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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
Great news for Hamilton residents! The Hamilton Naturalists Club and Environment Hamilton, along with many other local conservation groups and city of Hamilton staff have been working throughout 2019 to begin the process for a made-in-Hamilton Biodiversity Action Plan. On February 19, a motion was passed at General Issues Committee to investigate the feasibility of developing such a plan. We are thrilled!
Jen Baker (HNC Project Manager) delegated to the Committee on behalf of the team. Key highlighted messages in our presentation are the following:
Biological diversity is another name for nature. It is the diversity of all species--bacteria to birds, plants to people and their habitats.
Hamilton lies within a Canadian biodiversity hotspot and we should be proud of this. Our range of habitats, including the Niagara Escarpment, Lake Ontario, coastal wetlands like Cootes Paradise, mature forests, that support many species and provide millions in ecosystem services each year.
Nature has its own intrinsic value but humans also rely on biodiversity to survive. Nature provides many benefits to us such as managing flooding by storing water, significantly reducing air pollution by sequestering carbon, filtering out harmful air particulates, and cooling which reduces the harmful effects of heatwaves. It also provides beautiful green spaces that provide a refuge and that support the health and well-being of the community.
Basically, biodiversity is the foundation for life and the healthier our biodiversity is, the better our quality of life. Any impacts to nature reduce the ecosystem benefits to our community.
In 2019, The Monarch Awards “for gardens that nature loves, by gardeners who love nature,” received 33 Monarch Award applications. Field judges named five gardeners as recipients of these awards, previously a competition, now a standard of excellence. As well, seven Caterpillar Awards were given out to beginner gardeners and small gardens. Over the next few months, we will be sharing stories from award winners of both categories. Here’s our first story.
The tree’s the thing.
“Every change has a catalyst, something happens to make you rethink your point of view,” says Waterdown resident, Ann Martin about the genesis of her nature-supporting garden. “The loss of our Maple tree in the 2013 ice storm was mine.”
Previously, Ann’s backyard was all shade but with the damaged tree downed, and the garden leveled to a clean slate, “suddenly, we had full sun.” With her husband, John, she decided that everything they would plant from then on had to feed somebody: “birds, bees, us.”
Ann knew she wanted fruits; she put in peach, apples, asparagus, blueberries, raspberries, red and black currant bushes, with native species flower tucked in every inch of the space. She planted Echinacea and Joe-pye around the perimeter of the yard: “now we have gorgeous bees and butterflies, there’s so much life in my backyard.”
Ann also put in two rain gardens and ripped up the front yard in preparation for this year’s garden.
We asked Ann what has been the response from the neighbours thus far. “We have a lot of conversations, there’s been mostly positive feedback,” she responds, pointing out that people are looking for ways and things to do to help, because of climate change being front and centre. For Ann, knowing what and how to make change is part of a grassroots movement that covers anything from refilled jars to gardening for nature: “you can change where you are.”
Asked about specific challenges she faced in starting a nature-benefiting garden, Ann describes the actual sourcing of native plants as difficult.
“I had to travel; lots of road trips, but lots of fun,” this energetic Personal Support Worker says. Ann hit every native plant sale, the first being the RBG sale; “I thought, okay, this I like.”
As to support and resources that helped her on the way, Ann refers to the halton environmental talks on watersheds and native plants as being very motivating. She was also able to access a grant from the Hamilton Halton Watershed Stewardship Program towards establishing rain gardens. Micheal Albanese, with Avesi Storm Water, came out to help with the planning for the two water gardens in the front. Ann learned about other native plant nurseries in the area after ttending the first native plant sale at RBG.
“Once you get your toe in the door, you find out more,” she says.
About the Monarch Awards themselves, “I think a huge part of this is that it’s going to be changing the Trillium Awards, which is already happening, like how they are now allowing clover on lawns, that’s really positive,” Ann concludes.
I'm blogging about the latest on all things pollinator- related.