Tag Archives: Biodiversity

Sharp insights on Native Pollinators

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Hillary Sardiñas will reveal to you amazing facts of the hidden world and habits of our native pollinator bees.  She has a PhD from UC Berkely in Pollination Ecology and specialties in Restoration Ecology, Agrobiodiversity, Habitat Restoration and Bee Conservation. With an easy pleasant manner and in great detail, she describes the habits and challenges that our native bees face in today’s agricultural world and what we can do to protect them.  I came across this insightful podcast in Delicious Revolution, a podcast about food, where it comes from, and the many specialists involved in getting it to us. It is reassuring to me to know that so many brilliant young people are actively advocating for our environment and food safety.

“We think we can make honey without sharing in the fate of bees, but we are in truth nothing but poor bees, destined to accomplish our task and then die.”
Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

 

Trees of the Northern Forests

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Stepping out into the vast forests of Southern Ontario invokes a sense of the magnificence and resilience of the Northern forest trees. Here, on this island in Algonquin Park, where a fire cleared out all vegetation in the mid 1930’s, towering shapes of White Pine or Pinus strobus, form the most striking feature in the landscape. These trees can grow up to 80′ in height towering over the forest canopy and can live over 300 years.

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Kayaking along the shore of these glacial lakes, one of the most prevalent tree is the Eastern White Cedar or Thuja occidentalis. They favor impossible sites at the water’s edge, practically growing out of huge boulders in all sorts of contorted areal configurations.

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This example is by no means unusual on lakes all over Ontario.  some trunks extend twenty to thirty feet out to hold their canopies over the water and providing a very unique habitat for fish and other aquatic life who seek out the shade and refuge the massive fronds provide.

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I spotted this Hemlock or Tsuga canadensis, about fifty feet in height, growing out of this boulder in one of my hikes.  That entire root system covered and area approximately twenty feet around.  The oldest living Hemlock in Algonquin Park has been documented to be 454 years old!

When traveling to these Northern woods I am awed by the power of the natural world.  To see these giant trees surviving against all odds though harsh winters, scalding summers, fending off the onslaught of insect armies and then, providing wildlife with food and shelter!  They are rooted in place like giant sentinels towering over the forest. Then one day, inevitably, they will relinquish their story and riches to start anew upon the forest floor.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
John Muir

 

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Gardening and Nature

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Amazing the transformation that happens in spring! not just in nature, but in our own consciousness. After decades of gardening, an understanding naturally engulfs us from the practice of caring for our landscape plants and spending time outside.   As gardeners, we hold in our hands the health of everything around us. The health of the soil that feeds our plants.  The health of the insects that, by the millions, work indefatigable to make a living on our plot of land. The web starts there.  But we have to understand our ecosystem.  I have visited beautiful gardens that are dead.  Not a living insect or bird can survive in a land laden with pesticides and fertilizers. As I wrote in my post “Why Organic?” synthetic substances in the soil break the web of life. In our search for perfection we sometimes forget the delicate balance of the natural world around us. So, as the new gardening season begins, lets agree to be more conscientious of the world that surrounds us and weigh our actions against the impact we may have on the wild creatures that share our habitat.

Happy Spring!

“Plants are not optional on this planet.  With a few exceptions, neither we, nor anything else can live without them.  We invariably take plants and the benefits they provide for granted”   Douglas W. Tallamy

Plants Talk and Communicate!

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As we settle into winter, I am enjoying reading gardening books , browsing new catalogues  and watching documentaries on plant and nature related topics. I have to share an exciting documentary I watched this week:  “What Plants Talk About”  is available on You Tube or thru Netflix. A wonderful study on experiments done relating to plant behavior and the way they act both above and under the soil. Turns out, plants move and behave just like animals do!  They are always on the hunt for food, nutrients and even other plants! Botanists have been aware of plants Allelopathy, the capacity of certain plants to release chemicals to inhibit the growth of other plants and capture the soil resources and   establish large colonies. Since they can’t change location or move, they have adapted a system of chemical communication to send out stress signals and to conduct chemical warfare.  Plants are a lot more intelligent that we ever imagined!  If you want to learn more, I highly recommend you watch this hour long documentary.  Love to hear what you think about your houseplants now!

