We caught up with our amazing volunteer judges to hear their thoughts on judging the many 2020 Monarch and Caterpillar Awards’ gardens.
Erin Mallon, Landowner Outreach Technician with Conservation Halton. Erin is involved with the Cootes to Escarpment project and does invasive species management. She is working on the management action plan with the City of Hamilton, integrative management, chemical controls. She’s excited about the idea of using goats, like they do in Europe, to curtail invasive species.
Why the interest in judging?
I was interested in being a judge for the initiative for both personal and professional reasons. Professionally, I try to educate people on the importance of urban stormwater management, as well as native species landscaping.
Personally, I think the Monarch Awards is a great initiative to raise awareness and give some recognition to those gardeners who do so to benefit nature. Using neighbours to spread the word is so much more meaningful, it’s a more lateral approach, than top-down. In my own garden, I’ve got all kinds of native plants, but I’m not quite there yet [for an Award], so this is a good opportunity to see what is working for others, learning first hand through these great gardens, how plants get along. I’m building a network and learning so much from this initiative, while at the same time, sharing my knowledge.
The number one thing to mention is the absolute enthusiasm from the gardeners--they are excited, are good at troubleshooting and networking, they are a wealth of knowledge, and they are proud of their gardens.
As well, there is a diversity of people--not your typical gardener--and a lot of ingenuity in some of the ways they use space, source plants, interact with the neighbours; there’s a lot going on.
Favourite thing about your experience judging?
I enjoyed the gardens--they are all dynamic and unique. One Ancaster resident has a really neat property, the front yard is so beautiful. 98% of the plants are native. She had silk moths. I saw caterpillars and eggs on this urban property. She had a permeable driveway, lots on the neat pathways, a tulip tree, paw-paw trees, a Monarch Waystation, big pond-- all inspiring. I was blown away!
Challenges to judging/least favourite part?
No challenges, but you know, some of the gardens don’t quite meet all the criteria, so it can be disappointing for some applicants, but I say, try again next year.