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Garden on Saturday's horticultural tour: plantings of native species

Niagara-on-the-Lake is no stranger to horticultural excellence. We have been leaders in national competitions such as Communities in Bloom for some time.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is no stranger to horticultural excellence. We have been leaders in national competitions such as Communities in Bloom for some time.

We love our beautiful gardens, and we are up to our elbows again in triple mix as the Town has declared 2022 to be the Year of the Garden.

It important to add that a major component in various NOTL public fora has been “protecting our environment to better our lovely town.” 

hat said, I have noticed a disconnect between the town’s publicly expressed commitment to environmental responsibility” and the action it has taken in the name of that cause. Specifically, I have not seen any serious actions or even discussion about what is arguably the most important aspect of environment concern: the planting of native species. I am not alone is this assessment.

It is important to plant native species because: 

• They are vital to local ecosystems. They have evolved over a very long period and do very well when planted close to their “home.”

• They do the best job of providing food and shelter for native wild animals.

• They improve soil, air, and water quality by removing toxins and pollution.

• They help attract native pollinators. 

To illustrate my concern further, in May, 2021, the NOTL Communities in Bloom committee invited residents to “submit their gardens for consideration on the town’s Join the Conversation engagement platform in the following categories: container gardens; vegetable/kitchen/herb gardens; water feature gardens; hydrangeas; children’s gardens; hanging baskets; bee and butterfly gardens; specialized plants in Niagara; climbing vines; and rose gardens” 

Sadly, there was no mention of native plantings in this list.

I am proposing that NOTL continue in its leadership role by bringing the importance of native planting to the cause of environmental responsibility. 

Since 2015, I have converted a small parcel of the Two Mile Creek flood plane behind my Garrison Village home into a tribute to the beauty and scientific benefit of native species. This has involved the removal of all invasive and toxic species and replacing them with native “Carolinian” trees and shrubs. The ongoing project has the blessing of both the NOTL Horticultural Society and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. 

On July 9, my ravine project will be part of the horticultural society’s annual garden tour. My involvement in this tour will be part of my larger initiative to get NOTL gardeners to consider putting more native species in their already beautiful gardens. 

Ways in which the community can help:

• Expand public education about the benefits of native species. 

• Encourage gardeners to explore the amazing variety of native trees and shrubs, and when the time comes to re[lace existing non-native species from their gardens, to do so using native species. 

• Emphasize the importance of native plantings in regular media columns and podcasts. 

• Expand the size, prominence, and species selection of native departments in local nurseries. 

• Organize school day trips to parks and forests, where students can distinguish between native and non-native species, and see first-hand the impact of invasive species. 

• Lobby governments for grants to subsidize nurseries so they can offer discounts and other incentives to customers who choose native species. 

• Lobby to add a native category in the annual Communities in Bloom competition. 

• Include native beds among the Queen Street and other public plantings. 

• Include at least one native garden in each year’s annual Shaw Guild and NOTL Horticultural Society tours.