Kevin Wydysz is a 2019 recipient of the Caterpillar Awards, a program of the Hamilton Monarch Awards.
He tells us that it was a cousin of his who works with the Hamilton Conservation Authority that got him started on planting for nature. Together, they dug out his front lawn by hand. As well, we were thrilled to learn that our Pollinator Paradise garden at York Boulevard Parkette contributed to motivating Kevin: “It looked amazing, it really inspired me to get going.”
Kevin planted native species flowers such as Mountain Mint, Butterfly Milkweed, Hairy Beardtongue, Joe-Pye Weed, Brown-eyed Susan, Cylindrical Blazing Star, Wild Columbine and ferns like Ostrich Fern and Sensitive Fern, oh, and delicious blueberries.
He describes the first season of expanding the garden as being “pretty amazing, to the point where it looked like a butterfly nursery.” Noting that he only had three of four milkweed plants, the Monarchs stripped these completely, “that’s how plentiful the monarch butterflies were. It was almost like an infestation.”
A father of young children (ages, 3, 9 and 12), Kevin reports that they too are very engaged in the project. He recalls a day where, together, to everyone’s delight, they got to witness a Monarch butterfly emerge from its chrysalis.
From this experience, Kevin became interested in identifying other butterfly species such as the Swallowtail and the American Painted Lady: "It was very gratifying because it was a lot of hard work."
I asked Kevin about the neighbours' take on the garden, and he admits to being a little worried about it, since most of their properties are adorned with well groomed, green grass. Thankfully, there were no negative comments and “a few people loved it.”
Given that the 2019 garden was fairly new, Kevin is looking forward to this summer as it will really show off the established flowers and attract some more attention.
His plan for the 2020 growing season is to create more of a refuge for nature by taking out 90% of the front yard. He is gearing up for the spring, getting his rain barrel set up, and ordering more plants from Ontario Plants. “It’s kind of become an addiction for me,” Kevin concludes.