Alex Stewart and James Honey: Hamilton Monarch Awards' Winners 2019.
Alex Stewart attributes his current self-employment, and that of his partner, James Honey as local gardeners to thespec.com reporter, Kathy Reinwald who wrote about their Wellington Street garden four years ago. Their corner street urban garden has brought colour and vibrancy to this busy arterial road, on a truck-route, that has very little tree canopy and other greenery.
“There was not a single flower in sight,” Alex recalls, at the time of moving to the neighbourhood. The property itself was full of rubble.
“We dove in headfirst and replaced 200 species in the garden, swapping them out for native species; every plant had to have a pollinator attached to it, for example, Spicebush for Swallowtail butterflies.”
Talking about their Monarch Award-winning garden today, Alex describes it as being filled with plants received from friends, plant exchanges, and travels around the city.
You can hear the enthusiasm as Alex recites a list of flowers in bloom including ephemerals: Hepaticas, Twin-leaves, Blue-eyed grass. Foam flower just finished, Phlox Diviarcata is still in flower as is Wild Columbine; Milkweed is about to bloom, Bloodroot is about do drop seeds.
“We are always on the hunt for new plants. Our goal is about 80% native. Every week or two, we exchange plants.”
How have the neighbours received their efforts, we ask?
“In the beginning, it took a while for people to notice, but now we feel understood--people appreciate that we are making a positive change in the neighbourhood,” Alex says. “We look forward to the privilege of educating the public because people are always asking us about the garden.”
Alex says that both he and James have always had an interest in plants. Alex, himself wanted to be a naturopath and work with botanical medicine, “but I found working with gardens gave me more of a tactile relationship with the plants. With gardening, I feel like I am making a better contribution.”
As past winners and judges of the Trillium Awards, Alex says they are more proud of having won a Monarch Award because it fits better with their philosophy of gardening for the benefit of nature and the environment, while the former is “misguided. The whole point is lost.”
An added bonus of native species that Alex likes is that they are pretty low maintenance: “they don’t require that much care, once established. We took the hose out twice last year in our own garden.”
As to their favourite native plants, Alex says there are too many of them to pick, but James loves Milkweed and Goldenrod.
“We do plants all day,” Alex concludes, “and we love it. There’s so much to learn.”