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!
Scott MacIvor makes me want to care for wild bees. I mean really care. In his April 9th lecture--entitled Wild-bee Diversity and Pollination Services: Are Cities a Refuge?--given at RBG for the Hamilton Naturalists' Club, Scott who is a bee expert and an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough in the Department of Biological Sciences, spoke about the specific needs of wild bees of our cities.
Scott's tender love of bees was contagious as he described the lives of these industrious little creatures apart from ours, doing their bee thing; their relationships--they have beautiful, complicated and unique relationships!--with their own special flowers.
The poetry of it all: how flowers have evolved nectar, scent and oil essence because they are trying to attract their favourite bees. Bees are positively charged while pollen is negatively charged. There's this technique used by some bees called "buzz pollination" or sonication, to release pollen which is firmly held by the anthers that is a fast, effective, interaction with the flower in point. And only bigger bees can open certain kinds of flowers.
"Bees and flowers communicate with each other," Scott said. Some bees, like the Carpenter bee, will vocalize to flight. "And for each flower, there is a different suite of bees, that is, flowers have a community of bees that they prefer."
"In the same way, different bees have different affinities for flowers, different interactions scaffolding one another. There's a mutualism in action." Think of that!
Most wild bees are solitary-- they live on their own. Female bees work to exhaustion, work to death, males mate and die. Yep. Sounds about right. What's more, each female is her own queen. I like that a lot. Some other interesting facts that Scott shared: Bees are more related to their sisters than to their offspring. Wild solitary bees are active only for a few weeks in the year, adults are very short-lived, one generation per year. "They have evolved to be active for their favourite flowers," Scott said. "They go find that beautiful dark cavity to build their rooms, all the males in the front, to die, all the females in the back because they are more important. Imagine a mason bee, waiting in a grass stem waiting, waiting for that one cue: warmth."
With his presentation, Scott invited us, we people of the Golden Horseshoe, to plan our spaces for solitary wild bees. His lecture was an invitation to consider how our designs, here in the city, might influence our decision making for supporting bee diversity.
This piece was recently posted in the Wood Duck April 2018
Toronto has a Pollinator Protection Strategy (PPS) in the works. I chatted with some of the people responsible for its creation to get a “behind the scenes look,” as well as thoughts on how we can do something similar in Hamilton.
Annemarie Baynton, Senior Environmental Planner at the City of Toronto is the lead on the initiative, and coordinates the various divisions responsible for implementation elements of the strategy.
Annemarie points to a long history in Toronto of municipal and non profit groups and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) working to protect pollinators and enhance habitat. “Our Parks division has been leading the way in habitat creation, enhancement and restoration for decades,” she says.
Another influence for the PPS was Bees of Toronto, one of the City’s free Biodiversity Booklet Series that came out and was very popular with the general public.
“So we wanted to bring this interest and the work already being done under a comprehensive structure,” Annemarie says.
That structure is the City of Toronto’s broader Biodiversity Strategy, (also in draft form)** and the PPS will be one of its components.
In developing the PPS, an advisory group was set up in 2016 of scientists and researchers, students and other academics, pollinator and native plant experts, and community based groups to provide guidance to the City on pollination protection and the development of proposed actions.
Annemarie says that the Pollinator Health Action Plan “was helpful and a good starting point, with one of its major goals being to restore, enhance and protect one million acres of pollinator habitat in Ontario.”
Together with the expert panel and sub groups, they came up with recommendations and actions, and then took the draft to the community for feedback.
Over 7000 people provided feedback to the draft. It will be going to Council later this year.
April 9th @Royal Botanical Gardens 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm.
You do not want to miss this talk with Scott MacIvor! Not only is Scott a treat to listen to, with his winning way of delivering a presentation, but he is a renowned native bee specialist, working all over the world.
Hosted by the Hamilton Naturalists' Club, in this talk, Scott MaIvor will provide an overview of the bees of Hamilton and Southern Ontario. He will examine the primary drivers of bee diversity and pollination services in cities based on the most research scientific literature from around the world, and question whether or not cities could be a refuge for these essential pollinator species. This region supports hundreds of native bee species and the talk will conclude with some key criteria for home and community gardeners interested in supporting and enhancing their populations.
Free. All welcome. Meet & greet at 7pm.
More about Scott
Scott MacIvor is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough. He is interested in plants and pollinators in cities and more broadly, the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of green infrastructure, including public and private gardens, parks, and green roofs. Scott is also a researcher at the green roof innovation testing (GRIT) lab at the University of Toronto in the faculty of Landscape Architecture, and has worked with the city of Toronto Planning Division on a number of projects including the 'Bees of Toronto' and the 'Guidelines for Biodiverse Green Roofs'.
Read a blog post about a presentation gave for the Pollinator Paradise Project in November, 2016.