In my trove of old photos were several dozen prints taken on September 17, 2001 at FWR Dickson Conservation Area near Paris, Ontario. FWR Dickson has a nice assortment of plant communities in a relatively small area: sandy hills with open oak woods. mesic woodlands with maple beech forest, swamps, open kettle lakes, and old fields. Hiking through there one fall day, I was struck by the diversity and sheer amount of wild fruit, all crying out to migrating birds ” Eat me, eat me.” I started snapping photos. This was before I had a digital camera, so a few dozen exposures was extravagant. Today I would probably take several hundred pictures, and a few might actually be good photos. I have pics of wild grapes, and nanny berries, and the bright red clusters of highbush cranberry viburnum. I tried to capture the porcelain blue of silky dogwood fruit, not successfully.
The alternate-leaved dogwoods growing in full sun at the edge of the kettle lake were heavy with dark blue-black fruits. Alternate-leaved dogwood also grows in the valleys and ravines of Toronto. It reproduces well in city conditions so there is still quite a lot of it around. In the city, the dogwood’s fruit are stripped as soon as they start to ripen in mid-August. The ravines in Toronto are major migratory flyways. There is simply not nearly enough food for the birds. There is not enough food because the native understorey has been so largely replaced with invasives, such as European buckthorn, whose bitter, cathartic fruits the birds cannot use, and because of the stingy, Eurasian plant based landscaping of the homes along the ravines. The fruitful abundance of southern Ontario autumn, which evolved with the native birds and upon which they depend, is just not there in urban and suburban spaces. Continue reading Planting more fruit for birds
As part of my goal to dejunk, I have been scanning old prints and slides and, once scanned, tossing the hard copy. I am of course keeping the impossible-to-replace pictures of friends now gone and babies now grown, but I have literally thousands of fifth rate photos of plants, landscapes, bits of gardens, and such, that if I am ever going to need again, I am going to need in easily-findable electronic versions. I’ve used photo-organizing software to sort these scans by subject and location and date.
One of the things that emerged from all this was a record of my late mother’s garden, the way it changed over the years as I added more native plants, and tore up more lawn, and the plants grew and matured and sometimes disappeared as they were shaded out. FaceBook and blogging didn’t exist at the time. I would have enjoyed blogging about the garden, I think. Over the years, the number of native plants that grew in that tiny garden in a big city swelled into an impressive total. In my mother’s garden I put into practice the concept of making every square inch count.
It was a garden, not a restoration, so my concept of “native” was a bit loose, as I still think is quite appropriate for gardens. For example, tall ironweed, which is not native to Toronto, is native to southern Ontario, so in it went as a native plant and very successful it proved, feeding many butterflies and seeding gently into the edge of the lawn. I learned to distinguish it, and many other natives, as very small seedlings, rescuing them from the lawn, or the spaces between the paving stones, and moving them to other gardens. Continue reading Planting a garden densely and diversely
This blog is a continuation of a journal I started on my web site. The older website is still in use and has images of many of my botanical drawings and information on native plant garden design. Please continue to visit it to see the older journal entries, the art gallery, and the garden design pages.
On Botanicalartstalk I will post information about my botanical art, wild places, and natural gardening. My first post on the new blog is about a very special place, the prairie alvar on Cape Croker.
This past Saturday I had a chance to visit an extraordinary place: the alvar grassland on the shore of Georgian Bay near Cape Croker. The trip was organized by the Field Botanists of Ontario and led by Jarmo Jalava and Tony Chegahno.
The beauty of the place was both breathtaking and subtle. Breathtaking, because the alvar lies under the towering limestone cliffs of the Niagara Escapment and is bounded on two sides by the rocky shores of Georgian Bay. Subtle, because a flat expanse of grass, dominated by poverty oat grass (Danthonia spicata), over which dance the flowers of the common weeds, white sweet clover and Queen Anne’s lace, is going to look a lot like, well, like any old field. It is only when Tony and Jarmo directed me to really look at what was growing did I understand that this is a splendid example of native grassland such as can be found nowhere else in the province. Continue reading A visit to Prairie Alvar on Cape Croker