Who might be overwintering in my garden?

Photo credit: Living Prairie Museum

By Cameron Ruml – Living Prairie Museum

Cameron Ruml is the interim Curator at the Living Prairie Museum, with over 10 years of experience in ecosystem management, tallgrass prairie restoration, and environmental education at the City of Winnipeg’s Naturalist Services Branch. Cameron holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies, is licensed as an arborist, and is dedicated to preserving and promoting the natural world. When he’s not at work, you can find him exploring the great outdoors whether it’s on the trail or on the water – he’s always up for an outdoor adventure!

On a late-October day at the Living Prairie Museum, one of our museum staff members was working in our museum gardens right before the first snow of the season. He sunk in a spade to loosen and re-locate a perennial narrow-leaf sunflower, and to his surprise, out popped a little wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus)! It was preparing to overwinter just below the soil surface, under the leafy plant material on the ground.

Rain Gardens: The Ins and Outs

Niakwa Trail Rain Garden along Fermor Avenue.  Photo by Mark Bauche

by Mark Bauche, Master Gardener, MALA, SALA, CSLA

Mark Bauche is a Landscape Architect and Master Gardener. Through his work at HTFC Planning & Design in Winnipeg, he incorporates climate adaptation into his designs and seeks out new tools to help landscape architects design more resilient landscapes.

Climate change projections foresee increased amounts of precipitation, especially in the shoulder seasons, and from extreme summer storm events. With all of this additional stormwater, it becomes increasingly important to manage run-off on our properties rather than sending it to the drain, where it can inundate our waterways. One of the most accessible, and indeed aesthetic ways to mitigate this problem is by installing a rain garden.

Reducing my Lawn – One gardener’s perspective two years in

Ground level view of garden

By Derek Yarnell, Master Gardener

Two full growing seasons after having reduced the least ecologically productive part of my gardens – my front lawn – by about 50% or roughly 800 square feet, this is some of what I have taken from the adventure: three high level observations and three practical tips, should you consider moving in the same direction yourself.

The more books I read, webinars I watch and podcasts I listen to*, the more convinced I am of the power of gardeners at the household level to help repair and restore biodiversity. In ‘Half Earth’ the late biologist and Pulitzer prize-winning author E.O. Wilson makes clear we will not have enough nature to support the human race if private citizens don’t step up and join the movement to restore ecosystems. We can do this by making changes in our own yards. For me personally, the shift towards more ecological planting and management of my yard is an ethical imperative. A responsibility I feel to gardeners and nature lovers yet unborn.

I feel as though North Americans are on the cusp of change, ready to embrace ditching their lawns in favour of more ecological options the worse the visible impacts of our climate crisis become. For the sake of our planet, I hope you will consider it too.

So what did I replace my front lawn with? What I lovingly refer to as my “front habitat”. A space designed to help restore biodiversity while remaining recognizably a garden. One designed overwhelmingly using native plants, so that with any luck it may entice neighbours to adopt some of its plants or practices.

High Level Observations

Peace of mind. When even world climate conferences don’t yield results to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis, it’s natural to ask oneself: “What can I do as one person to make a difference?”. The answer is garden. I feel I am an eco-warrior on the front lines, defending the earth in the war on our climate, and yes, the very future of our species. Like a doctor healing the planet with every native plant community I nurture until it can successfully take care of itself. You too can soothe your climate anxiety by following practices laid out by the Canadian Wildlife Federation in their “Wildlife Habitat” certification program.

Plant it and they will come. Nowhere else as eco-warriors can we find such a positively reinforcing feedback loop. The benefits of becoming an ecological gardener using mostly native plants are clear and immediate. Whereas you can recycle your plastic and see no personal benefit, if you plant Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum), you’ll very likely get butterflies. “Am I a gardener, or am I a butterfly farmer?” I asked myself this summer on more than one occasion. Build habitat for wildlife and wildlife will respond. Plants are the foundation of the food web. Provide a foundation with native plants and nature‘s response is breathtaking.

The proof is in the pudding. In my own yard I have seen an increase in wildlife the more native plants I’ve introduced. All kinds of birds, from songbirds to birds of prey and even occasional waterfowl. I’ve got rabbits, mice, turkey, deer, and I’ve recently seen a fox around our block. I’ve got aphids and ladybugs and grasshoppers and gorgeous black swallowtail butterflies and endangered monarch butterflies, along with bees, moths, and other pollinators of all stripes and sizes.

Plants have a mind of their own. Particularly those amongst our natives which have evolved to spread millions of their seeds on the evening prairie breeze. When designing my ‘front habitat’ I knew that over time it was bound to become less formal, thanks to my selection of reliable prairie seeders including bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis L.), New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), and Joe Pye weed. Nonetheless I’ve been surprised by the enthusiasm with which some of them are taking to their new surroundings: the Joe Pye pushing out to double its territory already. The bee balm taking quite a different approach, instead flitting about, inserting itself into any number of different plant combinations. I thought I would have more time to see the garden develop into exactly the planting I had designed before it would start asserting its own preferences.

Nonetheless, I will not be stifling the interplay between my plants and me, rather I am excited to see how the planting will change over time with only selective editing. (I admit it. I’m just not prepared to have the bright yellow false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) migrate from my side yard to establish itself with the softer pinks, mauves and purples of the front yard.) Generally speaking though, if you are a native plant in my yard you are going to find you have relatively free range to move; my ‘front habitat’ is already becoming a collaboration with nature.

Practical Advice

1. Be knowledgeable about your conditions. Your best chances at achieving the gardener’s goal of “right plant, right place” begins with an accurate understanding of the conditions in your space. How much light is there, where is it more moist and where less so? How does moisture travel across your property? In what condition is your soil?

