and bring a chair.
If it rains the walk will be cancelled.

The Summer Programme will be held every Saturday until September 2.
The Urquhart Butterfly Garden is located at the end of Centennial Park in Dundas. All ages are welcome.

Media Contact: Joanna Chapman – Coordinator, Urquhart Butterfly Garden
Phone: 627-8697 email:

For more information about the Summer Programme please visit 
The Summer Series 2017 is funded by the Dougher Fund of the Hamilton Community Foundation.

Urquhart Butterfly Garden Photo Contest 2017

The Monarch butterflies are already arriving, and when the sun shines there are quite a number many species butterflies to be seen at the Urquhart Butterfly Garden, plus lots of other wildlife action.

This year Photo Contest began a month earlier than usual, and continue until after Labour Day in September.  Photographers of all ages are eligible for both cash and certificate awards in four categories:  Butterflies and Moths;  Insects, Spiders and Bugs; Birds and other wildlife; Plants & Flowers.

Fancy camera equipment is not needed, some great photos have been taken on cell phones.  What is required is patience and a good eye for an interesting shot.

The Photo Contest  opened on Monday, June 5 and ends on Tuesday, September 5.  Entry information & rules can be picked up at the Urquhart Butterfly Garden or can be viewed on the UBG web site.

The Urquhart Butterfly Garden is located at the end of the Desjardins Canal.
Parking is available on King Street East, close to the Air Force Club.

For further information visit:

Joanna Chapman – Coordinator Urquhart Butterfly Garden
Phone 905-627-8917

Friday, June 30, 2017

Celebrating Pollinators with the Ontario Nature Youth Council

Volunteers. Photo credit, Daynan Lepore
During Pollinator Week, we joined forces with the Ontario Nature Youth Council to celebrate pollinators and all the work they do for we insatiable humans.
Donate A Native Plant: Pollinator Appreciation Day was an opportunity for humans to give back to these mighty little critters.

Community members were invited to bring a native species plant from their gardens, or to simply join us in planting habitat at the Land’s Inlet site in the North End of the city.

The Land's Inlet Nature site is an initiative of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club that for the last few years has been naturalizing this inner city public space and creating a paradise of trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and other native species plants to attract and provide food and shelter for pollinators, as well as a beautiful green space for local residents.

Over 250 native plants, most of which were supplied by the Youth Council were put into the ground that evening. The youth will be helping to maintain the site in years to come. They plan to deepen their involvement concerning pollinator protection, building on the tremendous work they have previously done on the issue--work such as their postcard campaign to the Premier back in 2014, requesting a ban on neonicotinoid use, that has resulted in very impactful outcomes.
The group has an initiative called Special Spaces. For the last five years, to celebrate Earth Month, Ontario Nature’s Youth Council has organized conservation projects that are held simultaneously across the province. The events highlight the importance of taking care of nature in our own neighbourhood.
 Conservation efforts in these local  Special Spaces include tree plantings, litter removal, trail maintenance and shoreline clean-ups. Around thirty Special Spaces events across Southern Ontario. Our plant-in at Land’s Inlet is considered one such event.

Daynan Lepore, coordinator for the group spoke with us about the Youth Council’s other projects.

With the Youth Council members, (consisting of about 70 teenagers, most of them heads of their high school eco-teams), "We all brainstorm around what we are interested," says Lepore,a youth himself. Over the course of two main meetings, usually in Toronto and at a YMCA camp, "we come up with a blueprint of involvement."

With the issue of bee decline, conserving bees was made a big theme on social media: "We could play off that with slogans, use internet memes and run a great campaigns that resonated with kids," Lepore continues. With planting, "When the kids go to plant, they will be telling their friends what they did and so on, influencing their peers."

Future Ontario Nature projects. 

This September, at the yearly youth retreat, the group will be adding a new campaign to their list--climate change. "We are going to do write to our members of parliament that's our big focus," Lepore says. They will also be running more Special Spaces events, raise awareness  around pipelines, and Ontario Greenbelt expansion.


We are looking forward to continue to working with this amazing group!

Thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Hamilton Community Foundation for their continued funding support over the last few years.

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's Pollinator Week!

Sweat Bee on Calendula. Photo by Theresa McCuaig.
It's Pollinator Week (June 19-25th)! If you are wondering what you can do to to celebrate and support pollinators, we at the Pollinator Paradise Project have a few suggestions!

