My name is Jessie Cowe and I’ve been the HNES Native Plant Garden GA over the Summer, 2016. You’ll see it’s been a while since we’ve had any presence here, but I’m happy to say we’re back online!
I was passed the torch in April 2016 from the previous GA: Sayeh, who held down the garden for the Fall and Winter, offering significant native plant knowledge and experience to the stewardship role.
As those of you who stayed local will know, we’ve had a scorcher of a Summer. I’ve been on campus one day per week from mid-April to present day working in the garden. Some activities I’ve been up to are pruning, transplanting, weeding, researching plants and pollinator gardens, watering, networking and watching the cardinals, goldfinches, groundhog and squirrels in their garden habitat. I recruited the kind help of students, faculty and staff here and there to help with watering, but the garden couldn’t have survived the Summer’s heat without the assistance provided by York Grounds and especially Head Arborist, Graeme Hill. Alongside watering support, York Grounds provided several student employees to the cause on two occasions in June and we were able to make big strides in battling the sea oats, cup plants, golden rods and false sunflowers that had been taking over and drowning out other species. Each of these plants still exist in abundance in the garden, but we were able to remove enough to open up some space for other things to thrive and York Grounds relocated them elsewhere on campus – so they shall live on! As tasty as garlic mustard is, we also removed many of the creeping colonies during our work days (and I made some pesto). We also primed with canard merde, a new, fresh garden plot on the east side.
This leads me to one of the highlights of this Summer’s work, which was creating our new pollinator garden alongside one of the HNES Native Plant Garden’s Founders, Prof. Gerda Wekerle. We chose a modest but complimentary and show-stopping combination of plants: Swamp Milkweed, Ironweed, Bee-Balm, Culver’s Root, Sassafras, Giant Yellow Hyssop, Boneset, Asters, Black Eyed Susan and Compass Plants. Some were bought from the Evergreen Brickworks and some were transplanted from Gerda’s cottage and urban gardens. Everything got off to a bonnie first season, attracting and serving a diversity of pollinators while also providing a peaceful and colourful picnicking spot on campus. The pollinator garden, being brand new and not seed started, assumed a rather store-bought and rigid look to it this year. Next year it should take on a more wild and whimsical character and grow into its own. I plan to install one the wonderful “Bees of Southern Ontario” signs in the garden (that Prof. Sheila Colla helped to create), to add an educational element to the design.
Some other highlights:
The Mayapples had a fabulous year. Michele from Maloca kept his eyes on the prize and enjoyed a few of their fruits over the last month. They’re pretty wacky if you haven’t tried them, rather like a cross between a lychee and a gooseberry in texture with a taste like apple pie. The Ohio Buckthorn was a glorious display for the better part of a month, followed by its neighbour, the Dali-esque Snakeroot. The mighty Ironweed stood out boldly amongst the sea of yellow flowers. You may still catch some if you’re on campus this week. The Prairie Dock, which Gerda planted from seed last year has proudly sprouted up all over the garden in healthy rosettes and was one of my favourite elements of the garden’s aesthetic offerings this season. However, I’ve decided that my most favourite plants this year were the Elecampane, or Horse Heal and our Buttonbush. Of all the flowering plants these two stood out for me as most unique and memorable. I’ve saved a lot of the seeds from each.
Enjoy the new album of pictures I’ve captured from the Summer, come and say hello if you see me in the garden and stay tuned for more info on a day of fundraising, fun and engagement in the garden to take place on September 20th, 2016 between 12.30-4pm. There shall be food, garden tours, mask making, elderberry syrup and seeds for sale (from the garden’s harvest), opportunities to build a friction fire kit from garden materials, basket making and community building.