Monarch Awards 2018 winners announced

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From a semi-finalist group of 16 gardens, the field judges have completed their garden visits and decided on Monarch Awards winners for 2018.

Here are final results:

Monarch Award
Overall Winner: Joanne Tunnicliffe
First Runner-up: Nadia Coakley
Second Runner-up: Claudette Sims

Caterpillar Award
Winner: Anne McArthur
First Runner-up: Fran Frazier
Second Runner-up: Chris Bocz

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The contest evaluation process was similar to last year: the review committee selected semi-finalists to forward to the field judges. Nine Monarch Award gardens and seven Caterpillar Award gardens made the cut. The field judging team then chose which ones they wanted to visit. This year it was three gardens for each category.

Overall winner Joanne Tunnicliffe is a first-time entrant whose garden on Hopkins Court in Dundas was chock full of nature-friendly features: a rain garden, a hibernaculum, bird feeders, a large water feature, deliberately created habitat, and native plants that comprise 50% of the garden area. She is a responsible neighbour to the conservation lands that adjoin the property. She still finds room for turfgrass—for the grandchildren and the dog. Her soil, once compacted, now has a soft tilth and teems with life, thanks to the leaf mulch and dense planting. Joanne’s knowledge of ecologically beneficial gardening techniques really shone, both in her written entry and in her conversation with the judges.

First runner-up Nadia Coakley gardens on Yarmouth Court in the Ainslee Wood neighbourhood. She is a returning entrant who made the finals in 2017 and has really raised the bar this year. She’s wrapped the house in plants, built a rain garden, become a successful vermicomposter, added two rain barrels, and adopted many eco-friendly cultural practices. Her plant inventory includes 23 native species.

Second runner-up Claudette Sims is a master gardener and her love of plants shines through in the size of the gardens and the number of species. Her property on National Drive in east Hamilton shows that much can be done within a traditional landscape aesthetic. It’s clear that the local birds and pollinators find her gardens a great place to hang out.

The Caterpillar Award is a new category, an attempt to recognize the efforts of beginner gardeners and those working in small spaces. Learning as they go, many new enthusiasts are literally tearing up their lawns to make room for nature. Of the nine contenders in the caterpillar category, three gardens were chosen for a judging visit.

The winner, Anne McArthur, began her gardening journey five years ago when a milkweed plant showed up in a bed of vinca. Since then, she and her children have been steadily creating pollinator habitat with native plants and “raising” Monarchs with her children. Her property on East 36th near Macassa Park is an oasis of diversity and her gardening practices have evolved with her growing knowledge of ecology.

First runner-up Fran Frazier, whose garden is on Alice Street in the Homeside neighbourhood, has only been gardening seriously for three years. Her property is tiny and she faces many challenges—deep shade, tree roots, a happy dog—yet her garden thrives. The judges commended her great use of sustainable practices.

Chris Bocz has created an urban farm right at Main and King in east Hamilton. Self-described “ordinary homeowners”, Chris and his family grow great organic food in a setting featuring native trees, rainwater management, composting systems, and lots of bio-diversity. The garden, only one year old, makes the most of the available space.

Monarch Award finalists and the Caterpillar Award winner receive a beautiful hand-crafted wooden plaque by local woodworker Trisha Fraser. We’ll be in touch to arrange delivery or pickup. As well, over the next few months, some of the Monarch Award winners will be profiled in the Pollinator Paradise blog, so don’t be shy if a roving reporter calls for an interview. The date and time of the awards ceremony will be announced soon.

The organizers would like to thank all the entrants for taking the time to photograph and write about their gardens. We are so glad to be able to recognize not only your hard work but your knowledge, vision, and courage to invite nature into your life and bring sustainable beauty to your neighbourhoods.

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