The weather is turning, fall is definitely here, but we are still basking in the afterglow of the Monarch Awards excitment. The Monarch Awards since 2016 is a way to celebrate gardeners who garden for nature. This year, the Monarch Awards extended a new category to include an award for small gardens and new gardeners: The Caterpillar Award.
I chatted with winner of the Caterpillar Award, Fran Frazier.
Fran has always been a gardener, but it is only in the last four years, that she has been gardening for nature.
It was through joining the Crown Point Garden Club and helping to plant pollinator gardens on the Pipeline Trail that Fran began to appreciate native plant gardens and what they do to support local biodiversity. Fran admits she was skeptical at first about such gardens, thinking that "weeds were for ditches."
"I thought, milkweed in a garden? Are you crazy? Why do a garden full of weeds? I had no idea that a pollinator garden could be beautiful." But she knew that the monarchs needed milkweed and she went with it."And then I saw how gorgeous everything looked!. There was a huge difference in the number of bees and butterflies in the pipeline gardens, then ordinary gardens. It was absolutely teaming."
Fran started learning more about the plight of pollinators. With her sister, who started the pollinator journey with her, supporting each other, Fran began attending tree walks, pollinator gardening workshops and forums. Now her sister, also a convert, is actually working on a complete butterfly garden. "My sister's neighbour came up to let her know he sees Monarchs all the time, and what's the big deal about declining numbers?" Fran laughs. "It's because of her garden attracting them!"
Fran displays the "We are feeding Pollinators" sign Monarch Awards entrants receive in the window. Neighbours have, observed that she has more bees in her yard.
What Fran loves about her garden
"From everywhere you sit you can see bees and butterflies and birds," Fran says. She has yellow finches hopping about on the coneflowers, water features such as a water fountain and bird baths. Now all she needs is a toad: "I would like to have a toad. Maybe if enough people plant they will come closer to the escarpment," she says hopefully.
Plans for her fall/winter garden?
"I'm planting a few more native plants such as zigzag goldenrod because I didn’t have enough native plants. This fall, she plans to leave her garden "mostly alone."
Nadia Coakley has been gardening for nature since she and her partner moved into their home at the edge of West Hamilton, in 2008. She began by turning their lawn to clover. 'I've always liked clover. Mark kept cutting the lawn and I saw this as a low maintenance opportunity. I thought it was beautiful."
Nadia says she imagined something different from the flowers that grew in her parents home, "something other than geraniums and impatients. I thought I'd plant something different. With three kids, it was going to be the things that do best." Things that "do best" turned out to be native species, "so it wasn't intentional," although she admits that she still has hostas.
Nadia and Mark got an oak tree when they got married. The second tree they planted was a birch tree. Both these trees support an incredible number of species. But Nadia recalls the difficulty of finding native tree species: "I didn't know where to get one. It was confusing."
Thanks to concerns about declining pollinator populations, Nadia's interest in native plants evolved. She planted milkweed for the butterflies, "and it took off from there," she says, reminding me however, that she still has a lot to learn.
I ask Nadia what's rewarding about being a Monarch Awards finalist. "Knowing that my garden is an oasis for pollinators to stop and lie some eggs," she says immediately. She says she is glad that there are these awards: "for a long time, people thought I had a crazy garden. Now gardens like mine are respected. People are having a better awareness of the issues. My mother and mother-in-law are both putting in milkweed."
Any tips for newbies? "Keep planting native flowers, soon everyone else will. That will be the norm, that will be the standard."
Nadia has three boys ages 10-17. She writes guidelines for Cancer care in Ontario.
What a rewarding experience it is to see some many good people of Hamilton come out on a Saturday afternoon (Sept 8th), to learn about how to be better at gardening for nature and support local biodiversity and connect with others in the community involved in habitat restoration. .
We partnered with the In the Zone team at Carolinian Canada , World Wild Life to host Gardening for Nature! Birds, Bees, Butterflies. This afternoon-long event featured an afternoon of "garden chats" with experts on topics that ranged from designing your garden with easy to grow native plant choices that benefit pollinators and other creatures, tips to manage invasive species, to how to nurture healthy soil and stories from the garden. Our experts included Ecologist, Charlie Briggs with RBG, Master gardener, Claudette Sims and team with Halton Master Gardeners and Brenda Van Ryswyk, Natural Heritage Ecologist at Conservation Halton. A delightful addition to the team of experts was Calla Shea-Pelletier and her son Harry's virtual pollinator-themed gallery, art installation of Hamilton biodiversity.
Joanne Tunnicliffe, Master gardener at the First Unitarian Church lead two garden tours of the grounds.
Thanks to Jeff Stock for this piece about his Pollinator Patch! In his day job, Jeff is a Watershed Stewardship Technician with www.hamiltonhaltonstewardship.cathe Hamilton Watershed Stewardship Program, Conservation Hamilton.
In my line of work I sometimes provide advice to landowners who are interested in establishing a pollinator garden or enhancing a conventional one, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to tend to a garden of my very own until this year. It has become an ever changing learning space that both fascinates and educates me on a daily basis.
