Nov 17

Sit back and dream of spring

Winter is raging outside but my avian friends are zapping around with great energy, working their way through my supplies of safflower and sunflower seed, taking sips from the bird bath and gathering the bounty of seed that still remains on Joe Pye, Anise Hyssop, Purple Coneflower and many more stars of summer.

A small selection of seed, all native, all gathered fresh in 2020, is for sale on this site. And the 2021 plant list has been posted, for those who like to spend the next few months dreaming of spring.

To help with your planning, you could not do better than to get Heather Holm's book, Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants. It is far more than an insect guide. In fact, it's realy a plant guide with some 65 perennials described in detail, including their flowering period and conditions - sun or shade, moist or dry, sand, loam or clay. All beautifully illustrated with diagrams and great photos. An excellent Christmas gift! 

For those who want to delve further into the world of bees, there's Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide, also by Heather Holm, offering more detail on bee species, and more information about what plants they like, and how those plants grow.

And, this just added, Befriending Bumble Bees: A Practical Guide to Raising Local Bumble Bees, by a team of entomologists from the University of Minnesota, is a comprehensivce guide to bumble bees, of which there are 250 species worldwide, 40 in North America, 21 east of the 100th meridian. Many are in decline, so we all need to understand them better.

Also available are Return of the Native gift certificates. Books and certificates are listed under Garden Accessories

Sep 30

Tree to human: don't take my leaves

Tree - What are you doing down there?

Human - Tidying.

Tree - That’s my stuff, leave it alone, I’m going to need it.

Human - Why did you drop it on the ground if you need it?

Tree - That’s where I want it to be.

Human - Don’t be ridiculous.

Human bustling.

Tree - Hey!

Human - What now?

Tree - What’s that you've got there?

Human - You know very well what it is. It's a leaf blower

Tree - Take it away, smelly noisy thing

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Aug 26

Form over function: the debate over nativars and cultivars

The lure of the ‘tweaked’ plant. The one that we like because it is bigger, brighter and showier than the original. These ‘improvements’ showcase our home and impress our neighbours, but do they work for all the others with whom we share our outdoors space? Bees, butterflies, birds and all creatures which have an ever-shrinking choice of places to call home and make a living in. And whose survival becomes ever more precarious as they try to cope with the stress of pollution, the vagaries of weather and decisions that take no account of their needs.

For some, the effort to find a host plant or enough food to feed their young has just been too hard. In Ontario, native bee species that were widespread are now a rarity. Native wildflowers that once brought colour to rural landscapes are gone as even the hedgerows that were their refuge are being grubbed up. The swallows that would line up on the hydro wires at this time of year in anticipation of migration are seldom seen.

Gardeners to the rescue! Be the refuge. A space, no matter how small, if planted to at least 70 per cent native plants, can become a community and contribute ecosystem benefits, and may even provide a vital link to ensure a species’ survival.

So much depends on the choices we make. Gardeners are recognizing this and native plants are newly fashionable. The trend has prompted growers to make the natives that much more alluring by selecting and breeding for the traits that will attract buyers, like variegated foliage, disease resistance or compactness. The result is a cultivar - or “nativar,” as they’ve been called. Do these plants provide the same services (hosting, nutrient content, accessibility of pollen and nectar)as the original “straight species” plant? There isn't a complete answer but in most cases, they don't.

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