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.