2017 Winners!

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The 2017 Monarch Award winner is Amy Taylor.

Amy, a 2016 finalist who lives on Edgemont Street North in Crown Point, is a herbalist and tea-reader who has an eclectic and broad knowledge of plants. An experienced gardener, Amy made some changes to her garden over the past year, removing some most of the aggressive non-natives (despite their herbalism usefulness) and ramping up the native plant content. Amy’s garden showcases the potential for blending unusual native plants into a traditional—and small—garden setting.

One judge remarked on the overwhelming “interestingness” of the space. There’s a huge diversity of species to guarantee blooms right from April through November, along with personal whimsical decor, several amenities for wildlife (bird baths, bug bath, bee boxes, nesting spots), a shed made entirely of recycled materials, and a pergola with natural shade provided by hop vines that are harvested for beer making.

There is always a “mess” potential in gardens designed with ecosystem benefits in mind but Amy has cleverly and discretely sited the composters, brush piles, and all three water barrels. The front yard is completely planted and, although the needs of the plants have trumped the aesthetics somewhat, the effect is respectful of the streetscape and neighbours.

This year the judges chose to award four finalist prizes. Here they are, in no particular order.

Matthew Mills’ garden is on Dunning Court in Dundas, on his parent’s property. Matt’s interest in growing native plants started young. His mother, indulging his youthful enthusiasm for ecology, nature, and birds, allowed the high-schooler to establish native plants over the entire front yard. Matt, who’s post-secondary education and career path have followed his passion for landscape and habitat restoration, has an encyclopedic knowledge of native plants, and his space includes unusual species, such as the Canada Tick-Trefoil, that are seldom found in city gardens. It’s clear that Matt did some spiffing up when he learned he was a Monarch Award finalist–the front yard looked quite “garden like”. It’s a fascinating and “out there” example of a naturalized space–and creates a habitat that is definitely a hot spot for wildlife. Matt believes in tough love. Holes get watered at planting time but after that, plants get no supplemental water. A mature conifer came down last year and the shade-adapted plants that surrounded it are now languishing in full sun, to survive—or not. This space works with virtually no human intervention and indeed it’s not a human-friendly space, with no paths or easy points of entry. It’s truly a nature refuge, and it’s all about the plants.

The garden of Katie West, also in Dundas, is on a very steep slope that drains into Lake JoJo and eventually Cootes Paradise. Katie absolutely loves gardening and she’s clearly meeting the challenge of the site. Her gardens are created in a series of wooden terraces and landings that tame the slope and minimize runoff. With a fair amount of diversity and a growing number of native plants, Katie has kept her old favourite daylilies and bulletproof ground covers. All downspouts have water barrels that are used to hand water in times of need. Katie, a volunteer with TurtleWatch, has deliberately created turtle habitat and nesting areas. She continues to work on the garlic mustard and looks to expand the native plantings into the ravine.

Nadia Coakley’s garden on Yarmouth Drive in West Hamilton was a delightful work-in-progress. Judge Charlie couldn’t help photographing the full-clover front yard– a rare achievement. The front gardens included all of the most popular native plants, which were in full glorious bloom. Nadia, a self-taught gardening novice, has become an enthusiast, thirsty for knowledge and, even with a full time job and young family, is keen to do the work, especially around water capture and soil improvement. We are looking forward to seeing her enthusiasm come to life for the Monarch Awards next year.

The garden of Kelly Jamieson on Grosvenor Avenue South in Crown Point had our tongues lolling. The tiny front garden was packed with an all-native assortment, including some unusual delights such as Pearly Everlastings and Prickly Pears. Kelly, who does conservation and restoration work for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, has achieved a nice balance between the needs of Nature and her growing family (lawn, kiddie pool, vegetable gardens). The sloped backyard, in past years, has used a gravity powered drip irrigation system from the rain barrels. They have plans for a downspout-fed watercourse “stream”. We liked the way Virginia Creeper had been established on the back fence. Kelly has not expanded the rather narrow borders but the plants have been chosen wisely, according to the sun and moisture conditions. At the childrens’ insistence, the milkweed has been allowed to spread like trees into the lawn. This is one of the few gardens that featured a diversity of shrubs as well as herbaceous perennials.

Adrian Hodgson’s property in south Kirkendall wasn’t a finalist this year, but his work with permaculture-based water capture techniques was impressive. Every drop of rain, runoff, and household graywater is being redirected into a garden or a cistern.

Congratulations to the 50 entrants for taking the time to do the questionnaire. Over the next few weeks as volunteers and EH staff deliver your “We’re Feeding Pollinators” sign. If you don’t already have a sign, we’ll put one in your garden. If you already have a sign, check your mailbox for a “Monarch Awards 2017” sticker to put on it, showing that your garden is not only certified, it’s a Monarch Award entrant.

Winners—you’ll each 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.

All Monarch Award entrants (2017) receive a special perq this year: early-bird shopping at Hamilton Naturalist Club’s annual native plant sale. This year the sale happens on Saturday, September 30 at Heritage Green Sports Park, 447 1st Rd. West in Stoney Creek, close to Mud Street. The hours are 9 a.m. to noon but entrants can come at 8 a.m. to enjoy the best selection and personalized service.