Four years ago, I moved into my house in Oakville, Ontario to find dry, barren space as my yard. For the first few years, I didn’t have any big plans besides getting my grass back to life and planting some of the typical perennials found at garden centres such as hostas, periwinkle, and roses, selecting them based on their appearance. I also bought a cultivated version of a cardinal flower to attract hummingbirds. However, hummingbird visits were brief and short-lived, and I soon learned that cultivars often sacrifice nectar and pollen content leaving them unattractive to wildlife. Genuine native plants do not. This event is what sparked my interest in native plants.
Over the winter, I broadened my research and began to learn of the trouble that bees, butterflies and other wildlife were in due to loss of habitat and the use of pesticides in lawns and gardens. I learned more about native plants and began to realize the importance of buying ‘genuine’ native plants sourced from native seeds.
I researched some native plant nurseries and was able to buy some native plants (plugs) for only $1 each. Most native plants in 4” pots can be purchased for only a few dollars more at plant sales across Ontario in the spring. This is very cost effective especially when many new plants come up from seed the following year.
After continuing my research, I was determined that every plant in my garden should have a purpose. I read a great deal of literature on native plant gardens to come up with a plan for the most bee, butterfly, bird and beneficial insect friendly plants I could find which has resulted in 150 different native perennials, shrubs and trees, and over 400 plants in total, blooming from spring to fall. I also plant a variety of vegetables each year and have two apple trees that have a great bounty due to the high pollinator activity. If I had to pick a favourite plant, I would choose the New England aster. It grows anywhere, attracts a great variety of beneficial insects and bees, and migrating monarchs love it. It also seeds readily.
Despite the drought this summer, my plants have flourished, and I was honoured to have been awarded the NANPS (North American Native Plant Society) Garden Award for 2016. I’m excited to give a short talk and slideshow of my gardens at their annual meeting at the Toronto Botanical Gardens in October.
Every day that I sit outside in my yard, I see something new. This year I’ve had toads, frogs, various bees, dragonflies, monarchs, swallowtails, and many other visitors, but I really delight in seeing hummingbirds visiting my native sourced cardinal flowers which they adore. Suburban gardening can become incredibly dull, so I encourage you to try something new by incorporating native plants. You’ll be amazed with what you’ll see.
Paul Nichols, NANPS garden award winner for 2016