1. Apply for the Monarch Awards 2017. If you garden for nature, you will be happy to know that the deadline for applications has been extended until the 25th so don't be shy, go apply!
2. June 22nd, celebrate pollinators with us by donating a native plant species and help us fill out habitat at one of our sites (Land's Inlet). It's a party! Check out this link for more details.
3.If you are brand new to the idea of helping our pollinators (and remember, they help US more than we could ever help them), commit to planting some native species plants in your garden. Start by planting the basics and check out this great resource.
4. Learn about native bees (there are close to 400 in Ontario alone, and most of them are solitary and don't stink!). Bees of Toronto is a great resource.
5. Educate yourself! Check out the latest in pollinator health in Canada.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Monarch Awards 2017: Extended Deadline

Christine's Garden.
Many of you have told us that you would like more time for your flowers to show before applying to the Monarch Awards 2017. Others say they don't feel their gardens are up to snuff; they will try for the following year. We say, Go for it today! Don't be shy! The Monarch Awards welcomes all gardeners who garden for nature so please don't worry if your garden is not "perfect." Nature doesn't!

To this end, the team has decided to extend the deadline a week more. The new deadline to apply is June 25th. Come on! You can do it. And remember, everyone gets a free, We are Feeding Pollinators sign.

Christine Filinski is one gardener who is applying to the awards. Here is what she says about her garden:

Over the years of living in our home we have worked towards making the garden a fine balance of area to feed our family and area to feed pollinators. The front yard has become a mash up of both. We have come to notice that our yard stands out from all the others and may be seen as quite wild to a lot of people. We allow typical "weeds" to grow such as goldenrod, bugle weed and milkweed because the pollinators adore them.  We see many species of bees, butterflies and birds in our yard. The birds enjoy the variety of bugs and seeds they find as well as all the hiding spots the plants provide.  In the future I hope to add a second bird bath, a second bee house and to find some native shade plants that are pollinator friendly.

You see, a garden is never "done" as we all know, and we can always find ways to improve and enhance our spot of earth. So take a chance and apply today! #MonarchAwards2017 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Donate A Native Plant: Pollinator Appreciation Day!

Feed Pollinators! Donate a Native Plant. By Saige Patti, summer intern.

Calling all gardeners and nature lovers! National Pollinator Week (June 19-25th) is a time to honour the bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other beneficial insects that play an essential role in our natural ecosystems (most of which would collapse without them!).

On June 22nd, the Hamilton Pollinator Paradise Project invites you to Donate A Native Plant: Pollinator Appreciation Day. Celebrate our pollinators, by giving your native species plants a new home at Land’s Inlet Nature Garden Site.

Located in Hamilton’s North End, Land’s Inlet Nature Project is part of an initiative working to naturalize this inner city public space, and create a pollinator paradise of trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and other native species plants to attract and provide food and shelter for pollinators.

This site is in need of native species plants to fill it in further, and keep pollinators happy! In donating and helping us plant pollinator-friendly habitat, we will all enjoy more birds, butterflies and other living things, cooling shade in the summer, better air to breathe and less noise from traffic.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A bright spot on a busy street: A garden that's aiming for the Monarch Award 2017

“People seem more interested in people,” says Margaret Juraj, west Hamilton resident, and gardener. But she, herself appreciates the non-human creatures; “they loom large in my imagination and consciousness.”

Gardening is a way she immerses herself in this world: “Anytime you spend time in your garden, you realize it’s not only about people,” Margaret says. “We humans are temporary and maybe we will last longer if we embrace that; if we really cared about people we would take care of the non-humans.”

This spring, Margaret is entering her pollinator-friendly garden to the Monarch Awards 2017. This is an award that celebrates gardens that nature loves. Monarch Awards recognize gardens and gardeners in Hamilton, Ontario for their contribution to biodiversity, pollinator health and environmental stewardship.

Started in 2016 by volunteer at Crown Point Gardening Club and staff at the Pollinator Paradise Project and the Royal Botanical Gardens, the awards invite submissions from wards 1-10 and 13. Margaret applied last year and was a runner up for the award.

‘It’s nice that people have organized an award that creates awareness of alternative forms of gardening, which I prefer,” Margaret says. “It’s less sterile, has value, and things can live in your garden.”

Margaret’s garden is a spot of brilliance on very busy Main Street. She has been working on it since 2001. When she moved in, it was sparse with very little to look at, but over time, as she became interested in native species, she has increased the habitat in her spot of earth, replacing things that only serve as eye-candy to pollinators, but not actual food; “People give you things that are easy to grow, but do not serve the interest of pollinators,” Margaret says.

Margaret recognizes that there is still a lot of work to do and challenges to tackle. For example, next year, she has plans to remove the periwinkle, which is an invasive groundcover. There is also the struggle with soil that contains lead, a shady backyard (that is now receiving more sun since the neighbours removed a tree) and water concerns, since the summers are hot and she has had to water more than she would like to retain moisture. “I am always thinking of new ways to harvest the rain,” Margaret says.