“Pants speak in a chemical vocabulary we can’t directly perceive or comprehend.”  Michael Pollan

Related reading:

The Intelligent Plant, by Michael Pollan

The Secret Life of Plants,   Docummentary.

Misconseptions about Wildlife Corridors

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Talking with a colleague in the Landscaping and Gardening business, I was shocked to hear that she though the the term “Wildlife Corridors” meant that it was required to be planted with only native plants.  But the term refers to creating a highway of vegetation connecting garden beds or enlarging existing ones to assist small mammals, reptiles and insects to move safely though the land for the purpose of finding food, shelter and reproduce. In a sense expanding their habitats.

In the photo above, I have an example of an existing bed in my on garden. The Canadian Hemlocks planted twenty years ago and heavily shaded by many oak trees next door, have become very thin in the bottom and no longer provide the privacy screen they were originally planted to achieve.  I see this as a perfect opportunity to enlarge and add plantings for my benefit and to help biodiversity.

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Follow the guide lines in my 2009 post: creating a new planting bed. Determine the space to use, layer with newspaper to kill the grass, wet paper so it stays in place and add mulch (here I used leaf mulch created from last years leaf collection) and presto!

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New planting area ready and marked.  I will trim the hemlocks a bit in the spring so the shrubs will be outside the drip line. In this case I have chosen Aesculus parviflora or Bottlebrush Buckeye, very shade tolerant, large and just dense and tall enough to provide the needed privacy in two or three years depending on the size planted. And Yes, this is a native shrub that is also deer resistant!

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Albert Einstein

Project “Wildlife Corridors”

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As gardeners and nature lovers we are on the forefront of preservation.  In a time when our wild places keep shrinking, there are many things we can do in order to make it a little easier on our wild friends that rely on nature for their survival.  As I wrote on this previous post on Habitat Fragmentation, creating ‘ribbons of vegetation’ is one of the best ways to promote biodiversity.  By enlarging our existing garden beds and planting a few more natives,  we would ensure the survival of many species.  I will make it my mission this year, not so much in creating new beds, as much as enlarging the ones I already have.  The wider and more diverse beds provide more habitat for an incredible amount of wildlife, amphibians and insects pollinators.

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This photo was taken in my garden last summer.  My perennial beds are on average between four and seven feet wide.  Last fall, I started planting just outside the existing beds to widen them and also making it easier to connect one planting area to another ultimately having a continuous corridor through the entire garden.

I will love for all of us to make an effort to make our gardens a joyful, safe and environmentally friendly space for us and our friends human and wild.

 “In my garden there is a large place for sentiment.  My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams.  The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers and the dreams are as beautiful”   Abram L. Urban

Habitat Fragmentation

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Habitat fragmentation is, in my opinion,  one of the biggest unnatural calamities that our native wildlife has sustained in the last century.  Land development and suburban sprawl  has been taken place all around us at the expense of wildlife habitat.  Miles upon miles of roads and highways, blacktops in the form of parking lots, shopping centers and driveways, and huge expanses of lawn are added every year in our country alone.  Read the statistics as presented by Dr. Douglas W.  Tallamy Wildlife Ecology and Entomologist professor at the University of Delaware,
in this post.

I know, a lot of bad news, if you care.  And I care.  That is why I have Changed the way that I garden and hopefully persuade you to do the same, in any big or small capacity that you can.  Here are some of the ways in which we can contribute to the survival of many species of insect pollinators, birds and small mammals in our gardens:

  • Go organic, start slow by limiting the amount of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizes.  I make my case in this post “Why Organic?” .
  • Start a compost pile.  Why throw away good organic matter?  Check out my super easy compost system .
  • Create new garden beds that provide habitats and increase biodiversity in your garden.  It is easier than you think.  See this post
  • Incorporate more native plants into your landscapes.  Small trees, shrubs and perennials provide food and sheller to birds and pollinators.
  • Connect your garden beds to create ‘ribbons of vegetation’ so species can move within a wider range.  This allows small mammals, birds, and small invertebrates to find mates, food and shelter to improve biodiversity.
  • Provide water sources.  Even a small bird bath, a basin for water loving plants or any size pond, will increase sustainability and ensure the survival of many species.

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.” 
― Albert Einstein