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!
Further to this, when native plant sales rolled out in the spring, I began supplementing the garden with species I knew would be of high ecological value, to observe in great detail over the coming days and weeks. Some existing garden plants were quickly reduced or removed upon researching that they would provide little if any ecological service to bird, insect, etc. Others were removed after receiving no indication of use for forage or habitat. A very large Hydrangea, however, received an outstanding confirmation in the garden after witnessing how enthusiastically the various bees and insects gravitated to the flowering clusters. My preference is in native plants but due to its utter popularity it was here to stay!
Cultivating a pollinator garden has been an incredibly rewarding experience. There is nothing quite like the act of cultivation and care, through the seasons, to learn so much about so many species. The brief interactions between the various insects as flowers rise and wither. The few migratory and resident birds that stop by on rare glimpse. At times it feels as if the garden is an act of mindfulness and meditation.
With all of these interactions developing and growing in my garden, I now look to how I can offer even more: How can I provide for a greater variety of birds a moment of rest on their migratory journeys? With only three native bumblebees identified in my garden, how can I help make that number six? Which shrub will provide the greatest ecological benefit to those that need it most? All questions I subtly wonder every day I as gaze lovingly into my garden, all abuzz with life. It is an incredible feeling and reminds me that in the act of giving we get so much.