Dec 21

Moving forward to a bright and balanced future

We are Nature’s Best Hope.

And that, says Doug Tallamy, is wonderful, encouraging and exciting.

Tallamy teaches entomology (the study of insects) at the University of Delaware. In his research, he has documented the stunning decline of insect populations across the planet as humans eliminate their habitat and food sources and attack them with weapons of mass destruction.

But in his latest book, Nature’s Best Hope - A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Back Yard, Tallamy is confident that we as a species can repair the harm we’ve done and move forward to a bright and balanced future.

If you’re a gardener and haven’t yet read this book, you will love it. If you’re a novice and are wondering what to do on any piece of ground you may have access to, you will find this easy to read and an illuminating window into what’s going on around you.

A balding bespectacled professor with a subversive sense of humour, Tallamy has achieved cult status in the gardening world. A few years ago, author and horticultural activist Lorraine Johnson introduced him as a “rock star” to an enthusiastic audience at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. He was unfazed.

And he’s unfazed by the task we face in rebuilding the broken food web connections, from the below-ground mycorrhizal networks to the life-giving balance of gases in the atmosphere.

“Don’t worry about the planet,” he says. “That will drive you crazy.”

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Dec 9

Year of crisis for Monarch butterflies 

The horse I rode up the Perro Celón mountain last year to see the Monarch butterflies won’t be carrying tourists this year. That’s because the butterfly sanctuary there has been closed as a precaution against COVID-19.

This year, the horse - like the one shown below (*see correction) - may be employed dragging logs down the steep rocky slopes. The trees are the Oyamel pines that create the cool and moist microclimate that provides safe conditions for the butterflies to overwinter in a state of diapause (dormancy).

But this year, the Monarch migration is at a perilous point with desperately poor communities turning to extraction from the forest for survival as jobs are lost in the COVID crisis.

I travelled over 4,600 kilometres south last year, the same distance this tiny insect flies every fall to return to the same colony site, often to the same tree that an ancestor left in the spring, five generations ago. To see the butterflies cloaking the trees in massive roosts and spread across the sky in dense clouds was truly magical.
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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

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