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."
She's a Winner!!
Joanne Tunnicliffe, winner of the Monarch Awards 2018 says she is "thrilled to be recognized."
"It's a feeling of belonging. After thirty years of creating habitat, I felt like I found my team and my peers. Winning the award buoyed me up!"
Joanne says she has noticed that in the last many years there's been an increase in awareness amongst the every day person, and an interest in gardening as something they can do for conservation of nature: "People are on fire! There's a movement underway," she says.
Joanne suggests that to get even more people involved, there out to be some sort of tax incentive for homeowners, because they are doing good things for the environment, helping with soil, cleaning the air, filtration and so on.
Joanne is writing a booklet that will list easy to plant native plant species, Carolinian trees, shrubs, plants, vines and where to get them. She'll add tips on what gardeners can to for soil restoration and more. The booklets will be sold to generate funds for the many gardens she established at her church (First Unitarian Church, Dundurn St. S.).
What Joanne loves about her garden:
"I like the way other folks react when they come here--runners walk up slowly saying that they feel so at peace here, cars slow down, roll down the windows breathe in a sigh of relief, ahh. There is something about my garden that is calming to people," Joanne says
Her garden backs onto the RBG lands and she says that many people will stop and tell her that they want to do something similar, but they just don't know where to start. The booklet will help them, Joanne says. "I had to learn step by step. Change is hard for people. I think I’ve brought a change that is not sudden, it's a gradual change."
Winter/fall garden plans?
Right now, Joanne is enjoying the sight of sweet little New England asters and sunny Jerusalem artichokes. What does she do with the 12 feet high Joe-Pye weeds? She cuts them down to the whorls and uses them to add to her above ground hibernacula. "I don’t get rid of anything, I repurpose everything in my garden." Preach!