Return of the Native - About Us

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Beautiful Wildlife Garden

Aug 30

Website issues

My website was down for a few days due to circumstances originating in the United States. I have lost some content but I will be restoring it.
The plant list is back up to date with some new additions, including Smooth Serviceberry, Sand Cherry, Golden Alexander, Beach Wormwood, New England Aster and Butterfly Weed. Plants I had previously sold out of are back in stock, including Sweet Fern, Fragrant Sumac and Swamp Milkweed.
Open Fridays and Saturdays, 1-5 pm. If you need to come at another time, I am usually here, so just call ahead - 705-322-2545.  
Fall opening day: Friday September 11, 1-5 pm. 
Closed Saturday September 26 because the plants are going on the road to Autumnfest which runs from 11 - 2 pm at the Midhurst Community Park (Lion's Park at 59 Doran Road). 
Last officially open day for fall 2015: Saturday October 10 1-5 pm.

Jun 2

The history behind that pretty face

There's a pretty flower that's popping up over the countryside in shades of white and pink and mauve. I dug some of it up many years ago and was happy when it flourished on my property. Now that I garden with native plants, I'm not so pleased with its enthusiastic self-seeding ways, and I'm busy pulling it out.
Locals call it wild phlox, but its proper name is Dame's Rocket and it comes from Eurasia. A similar plant will be in flower soon, pale pink, harder to pull up if it arrives uninvited because of roots that send out runners – it's called Bouncing Bet and is native to Europe and western Siberia.
The wildflowers that we enjoy as an expression of nature and wilderness are more likely to be a manifestation of colonization – the wilderness of other continents, disrupting native ecosystems. This was bought home to me when I made a list last June of herbaceous plants in bloom at Tiny Marsh, part of work for a two-year biological inventory led by environmental consultant Bob Bowles. Only one quarter (7 out of 29) of the plants we tallied were native; the rest were introduced, mainly from Europe.
Here's the list:
Common Fleabane Erigeron philadelphicus
Daisy Fleabane Erigeron annuus
Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca
Marsh Vetchling Lathyrus palustris
Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnate
Sweet-scented Bedstraw Galium triflorum
White Avens Geum canadense
Alfalfa Medicago sativo
Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Bladder Campion Silene cucubalus
Common Dandelion Taraxacum officinale
Common St. John's Wort Hypericum perforatum
Yellow Hawkweed Hieracium caespitosum
Climbing Nightshade Solanum dulcamara
Common Sow Thistle Sonchus oleraceus
Narrow-leafed Plantain Plantago lanceolata
Heal-all Prunella vulgaris
Least Hop Clover Trifolium dubium
Lesser Stitchwort Stellaria graminea
Oxeye Daisy Chrysanthemum leucanthemum
Red Clover Trifolium pretense
Silvery Cinquefoil Potentilla argentea
Tall Buttercup Ranunculus acris
Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca
Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare
White Clover Trifolium repens
White Sweet Clover Melilotus alba
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Yellow Sweet Clover Melilotus officionalis
This is the comment from Bowles' report:
"There is no prospect of removing all introduced species; and no point unless they are demonstrated to be invasive and presenting a threat to Marsh ecosystems. However, it should be noted that native plants are the ones that are host to the native insects that are at the base of the wetland's food chain. Introduced plant species do not support a wide range of insect life and make up what have been dubbed "green deserts," devoid of insects and the life they support.
"Efforts should be made to ensure native plant communities at Tiny Marsh remain cohesive and unfragmented and do not get broken up and crowded out by opportunistic invaders. An additional reason for protecting native species presently growing at the Marsh is that they are uniquely genetically suited to conditions at the Marsh, in a way that cannot be matched by native plantings brought in from elsewhere. This genetic heritage needs to be preserved."
Valued wildflower or unwanted weed? There's a lot more a plant than a pretty face. If you want to learn about what's growing in our natural spaces, you might be interested in the Tiny Marsh BioBlitz being held on Saturday June 27. It's a day-long series of excursions into the marsh with a variety of leaders (including Bob Bowles) with expertise in a variety of fields – not only plants, but birds and butterflies and amphibians and much more. For details, go to
May 10

Native plants support the food web - OSPCA talk

Last week, I was the speaker at a fundraiser for the Midland branch of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (a good cause, and a fun event). My theme was 'Saving the World with Native Plants... and enjoying every minute!"

Saving the world might sound overstated. But if you familiarize yourself with the work of Doug Tallamy, chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the Unversity of Delaware, you will realize that we are moving into a biodiversity crisis. If we carry on, we will squeeze all the species that need wilderness to survive right off the planet. But he believes we, the world's gardeners, can turn things around. We can stitch together a patchwork of rural back yards, urban gardens and private spaces and turn them into wildlife refuges and corridors.

We can begin to rebuild wilderness right where we live.

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Apr 5

Eating native plants with Lorraine Johnson

I drove down to North York recently to hear author Lorraine Johnson speak on the topic of edible native plants and was not disappointed. She touched on plants both familiar and unexpected and has prompted me to plan a whole new dimension for my garden this year.

Johnson, whose 1999 book 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants is a classic, began by cautioning against foraging (gathering food from the wild), which is what first comes to mind when we think of eating native plants. There are too many of us and too few areas left with healthy native plant populations for us to count on foraging for a serious portion of our diet.

(Let me digress and make an exception for weeds, which are introduced, either wildflowers, like dandelions, or invasive species, like garlic mustard. The leaves of both, picked fresh in spring, are good to eat in salads or cooked and there are countless more weeds that are similarly palatable when young. I’ve also been told the early shoots of Japanese knotweed, another invasive, can be steamed like asparagus so I plan to give that a try as soon as they pop up in their annoying way.) Read more
Apr 4

Part 3: From broadfork to bokashi

Are you going to write about EM? he asked. 

Me: EM, what’s that?

He, shocked: You don’t know about EM? And you the expert? It’s the latest thing. Used by gardeners around the world. Prince Charles is a fan.

Me (sigh): Send me the link.
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