By Candy Venning
1) First let’s talk about the 3 B’s – and creating habitats for them
Birds; planting species in your garden that support our feathered friends not only in the seeds a plant provides but also for spring foraging on insects and larvae (they need to feed their chicks in spring when there are no seeds) One good example; Arrowwood Viburnum – a caterpillar host that also bears fruit.
Butterflies; provide larvae for birds and aside from being beautiful are diminishing in numbers and pollinate flowers. Consider adding Echinacea, Aster, Liatris, Chocolate Boneset, and the Monarchs all time fave, Milkweed/Asclepia – plenty of showy annuals work well too (email me for a bigger list)
Bees – much has been written about the diminishing numbers of the approx 3 500 different native species in North America alone. (the European honeybee is NOT endangered) Neonicotinoids – a form of insecticide used widely for certain crops as well as habitat loss, are to blame. To counterbalance, consider providing pollen rich plants for bees. They are essential links in the food chain. E.G. Globe Thistle/Echinops is a fantastically architectural plant that bees thrive on, Hyssop, Chives, Ajuga, and don’t forget the spring bulbs like Winter aconite and crocus, email me for more!
2) Native species OK, you’ve heard this before, but why should you bother planting natives in the garden? 2 big reasons; they have already spent centuries adapting to the area they are native to, therefore requiring less water, less susceptibility to pesky infestations, and the number one reason; they have evolved alongside the very birds, bees and butterflies (see above) that need them for food and shelter. (& vice versa)
3) Beauty and mental health; Aside from making your neighbourhood more beautiful, seeing green makes us happier & even live longer. I don’t have the space here to explain but please ask your friend Google. It’s science so it’s real! Numerous studies have shown reduced anxiety, depression and aggression for those living near parks, mature trees or with ready access to a garden.
4) Growing your own, veggies & Herbs The satisfaction of picking herbs or veggies from your own garden is delightful and if you try it you’ll understand the reward. ‘Seedy Saturday’ held through the Hamilton Community Garden Network (HCGN) is a great event, a good heirloom seed source and where to go and find out how to get an allotment if you don’t have a garden of your own.
5) Harvesting rainwater – using the rain from your eaves troughs = free and your plants prefer it over our chlorinated drinking water. You save money and place a slightly smaller footprint on water usage / resources.
6) Trees – extreme weather, high winds and the loss of many of our beloved trees has refocused attention on these urban giants. Ever notice how the best streets and most desirable neighbourhoods have big mature trees? Consider planting a city tree (free through the City of Hamilton) or if space is limited try a smaller tree, Pagoda Dogwood, a multistem Serviceberry/Amelanchier or Redbud/Cercis canadensis (all shade tolerant btw) Bonus! Native trees provide food / habitat for native species.