Margaret is having a positive influence on her neighbours, thanks to the copycat effect that is very good if we are hoping to increase habitat across the city: “There was nothing there and now some neighbours have decided to plant wildflowers too!”

For more information on how you can enter your garden to the Monarch Awards, please visit Deadline is June 18th.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Got a Nature-loving Garden? Then show off and tweet at us with #MonarchAwards2017

Photo Credit: Bruce Bolin

Photo Credit: Bruce Bolin
So the Monarch Awards 2017 are fast approaching and to get nature-loving gardeners in the mood to apply, we are inviting those of you who are on social media to tweet out/instagram or facebook photos of your garden and use the hastag #MonarchAwards2017.

On twitter, please tag:


On Instagram, please tag environmenthamilton and  hamiltonnature

Lets get the word out and have some fun out there!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Are you ready for the Monarch Awards 2017?

This Earth Day, think ahead to submitting your spot of paradise to the Hamilton Monarch Awards 2017, for gardens that nature loves, by gardeners who love nature!
Photo Credit: Bev Wagar

Do you garden for nature? Does your patch of earth include habitat for bees and butterflies and other pollinators? Then you are invited to apply to the Hamilton Monarch Awards!

The Monarch Awards recognize Hamilton gardens and gardeners for their contribution to a bio-diverse, sustainable environment.

Originating with a group of gardeners, the idea for an “alternative” garden awards program quickly gained momentum.

The organizing committee includes volunteers from the Crown Point Garden Club (with Bev Wagar, the initiator and visionary behind the Awards) and the Royal Botanical Gardens as well as staff from the Hamilton Naturalists Club and Environment Hamilton.

Last year, due to lack of resources, the Awards were only offered to wards 1 to 4. This year, properties in wards 1-10 and 13 (Dundas) are eligible. Gardens must be residential, not on business or commercial properties. Entrants do not need to own the property but do need to be primary person responsible for how the gardens look and function.

A winner and finalists will be chosen based on judges’ scores over six criteria categories that include soil health, water conservation, native plant species and aesthetics.

Please visit for competition details and rules.

Entry deadline is midnight Sunday June 18, 2017. Good luck!!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Creating your Monarch Award-winning Garden: Updates from the April 1 Workshop.

You missed the workshop on creating your Monarch award-winning garden (for gardens nature loves, by gardeners who love nature?). No problem, we've got you covered. Here's what happened.

Charlie Briggs
After an introduction about what we're looking for in a Monarch award-winning garden, Charlie Briggs of RBG went on to advice about the importance of a healthy soil and what that looks like.
"It's the start of a whole system," Charlie explained, "and it should provides the necessities for plants and animals to live. As well, it should allow water penetration for proper water table recycling."
For these, you'll be checking out the following: Texture, pH (potential of Hydrogen), nutrient content, and water retention and drainage.

With soil texture, you have to decide what type you have, that is, sand, silt or clay. Note that the soil texture could differ by depth of soil and also by location in the garden. For the pH, you can use a soil test kit. For more information, Charlies suggests doing a of “OMAFRA Soil Testing Laboratories.”

Having to amend soil can be a big hassle, but if needed, Charlie recommends that you can do so with organic matter. You can start your own compost, or purchase or receive compost/organic matter from trusted sources (e.g. City of Hamilton). Equally important is to mulch your garden with leaf and other plant litter. This will break down into a fine organic layer as well as provide other benefits to your garden.Charlie advises that you add organic matter by tilling into a large area or garden, not by amending single holes for trees or shrubs! Be sure to select plants for your soil type, and choose the right plant for the right place! Carolinian Canada has a selection of plants for almost every soil type.

We'll be looking for those gardens that provides for our native plants and animals, and allows as much rainwater to fulfill its cycle on site. The garden can have different types of soil showcasing proper plant selection.


Jeff and Kestrel
For the water component of a garden that supports nature, we were fortunate to have both Kestrel Wraggett, Stewardship Technician with Cootes to Escarpment and Jeff Stock, Stewardship Technician, Hamilton Conservation Authority to explain  Low Impact Development (LID) towards more natural water infiltration levels. Do you have a rain barrel? And is it being maintained properly (that is, is the downspout disconnected)?  Some ways that you can preserve water and keep it out of the sewer is to disconnect your downspout and lead direct the water to create a soakaway or a rain garden! Is your lawn naturalized? Driveway permeable?

Abiotic Components
Master gardener, Joanne Tunnicliffe explained that the biotics can't be as successful in your garden if you don't have the abiotic (the non living parts of an ecosystem). They need the warmth, shelter, food and spaces to reproduce.Without the right amount of sunlight or moisture, for example, some plants are unable to survive. Success happens when the biotic moves in the abiotic. Joanne showcased examples of recycled toys that can be used for shelter and nesting grounds.

