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 judged?
Monarch Larva
A Technical Committee (volunteers) reviews the completed questionnaires and selects the gardens that will receive a visit from the judging team. 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, an overall winner will be chosen.

I live in Ward 11 / 12 / 14 /15. Why can’t I enter?

The ward boundary system is a blunt instrument but it’s the best we’ve got right now. The idea is to exclude large rural properties. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, we want a level playing field. It isn’t fair to compare the ecosystem benefits of, for example, a two-acre rural property with a natural pond, stream, or woodlot to a 20′ x 60′ urban property with a front yard parking pad. The difficulty in judging and comparing such vastly different environments is clear and we want to be as fair as possible.

As well, consider the relative benefits of a 10′ x 20′ pollinator garden. On an acre-sized lot, the relative impact is minimal. On a tiny urban lot, this is huge percentage of the available land and may represent the only bit of biodiversity in the neighbourhood. The size is small but the value is huge. The rural property, on the other hand, simply by being “rural” (unpaved, large) already makes a big ecosystem contribution, even without human interventions such as pollinator plantings, rain gardens, or rain barrels. We want to recognize urban gardeners whose work is making a big difference in their larger (city) environment.

From an operational perspective… our volunteers and judges are all volunteers with busy lives. This year, at least, we are not asking them to travel to the outer boundaries (to Copetown, Lynden, or Mountsberg for example).

We may be able to refine the criteria so that the urban parts of wards 11, 12, 14, and 15 can be eligible. We have a year for ideas and possible solutions to percolate.

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

The criteria 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 score well on every single category. So if you’ve got a pollinator garden, front or back, please enter!

What’s in it for me?

All entrants will receive a Pollinator Paradise lawn sign: http://www.hamiltonpollinatorparadise.org/p/h.html with a sticker to indicate you entered the Monarch Awards Hamilton program in 2017. The winner will receive a special decorative plaque that can be displayed in the garden.

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 judging 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 would remain with the photographer, and the photographer will not be restricted from any other use of the photo.

When is the deadline to enter?

The entry deadline is midnight Sunday June 18, 2017. The finalist selection happens between June 20 and 26. Judges’ visits are scheduled for the week of June 19 – 25, 2017

I’m a renter can I still enter?

Yes! If you are the primary person responsible for the way the gardens look and function, you may enter. If you have a group of tenants who garden the property, or if your shared household works together, you can enter 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! Our expert judges know and understand that gardens mature. They will see the big picture.

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. If non-natives predominate your “marks” will not be high in that category. We are looking for gardens where native plants are important.

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

If your garden is chosen for judging, 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.