My horticultural endeavours started early in 2018 with a garden that already had been well taken care of up until it came into my hands, but I knew there were many opportunities to enhance its biological diversity so I took the initiative to monitor the existing plants and whether or not they were providing some sort of benefit to the garden inhabitants. A great reason to keep a journal and brush up on my cursive!
On August 1st, the Hamilton Pollinator Paradise Project is launching a campaign to celebrate Hamilton's unique biodiversity. We are inviting you to look around you and take a photo of what you’ve spotted lately and share with us on social media! But first, what is Biodiversity?
What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the rich variety of plant and animal species on Earth and the habitats they live in, including pristine lands, cities and towns.
We depend on Biodiversity
Every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat to the water we drink and the air we breathe depends on the resilience of this biological diversity-- a result of billions of years of evolution, of which every single organism serves a purpose in the maintenance of the Earth’s ecology.
Biodiversity Makes Everything Better!
Biodiversity enhances local economies, strengthens ecological systems, and protects social well-being. Biodiversity conservation, planning and management results in positive impacts to water quality, air quality, and food production to name a few.
Our Hamilton Nature
Our City is a part of a biodiversity hotspot of many different types of habitats including:
fens, swamps, bogs, Carolinian forests, tallgrass prairies, meadows, thickets, creek valleys, and the rocky profile of the Niagara Escarpment.
-These habitats support diverse species, including over 1,000 different kinds of plants, 100 butterfly species, 87 fish species, and 43 species of mammals.
Throughout the month of August, please take a photo and share with us on the following channels:
Continuing with our new "Stories from the Pollinator Patch" series, here is a piece by Norm Madill of Westdale.
Most Canadians live in urban settings, yet we carry within our souls images of the breath stealing beauty of the natural landscape of this awe inspiring country. Millions of us try to capture a tiny piece of that beauty within our own gardens or on our balconies. This makes the nursery/garden centre business a billions of dollar industry within Canada.
I always thought of myself as a rather typical Canadian gardener. In the Spring I would buy a flat of geraniums, fibrous begonias, marigolds and snapdragons to add to the roses and perennials that grew in the garden. They gave a lot of colour and I often received positive comments from neighbours and passer byes about how my garden looked. After I retired, I started to volunteer in the green houses at Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton. The RBG Auxiliary grew a wide variety of plants that were sold during their annual May Plant Sale. Among these plants were a small group of Native Plants. I was generally not impressed with native plants. Their flowers were often smaller than those of the other plants. There were a limited number of natives that were available in the market place and those that we were able to get were hard to come by. For me, Natives were just another group of plants within our Auxiliary inventory.
But things were about to change!
We love hearing from our "pollinators- supporting" community! check out these stories from gardeners whose gardens have been certified by our Pollinator Paradise certification program, and who are on our Pollinator Corridor Map Stay tuned for many more!
John Forbes writes:.
What's changed for me in becoming a pollinator gardener is that now I feel connected to anyone who tries to restore, renew or revitalize our planet. It doesn't take much: planting lots of lovely native perennials instead of rows of soldiering municipal annuals (do bees even like petunias?). Off seeing my first flittering Monarch at the milkweed this year; though wondering where the hell are all the bees. Harvesting overripe serviceberries amidst construction beeps and whishing-by traffic, on an island of grass, in a downtown street.
Pollinator week is coming up starting June 18th. For us, every day is a day to celebrate the goodness of these small creatures. And while we are losing pollinators and all biodiversity--the variety of life on earth-- at a terrifying rate, there are many ways that we can support pollinator populations and curb this lose.
In planting habitat, we raise the awareness level around us concerning sustainability and the interconnectedness of all things--so our small actions have tremendous impact.
Knowing that there is a growing community of us is encouraging-- we are not alone. That's why we're inviting you to participate in some of these cool initiatives that connect like minded people across the city.
How can our spring gardens support pollinators and other biodiversity? That’s the guiding question we invite you to ask yourselves. We have some great advice from some of our master gardeners. Read on.
Don’t get overly tidy. Mimic what you see in nature. Barb Mckean, Head of Education at RBG
Think like a forest. Perennials are plants that evolved growing in the remains of their old stems and leaves. Don’t get overly tidy. Otherwise, a lot of life gets thrown away into yard waste bags in early spring (including larvae and eggs of beneficial insects and pollinators, and microscopic invertebrates, bacteria and fungi that add life to the soil and break down leaves and stems and turn them into humus that feeds new growth). Pulling away last year’s leaves means your garden starts each year with nutrient deficiencies. Mimic what you see in nature to restore natural processes that feed the soil so it can feed your plants. Be patient as eventually all those old leaves and stems will break down.
Barb shares the following story from her own garden:
This spring, we had a Brown Thrasher drop by in early May, on migration back from the southern US. They aren’t really a city bird, but it was able to forage for invertebrates in the leaf litter in my garden for over 48 hours. If I had followed the old-school “rules” of gardening (‘clean up leaf litter in early spring because it harbours disease’), those critters would’ve been out at the curb in a bag a month ago and that bird would have had to have moved on. Instead it found shelter and food after its journey. I posted it on the local birder’s page and Lyn Hanna Folkes responded that I had stolen her Thrasher. We have the only two naturalized yards in our neighbourhood. The bird spent Friday in her yard, then popped over to mine for Saturday and Sunday. Smart bird!