Native Plants

Claudette Sims and Janet Hughes-Mackey with Halton Master Gardeners talked about the rewards that flowers receive (the pollinators come), making sure you plant the flowers en masse, make sure you use native species, and that you plant for shelter in mind and host plants. For example, plant so that you extend the nectar sources for different times of years, from May to November.

Check out Claudette's awesome blog post on what to plant in your garden.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Act now to keep our bees buzzing! Opportunity to tell Health Canada you want them to ban neonics.

Brown-belted-bumble-bee. PC Ontario Nature.
We support Ontario Nature's urgent call to action to ask Health Canada to ban imidacloprid, and save our precious bees. Here is there message:

We have an urgent opportunity to ban a harmful pesticide that is known to be detrimental to pollinators and the environment.

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is currently re-evaluating the use of imidacloprid. Imidacloprid is a commercial neonicotinoid insecticide (“neonic”) that is available on store shelves to kill insects on agricultural crops, trees, lawns, and even pet ticks and fleas.

The PMRA is taking a step in the right direction by proposing to phase-out most uses of imidacloprid over the next three to five years.

Please join Ontario Nature in supporting the phase-out, but asking the PMRA to go further faster. We need a full ban of this neonic and the phase-out should take effect immediately. The government knows this insecticide is harmful and must act now. Ontario Nature has made an easy to use form for your convenience here.

For more details from Health Canada's PMRA, visit there page here.

The proposal is open for public comment until March 23, 2017.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Paul O'Hara's Native Plants List for the Hamilton Area.

We are really lucky, here in the Hamilton area to have the talented and highly knowledgeable, Paul O'Hara to advice us on the best native plants to grow in our gardens, in order to create high-quality habitat for pollinators. Paul is a field botanist, landscape designer and native plant gardening expert. His business is Blue Oak Native Landscapes .

Paul O'Hara by the Wild Crab Apple (Malus coronaria). Photo credit, Paul O'Hara.
Paul has given us permission to share his "Notes on Native Plant Gardening in the Golden Horseshoe" on this blog. Hamilton is located on the extreme northern edge of the Deciduous Forest region of Carolinian Canada (which has 25% of Canada's  rare and endangered species, according to O'Hara).

In planting habitat for this region, O'Hara's list provides plant selections (including trees, for which is business is known for) that flower at different times, providing nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season. He also provides plant selection for winter interest.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): Photo credit, Paul O'Hara.

Check out his amazing plant list.  As well, Paul has started a little backyard nursery of native plants. Contact Paul to order your native plants today!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Soil Health, Invasive Species and Your Pollinator Garden.

March is around the corner! It’s time to step up plans for that pollinator garden you’ve been dreaming about all winter. One of the most important things to think about is preparing your site for planting. “Soil is the most important aspect that we routinely overlook,” says Kellie Sherman, Coordinator at the Ontario Invasive Plant Council. “A first step is ensuring that the soil is healthy."
Kellie recommends looking for health indicators such as nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. Is the soil sandy or clay-based? What is the water drainage like? She suggests researching the soil type for your area. As this can be daunting, Kellie suggests getting your soil tested. You can pick up a kit from places like Home Depot and then find further research online about results.

Recognizing Invasive Plants.
Periwinkle (Invasive groundcover).
Another critical point of concern are invasive plants such as multiflora rosa, periwinkle ground-cover, Himalayan balsam and jewelweed. Purple loosestrife and honeysuckles are a problem too. But why are invasive species so harmful?

According to Kellie, invasive species are the second most cause of extinction after habitat loss. Invasive species impact the environment and the economy and have an effect on society. “Invasives are aggressive.They compete with species that help our economy and they carry potential diseases that spoil our crops,”she says. Environmentally, invasive plants can have a large impact on natural areas and threaten the important services to both wildlife and humans that they provide. Invasives can overtake forest understorey and prevent forests from regenerating so that we won’t see new trees come up. Kellie points to the Norway maple as being a prolific seed producer invasive in the Toronto Ravine for example. “Research is showing that it significantly reducing pollinators in the area, oaks and maples are not growing.” Invasive plants can change the composition of soil.

As well, there is no good evidence that invasives provide food for pollinators. “Invasive plants can affect forage quantity, reducing biodiversity,” says Kellie. By contrast, “native plants have evolved over eons to work with biodiversity, so they are a better food source for pollinators.”
Society-wise, invasive plants like the giant hogweed can cause irritation to skin.

“Even in a green bin, invasives such as periwinkle can spread,” Kellie warns. She suggests that with something like buckthorn, you could cut it it back before it produces berries, then let the branches decompose. You can check out common invasive plants on the Grow Me Instead Guide, an invaluable guide that helps you identify invasive garden plants and provides suitable native or non-native, non-invasive alternatives.