Kate's Blog

May 16

Will work for food: bees and other pollinators

I wrote this for the Tiny Cottager magazine, with a particular focus on the sandy conditions in which cottagers garden. There are many more great pollinator plants than the 15 I list here! But they are a good start. 

About 10 per cent of flowering plants are wind-pollinated but the overwhelming majority rely on insects for the process that results in fertilization, seed production and future generations. Bees are the essential pollinators, designed for the efficient transfer of pollen grains from one flower to another. 

There are more than 400 species of native bees in Ontario. Of these, only the 16 species of bumble bees live together in colonies. The rest are solitary bees, the female nesting in sparsely vegetated soil, hollow stems, twigs or wood cavities. Not being territorial, solitary bees are unlikely or not equipped to sting.

The European honey bee was introduced and competes with native bees for floral resources. It can sting, but won’t unless provoked.

Recent research indicates that the pollination role of moths, with their hairy underbellies, has been underestimated. Most moths are nocturnal. Artificial light at night adversely affects all insect populations, but especially moths. Butterflies tend to be incidental pollinators, only lightly contacting pollen when they sip up nectar. There are exceptions – one, cited by Heather Holm in Pollinators of Native Plants, is the Peck’s Skipper butterfly, the primary pollinator of Prairie Phlox. 
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Mar 25

Want to know if a plant for sale is native? I have a list for you

Earlier this year, I spoke to the Midland-Huronia Probus Club about growing native plants, the importance of and how to. It was a good crowd, with people who posed many interesting questions. But there was one for which I didn’t have a ready answer. How does one know if a plant is native? a gentleman asked.

My immediate reply was, look it up, do the research, get educated, the information is all out there on the web. But I realized, that really isn’t good enough. When it comes to a plant that's for sale, it's important information that should be readily available - ideally, included right on the label. I think that will happen as awareness of ecosystem issues increases among gardeners and the trade responds to demand.

In the meantime - what to do? My nursery plant list is not a good resource because it only has what I happen to have currently on sale, and while all are native to Eastern North America, some have a range that stops south of the Great Lakes. See this blog on assisted migration for my reasoning. So - I have made another list, not a list of all Ontario native plants, just the ones you may find for sale at mainstream or specialist nurseries in this province. It is downloadable, you can put it on your phone so you have it to hand when you’re at a garden centre. Follow this link to Is it native?

The Doug Tallamy rule of thumb is that a garden with at least 70 per cent native trees, shrubs, perennials and other plants will support bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife. Tallamy is an entomologist at the University of Delaware who has been very influential in changing our views around the purpose of a garden, and what it should look like. For more information, check out his book Nature’s Best Hope.
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Feb 23

Opening May 16 2022 - by appointment

Return of the Native plant nursery will open Monday May 16 2022. The spring 2022 plant list is posted and is being updated on an ongoing basis.

About this nursery: This is not a garden centre. It is more of a hobby, located in the gardens of our family home. Think of it as a boutique operation, with a varied selection of perennial species, some not easily found. Most are grown from seed at Return of the Native, some are sourced from other Ontario native plant suppliers. All are hardy in the Huronia area.

We use no pesticides or commercial fertilizers, to foster life below ground - where such chemicals disrupt fungal connections that are essential to all plants, and above ground - where contaminants harm pollinators, herbivores and creatures up the food chain that depend, directly or indirectly, on the energy of plants.

No shipping except for Heather Holm's books on pollinators and bees and native plants - full of useful gardening information like flowering period and habitat - which can be ordered year-round.

LOCATION: We are located just north of Elmvale, Ontario, inland from Georgian Bay, north of Barrie, east of Wasaga Beach, south of Midland, west of Orillia. The postal address is 1186 Flos Rd. 10. Elmvale ON L0L 1P0. Phone number: 705-322-2545. Email.

MAP: Do not use GPS to get to our nursery - it will mislead you! Follow directions on this MAP.

HOURS: By appointment - no fixed hours. Let us know what time works for you. Appointmnts will be made starting in May. 

PAYMENT OPTIONS: e-transfer, cheque, cash. No credit or debit cards and no Paypal.

Explore this website for gardening advice (Kate's blog, Snippets), book reviews and links to useful resources. For a long read, go to Hardy Perennial which will take you through the seasons with Keith and Carolyn Squires. It was written more than a decade ago, when the Country Squires Garden in Campbellville was in full operation.
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