Eupatorium atropurpurea / Joe Pye WeedWhy a “Monarch Award”?
In early 2016 a group of Hamilton gardeners and activists, concerned about declines in populations of Monarch butterflies and bees, decided that people who create habitat in their yards for pollinator species and wildlife in general should be recognized. People who create naturalized, sustainable gardens that are beautiful, functional and beneficial fall under a non-traditional aesthetic. We want to acknowledge the validity of this ecological approach. We want to support and encourage people who garden for nature not just for curb appeal. Discussions with staff from Hamilton’s Pollinator Paradise Project, along with staff from the Royal Botanical Gardens, generated enough enthusiasm turn the idea into a pilot project for the summer of 2016.

How are the gardens evaluated?
Monarch Larvae
A Technical Committee (volunteers) reviews the applications and selects the gardens that best meet the criteria. These are forwarded to the judges who decide which ones they would like to visit. Anyone selected for a site visit will be contacted by the judges so a mutually convenient time can be arranged. Judges will visit as a group; the gardener is encouraged to accompany them, answer judges questions, and describe your garden. Using the judging criteria and a scoring matrix, award recipients will be chosen. (Note for COVID-19 precautions: social distancing protocol will be in place for all garden visits)

I have a natural garden but I’m worried it’s not good enough…

The scoring rubric developed in 2020 serves as a way to teach people about the big picture of gardening, not as a means to separate the “good” from the “bad”. While we want to emphasize the idea that it’s not just about milkweed and flowers, we don’t expect anyone to excel in every single category. So if you’ve got a pollinator garden, front or back, please apply!

What’s in it for me?

All entrants will receive a Pollinator Paradise lawn sign: https://www.hamiltonpollinatorparadise.org/certification.html if you don’t already have one. Gardeners chosen to receive a Monarch Award will receive a special decorative plaque.

What happens to the photos I submitted?

With your entry we ask that you upload photos of your garden. Photos should show how you are putting “principle into practice” according to the award criteria. You may include attribution information in the file information.

By submitting a photo or photos you give the organizers (Monarch Awards, Hamilton Naturalists Club, and Environment Hamilton) permission to use the photos in the course of our work, for non-commercial purposes. For example, we may use them on our website, in presentations, outreach materials, banners, etc …

We will not share the photos with other individuals or organizations without the photographer’s consent. Copyright of the photo remains with the photographer, and the photographer will not be restricted from any other use of the photo.

When is the deadline to apply?

The entry deadline is midnight on the summer solstice, every two years. The next “awards year” is 2024.

2024: Thursday June 20
2026: Sunday June 21
The judges’ visits are scheduled for mid-July.

I’m a renter–can I still apply?

Yes! If you are the primary person responsible for the way the gardens look and function, you may apply. If you have a group of tenants who garden the property, or if your shared household works together, you can apply as a group.

My garden doesn’t look good in June…

That’s why we ask for photographs. You can submit photos from last year’s garden at its peak. Also, if your garden is chosen for a visit by our judges, be assured that they have the expertise to see what you’ve got and what you’re trying to do, even if it’s a bit out of season.

I’ve just started my garden– it’s not established…

Young gardens are very welcome! You could receive a “Caterpillar” award.

How important are native plants? Must I have all native species?

There is no set requirement on the number or percentage of natives in your garden. We are looking for gardens where native plants are prominent. It is important to have a lot of diversity in the number of plant species. It is also important to NOT have invasive plants.

I’m going on vacation during the judging week. Can I still enter?

If your garden is chosen for a visit, a mutually convenient visiting time will be arranged. Ideally you will accompany the judges as they tour your garden. But if you are not available during judging week and if you’re comfortable with our judges touring your property when you’re not home, you may give permission for them to do so. They will visit only with your permission.