February 23, 2016

Ecological gardening in Toronto with native plants

Not your typical Toronto garden?



I've been in business as a gardener over the past 12 years and worked in many different types of gardens for as many different types of clients. No two gardens are ever the same just as no two people are identical. (Ok, identical twins excepted. Maybe such gardens belonging to identical twins would be similar?)

We have our strengths, weaknesses, preferences and idiosyncracies. Same with our gardens since they are a reflection of our values. Even having no garden implies a certain set of values.


I work in mainly small to medium-sized gardens in Toronto's central core, more or less, and many sites have similar plantings and designs.The shrubs, trees and perennials are often inherited by the new owners or simply bought at local garden centres. In zone 5 Toronto, I see many common plants like boxwoods, yews, "Emerald" cedars, lilacs, rhodos,  hostas, etc. as I travel to and from job sites I also take care of gardens  which contain these ubiquitous plantings and, not surprisingly,  they are common because such plants are relatively inexpensive, readily available (especially in big box stores during the spring retail rush) and generally easy to maintain. 


Seriously, when was the last time you successfully and willfully killed a hosta?


April is around the corner so likely (hopefully?) I will get a call to return to one garden I've been weeding and watering for several years in Toronto's  Riverdale neighbourhood. I profiled this garden originally in a post titled Another tale of two Toronto gardens A Toronto ecological-based garden: functional or ornamental? Or both? back in August 2014. What I find atypical about this garden, in my limited gardening experiences throughout the city, is the diversity of wildlife I see every visit. The reasons for the presence of birds, insects and other pollinators lie in the type of native plants found here.



Agastache foeniculum Giant hyssop Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Agastache foeniculum (Giant hyssop)
Toronto ecological gardening 




The plants shown in this post are found in and around the clients' rain garden that was built to collect rainwater from the garage and part of the house's main roof. These pictures were taken last August to give you an idea of what is blooming in late summer. There was so much activity going on with the bees, hoverflies, and butterflies feeding everywhere.

(I also looked after two raised beds containing tomatoes, kale, cucumbers and nasturtiums in case you're worried that food production was not involved. I just don't find pictures of staked vegetables particularly beautiful!)




Blazing star Liatris spicata Toronto native plants by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
Toronto native plants 



Are there "problems" found in this garden? Sure, if you define some pest and disease damage as problems: the American plum usually gets leaf curl, we had to remove an American cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum) due to persistent Viburnum leaf beetle damage and the slugs I don't collect chew up the kale. The owners, though, accept this rather low threshold of damage and don't use herbicides.They see the gardens as part of the larger ecosystem that accepts the reality of "pests" (a human definition). There's a high level of resiliency built into the space, partially accomplished by choosing and planting a large number of different native plant species.

I think resilient gardens are part of the future. For me, they require fewer inputs and maintenance needs while still being beautiful and functional. Xeriscapes and rain gardens are examples of resilient gardens that should be more common in Toronto but are property owners open to the idea?



Common fleabane Erigeron philadelphicus Toronto native plants by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)
Toronto native plants 

Hibiscus moscheutos Swamp rose mallow Toronto native plants by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Hibiscus moscheutos (Swamp rose mallow)
Toronto native plants 

Impatiens capensis Spotted Jewelweed Toronto native plants by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed)
Toronto native plants

Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal flower Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)
Toronto ecological gardening 

Rudbeckia laciniata Great coneflower Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Rudbeckia laciniata (Great coneflower)
Toronto ecological gardening 

Tall Ironweed Vernonia gigantea Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Tall Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea )
Toronto ecological gardening 

White wood aster Eurybia divaricatus Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
White wood aster (Eurybia divaricatus)
Toronto ecological gardening


Blazing star Liatris spicata Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
 Toronto ecological gardening 

Common fleabane Erigeron philadelphicus Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)
Toronto ecological gardening 

Hibiscus moscheutos Swamp rose mallow Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Hibiscus moscheutos (Swamp rose mallow)
Toronto ecological gardening 

Impatiens capensis Spotted Jewelweed Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed)
Toronto ecological gardening

Jewelweed Impatiens capensis Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
Toronto ecological gardening 

Lobelia siphilitica Great Blue Lobelia Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
(Lobelia siphilitica) Great Blue Lobelia
 Toronto ecological gardening 

Rudbeckia laciniata Great coneflower Toronto native plants by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
(Rudbeckia laciniata) Great coneflower
Toronto native plants

Tall Ironweed Vernonia gigantea Toronto native plants by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Tall Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea)
Toronto native plants 

Evening primrose Oenothera biennis Toronto ecological gardening by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)
Toronto ecological gardening 

If you're in the Toronto area, the North American Native Plant Society holds a plant sale every May. Details for 2016 haven't been posted on its website yet so check it out later in spring. (The plants shown in this post were bought at the NANPS sale in the past.) 

It might be worth a visit. Who knows? You may think about your garden and the gardening process in a new light afterwards.