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.
Gardening for Nature Economically
Laurie Brady, Caterpillar Award Winner, 2019 . The Caterpillar Awards are a subset of the Hamilton Monarch Awards, awards of excellence for gardeners who garden in support of nature. To apply for either award in 2020, click here. Deadline is June 21.
Laurie Brady moved to Hamilton three years ago from Ottawa. With her dogs Harry and Teddy, she enjoys exploring her new Kirkendall neighbourhood for historical heritage buildings (her background is in this field) which is how she first spotted our Pollinator Paradise “We are Feeding Pollinators” signs in the various gardens and at the Unitarian Church on Dundurn.
“I thought that was pretty cool. I decided to learn more about the project, and subsequently, the Monarch and Caterpillar Awards” she recalls.
As a renter, Laurie says she wanted to garden with minimal expense, water usage, and upkeep. “I've been cultivating a native garden in an economical way, taking advantage of local plants, rain barrel and compost sales, or transplants from my parents' pollinator garden.”
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.”
Hamilton Monarch Awards are back!
The Hamilton Monarch Awards--for gardens that nature loves, by gardeners who love nature--are back for another year and we invite you to apply.
Started in 2016 by a group of Hamilton gardeners and activists, concerned about declines in populations of pollinator species, the award celebrates people who create habitat in their yards in support of pollinators and wildlife in general. It recognizes people who create naturalized, sustainable gardens that are beautiful, functional and beneficial to nature.
Now more than ever, with the critical need for healthier nature, we want to acknowledge the validity of this non-traditional aesthetic, ecological approach. For more about the Monarch Awards and the beginners' award, The Caterpillar Awards, and what it takes to receive an award, click here.
Nature Garden Laboratory
We continue our blog post series featuring Hamilton Monarch Awards' and Caterpillar Awards' winners 2019 in the hope that you too will be inspired to apply this year. In this post, we hear from Deborah Boyd, Caterpillar Award recipient.
Deborah has been gardening for over a decade, but really “got turned on to native species plants” a few years ago, after a conversation with Cherish Gamble of the Hamilton Conservation Authority. Coinciding with her concerns at the time about declining Monarch populations, Cherish helped Deborah understand their importance for pollinator health: “That’s how I became passionate; creating habitat that supports all life,” she recalls. “It has become a spiritual experience, hands in the earth, feeding the soil and plants, the whole cycle of life.”
Deborah owns three properties in Dundas and considers her gardens something of a laboratory. “Everything is an experiment in the evolution of these gardens," she says. "I plant it here and move it to the other gardens and that’s how I populate them.”
As well as feeding pollinators, Deborah is beginning to feed herself, her family and friends and neighbours with produce from her vegetable gardens. “It’s a community-building opportunity for me. It soothes my heart and warms my soul.”
Deborah practices permaculture gardening and the idea of “multipurpose plants”--plants that feed the birds and the bees, and us! She is deeply interested in succession planning and maximizing the growing season. As such, she plans to convert her bushes to a “food hedge” of fruit and vegetables around the perimeter of the garden, as well as utilize the space “in an efficient way with foods that grow up,” such as zucchini and cucumbers. She will be starting small, “testing, getting results and expanding further.”
We continue our blog post series featuring Monarch Awards' and Caterpillar Awards' winners 2019 in the hope that you too will be inspired to apply this year. In this post, we hear from Lucy Dubeckyj, Caterpillar Award recipient (of the Hamilton Monarch Awards).
Lucy owns a small greenhouse manufacturing business in Dundas. She has always appreciated pollinators. When Lucy heard about the Hamilton Monarch Awards, she applied immediately: “I have never been interested in a Trillium Award, but this one, I could get behind.”
Lucy has been a gardener for a while. When she faced a transitional point in her life, gardening was her therapy and she started digging and planting; "you have total control over your plants, where and how they go, they don’t talk back.”
In choosing her plants, Lucy goes by intuition: “I go with how I feel, I don’t know the names of everything I plant--so this plant is from my sister Stella, that one from my neighbour, Barb.”
Although Lucy appreciates order to a garden, “there is a little bit of room for chaos. I like to surprise visitors when they visit my gardens.”
Bringing Nature Back
Tina Cooper, Caterpillar Award 2019 recipient (of the Hamilton Monarch Awards).
Tina has been gardening for twenty-five years. Previously, she lived in the country on an acre of land, converting grass to flower beds. She moved ten years ago to Ancaster. Her current property backs onto a ravine where she enjoys watching the wildlife this setting attracts.
“It’s an oasis,” Tina describes her garden. “It gives us so much pleasure to sit there; at any moment, you’re not sure what you’re going to see.”
Tina has been busy improving the soil with compost and replacing plant material “with things that have more value for nature.” She has been creating areas that benefit nature, piling up wood, providing bird nesting spaces as well as water-baths for birds to drink from.
“In the last few years, I’ve come to learn more from associating with native plants,” Tina says. Some of her favourites include Beardtongue, Anemones, Bee Balm and Turtlehead.
She buys many of her plants from Ontario Native Plants and plans to get more from here, this growing season to plant in the front yard.
Kate Geroux has earned her Monarch Award 2019, having graduated up from the Caterpillar Award she received a few years ago: “that was a baby garden with donated plants.”
New to the Stoney Creek neighbourhood, Kate says, at the time, she had just heard about the awards and was getting to know the soil of her garden.
“It was a blank slate, there was nothing there,” she recalls, “rocks, rubble, not even any grass.”
The soil being mostly gravel and clay, Kate’s work was largely about improving it; applying peat moss and compost from the school she works at, as well as bringing in Red Wiggler worms to help break things down and applying topsoil. A slope garden, Kate was concerned about plants getting washed away with the rain. Her solution was to create a walking path with rocks from the beach and drainage with pebble stones.
Michael Albanese, Caterpillar Awards 2019, Recipient. The Caterpillar Awards of the Hamilton Monarch Awards recognize the efforts of beginner gardeners, people making small gardens or “first try” gardens, regardless of the property size and
people with small “postage stamp” properties.
Michael Albanese’s garden is a rain garden, which is fitting since he is President of Avesi Stormwater and Landscape Solutions, where he helps people integrate rainwater into their landscapes.
By using his front yard to showcase a rain garden, Michael hopes to raise awareness around rainwater management and see more rain gardens in the community. His involvement with rain gardens dates back to 2008 during his undergraduate education in Earth Systems Science at the University of Waterloo: “That is where I was introduced to the concept of stormwater management and how it impacts our freshwater resources.” As Michael points out residential sites are critical to watershed health: “I saw a real opportunity to help people use their landscapes for good – being a steward for the environment starts at home, it doesn’t have to be the responsibility of cities.”
Addicted to Gardening for Nature
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.”