In my own experiment, lacklustre performance of giant hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) told me I had underestimated the amount of shade cast by the elms above my ‘front habitat’. Not to worry, the Joe Pye stepped up to fill the space.

2. Be a realist with plant selection. Rather than research native Manitoba plants and begin planning your garden habitat with delightful prairie plants that turn out to not be commercially available when it comes time to place your order, learn from my mistake. Start your plant selection journey on the websites of our local native plant nurseries. Focus your research on plants you can be certain will be available. For help in narrowing down choices, most sites have plants sorted into categories that reflect their preferred conditions. (See point 1 above.)

3. Be honest with yourself about your capacity. The most important part of this kind of project is that you enjoy yourself. Nature will require your support as an eco-warrior for years to come. Understand your capacity to not only build but also to maintain what you undertake, especially in the first two years when weeding requirements are greater.
Don’t be afraid to start small and learn as you go. Already have a perennial border? Extend it out into your lawn by just a few feet. Or remove the lawn between your sidewalk and the street.

However you decide to dip your toes in the water, by reducing your lawn you will be creating a more resilient landscape that not only looks great but one that makes a real difference for nature and for generations to come.

*Three ‘recommended reads’ to leave you feeling empowered by the difference you can make in your own yard and own community.

1. Book: Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy
2. Podcast: Backyard Ecology with Shannon Trimboli
3. Webinars: 2021-22 CPPLA Public Lecture Series — Landscape Architecture and the Science of Climate Change

Outline of new garden bed – Fall 2020
Lawn covered with a thick layer of soil and mulch – Fall 2020
Newly planted beds – Spring 2021
Beds growing in – Summer 2021
Ground level view – Summer 2022

Photos by: Derek Yarnell
Published: January 2023

Cash in the Ash

Cash in the Ash: Using waste-stream products as sustainable growing media for horticultural crops

By: Poonam Singh.
Professor, Horticulture Science
School of Agriculture and Environment
Assiniboine Community College, Brandon, Manitoba
Email: singhp@assiniboine.net

The interest in biomass use as a renewable fuel for heat and energy production is growing worldwide to decrease dependence on fossil fuels and reduce environmental impacts. Consumption of biomass in energy applications results in production of biomass ash. Currently, most of the biomass ashes are disposed off in landfills, which is non-sustainable, both economically and environmentally. Biomass ash carries important macronutrients, and can be recycled to soils, thus preventing the loss of valuable resources.

ZZ Plant or Zanzibar Gem (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

By Robert Parsons

Robert Parsons, a lifelong plant enthusiast, graduated from the University of Manitoba with a degree in Agriculture in 1991, majoring in plant science and specializing in horticulture. He works as a gardener for a landscape and maintenance firm in Winnipeg. In addition to houseplant culturing, his hobbies include field botany and birding.

Peonies Still Have a Place in My Garden

Early-blooming peony, name not remembered.

By Lenore Linton, Master Gardener

When we moved to our current house on July first 1962 the 75 foot lot was not a blank slate. In the centre was a fifty year old house surrounded with garden most of which was bare beds of cultivated soil with gravel paths in between. The previous owner had used these beds to grow and breed prize gladioli. There were however, some permanent plantings such as raspberries, rhubarb, an arbour of wild Manitoba grapes and a cultivar of an Isabelle Preston lilac. The arbour of wild grapes and the lilac still grace our garden today.

Interview with Board Member Diane Daignault

Interview with board member Diane Daignault

Newsletter (NL) How long have you been gardening?
Diane Daignault (DD) When I was a young child I remember picking peas in the garden with my mother and father. I should say I remember sitting in the pea patch eating the peas. My parents had two very large gardens when I was growing up. One was dedicated for potatoes only and I recall helping my father plant and harvest the potatoes. We had enough potatoes to sustain us for the whole winter, there were a lot of potatoes! I can still recall the smell of the earthiness and the feel of the soil and how much I enjoyed digging in the soil and being in the garden with my parents.

Strengthening Community Climate Resilience: Citizens Play a Crucial Role

 

Strengthening Community Climate Resilience: Citizens play a crucial role in caring for both public and private trees

By Colleen Zacharias, Master Gardener

What can people do to support trees on their private properties but also newly planted trees in front of their properties? Learning the reasons to care about trees is the first step towards actively caring for trees. Let’s begin with the example of newly planted trees on residential boulevards.

Interview with Board Member Linda Dietrick

 

 

Interview with Board Member Linda Dietrick

Newsletter (NL) How long have you been gardening?
Linda Dietrick (LD) I didn’t have my own garden until well into my thirties, when I married my husband and moved into his little North End bungalow. But I’m almost 71 now, so it’s been rather a long time!

NL: What kind of a garden do you have?
LD: For the last 20 years, I’ve gardened on a medium-sized property in leafy River Heights, but I’d still call the garden small, urban, and mixed. Like many gardeners, I love trying out interesting new perennials, annuals, and shrubs. The challenge I set myself is to provide a good home for hundreds of plants while creating and working within a satisfying design and a healthy ecosystem. By that I mean an intentional landscape with structure, colour, texture, and so on from early spring until snowfall, but also a place where birds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial creatures can share our space with us.

Northern Pin Oak – Shooting for the Sky

By Rick Durand

Rick Durand spent most of his life in Manitoba but moved to West Kelowna, B.C. in 2013 to work for Bylands Nurseries. He continues to work on developing new prairie hardy trees, shrubs, roses and perennials. Rick Durand developed and leads the largest Dutch elm disease research program in Canada