Our First Garden day of 2018, Bee Hotels and Urban Redbuds


(Spring Mayapples, peeking on through)

Dear all,

Come out and join us in the garden on Wednesday May 9th from 11-3pm to be social, get the garden cleaned up for the season, to take stock of what’s in bloom and the visiting birds and pollinators.  
A bee hotel has been installed in the garden recently, as part of the Scott MacIver and the David Suzuki Foundation’s BIMBY project .  We may see that some bees have moved in to their individual apartments by the time we meet (solitary cavity nesting bees, such as mason bees and sweat bees)! I’ll bring my BIMBY pamphlets and bees of Toronto book. We’ll also be contributing data to Charlotte de Keyzer and Scott’s urban Redbud study again. Do you have a redbud on your property, or near by? If you do, you might consider contributing to the study by noting its flowering times. Contact: ​urban.redbud@gmail.com if you’d like to take part.
A note on gardening during the Strike:
It has been explained by a CUPE member that working in the garden doesn’t support the functioning of the University and administration, so it’s viewed as an acceptable activity, though this could be open to interpretation as it does involve being on campus beyond the picket lines. Of course, please do whatever you feel comfortable with and do reach out if you have any concerns or input related to this.
If you join, bring sunscreen, water and a pot luck item and tupperware, if you wish to. Email me at hnesnativeplantgarden@gmail.com if have any questions or concerns.
Jessie Cowe
HNES Native Plant Garden Volunteer

Garden Work Day! Oct 12th, 2017: 1pm – 6pm


Join myself and other garden volunteers to prepare the garden for the Winter. The work that is put in now can enormously lessen the work that needs to be done in the Spring.

Bring a harvest themed potluck item to share (or anything you’d like).



Activities for the day:

Seed harvesting, cutting down plants that have reached the end of their cycle, learning what to cut back and what to leave (some things are still producing energy / food for birds); weeding (yes, it’s not too late to make 2018 much less weedier!), mulching beds, making insect hotels, putting away equipment,chatting about the future of the garden, pot-lucking, and perhaps some post work day drinks on campus?!

Learn about how to stay involved with the garden and procedures for volunteering in Spring 2018. Since the funding for Graduate Assistant (GA) positions is uncertain (but being worked on by FES), volunteer energy and commitment currently forms the backbone of the garden’s sustainability. As I’m wrapping up my GA now, I’d love to connect with anyone that is interested in picking up on garden maintenance in 2018. I can show/ train any interested folks on how to access our resources, garden manual and tools to support any work you do. Tending the garden is a lot of fun, relaxing, a great way to meet students, staff and faculty and a deep learning experience.

If you can’t make it, but would like to chat about this email me at: jessie.cowe@gmail.com



Wild bird food: Fragrant Sumac berries

(rhus aromatica) 

-This shrub can cause a mild reaction of the skin upon contact

Summer 2017, in the HNES Native Plant Garden


Have a walk THROUGH the garden next time you are on campus. We did a huge amount of work yesterday, wood chipping the paths, mulching the beds to keep the sun spurge at bay, pruning and planning and pot-lucking.

Stay tuned for bench making, art-making, insect hotel making and more IDing events coming up in August/September.

Feel free to share your ideas about how to make the space a more enticing garden to engage with. I would love to see more people actually IN the garden, sketching, resting, eating, reading, engaging with plants etc. People currently tend to sit on the concrete edges, perhaps they don’t know what lies within! I harvested some great ideas yesterday including adding wind chimes and bird / bat boxes. I hope to add a bees of Ontario sign or two for educational purposes and a make a sign post before my GAship is complete.
Email: hnesnativeplantgarden@gmail.com with your ideas.

Thank you to Sean, Sinavy, Abdeali and Callan for your sweat and hard work and great company. We accomplished more than I’ve been able to all growing season with the extra hands. A highlight of the day was finding a patch of the stinkhorn mushrooms growing under the Ohio Buckthorn, loving the wood chip mulch! I believe these are Mutinus ravenelii. There is currently no stink happening that we could make out.

The City of Toronto Biodiversity Series: Mushrooms of Toronto Guide says:
“When conditions are right, and in the space of only a few hours, the slime-covered head and the rest of the stalk of the stinkhorn burst out of the “egg” to stand erect and invite the attention of the flies. The powerful smell of the sticky greenish-brownish slime is what attracts the flies, in hordes, to alight on and consume this sweet delicacy set out for them. When the slime has all been gobbled up, the flies depart, but they have now become messengers or delivery agents for the stinkhorn; they have walked on the slime, ingested it, and now they are carrying away the stinkhorn spores contained in the slime; they will deposit these spores in other places, perhaps to result in another generation of stinkhorns, for the benefit of another generation of flies.
Mutinus ravenelii is 5-10 cm tall, and sports a bright red slightly-swollen head beneath the slime. The stalk is often curved and only 1 cm or less wide. The volva may lie beneath the soil surface. In case you are wondering, Mutinus was a Roman phallic deity.”

April in the garden – 2017

Mayapples, peeking through and unfurling their handsome leaves.20170412_144204

April in the garden – Things are peeking through and changing everyday. It’s fascinating to watch and track plant growth from the beginning of the growth season. You can learn so much about the ecosystem of one small area by establishing a relationship with a single plant or tree, over the course of 4 seasons.
A challenge lies below…..

This Springtime (or anytime you can), pick any plant or tree that grows near your home. It can be located in your yard, a yard near by, on the side of the road or in a park. Make it easy to access for you and your current lifestyle and find a place to sit near it. Check in on it every few days. Over time, track it’s different growth stages and the changes to its appearance. You can just do this mentally, or through journalling or take an art-based approach – whatever suits you. Ask questions such as:

Where is the plant putting it’s energy right now? Keep an eye out for pollinator visitors – are there any patterns that emerge by watching the pollinators? Does it look the same in the morning time vs at night time? Is it healthy, or do you think it might be struggling this year? Why could that be? Look up its name and whether it is native, edible, medicinal, invasive. Does it grow back every year (perennial)? Or, does it complete it’s lifecycle over two growing seasons (biennial)? Or, does it only live for one growing season (annual)? What animals/birds seem to like to eat it or be near it? How is it using the space that it is growing in? Is it benefitting, dependent on or harmful to other species around it?

There are so many questions to ponder while you catch a break from your busy brain and daily activities, slow down and watch the area in which it grows for brief moments.


(Above) Bloodroot, a very special and early spring ephemeral: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanguinaria


(Above) Blue Cohosh, rocking out.


(Above) Here comes the Solomon’s Seal – it has to start somewhere!

Garden Work Day – April 24th 2017 – 10.30 to 12.30

AstersDear all,
Join us for a garden session this April, 2017 to make room for the new growth and clean up the garden. There is lots of material to cut back from last year.  We’ll also get a head start on the garlic mustard weeding and reward ourselves with a garlic mustard pesto snack.

If anyone has experience with, or is interested in cold stratification of wildflower seeds (it’s late in the game but worth a try!) we’ve got lots to experiment with that we can prepare and you can take home.

No experience necessary. Friends and family welcome.

Email: hnesnativeplantgarden@gmail.com or just show up at the garden!


Reflections of the Summer, 2016







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.