• Building a Mini-wetland
    As a native plant gardener in a small southwestern Ontario town, I am blessed to have a half-acre property with a variety of growing conditions. These range from dry, full sun to dry, full shade and from moist, full sun to moist, full shade, and pretty much everything in between. But of course that wasn’t enough, so in 2012 I brought in 40 tons of Manitoulin Island limestone and built an “escarpment”, complete with a waterfall. (This will likely be the subject of a future… Read more: Building a Mini-wetland
  • Is it Invasive or is it just Aggressive? 
    This article is NOT about invasive species, but is about the strategies I use to deal with aggressive species in the garden. But first, a note about invasive species.  Common Reed or Phrag (Phragmites australis), Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis), Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) – these names tend to strike fear (or at least dread) into hearts of native plant gardeners.  They are all invasive species.  What makes them so bad? All were introduced into gardens… Read more: Is it Invasive or is it just Aggressive? 
  • On Writing a Book 
    March 1, 2024 is an exciting date for me. This is the release date of my book The Gardener’s Guide to Native Plants of the Southern Great Lakes Region. I thought that for this month’s article I would share a bit of what it took to get this book to publication.  The Original Idea  I started growing native plants in my yard around 2006. As with many native plant gardeners I’ve met, the process got off to a slow start. I knew nothing about our… Read more: On Writing a Book 
  • The Versatile Fern 
    They don’t have big showy flowers (or even tiny inconspicuous flowers), they don’t feed pollinators or even rabbits (usually), and only a few seem to be host to some moth caterpillars, but it is my firm belief that every native plant garden should have ferns.   There are native ferns for just about every garden condition in the Southern Great Lakes region. After all, according to the Peterson Field Guide to Ferns of Northeastern and Central North America, “some 11,000 different species of ferns and fern… Read more: The Versatile Fern 
  • The Rain Garden – Part 2: Plant Choices 
    Last month’s article “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, My Garden is Growing” discussed the how and why to build a rain garden. In this month’s article I will share some of my favourite plants that are well suited to rain gardens. These plants can handle both having their feet wet on occasion, sometimes for days on end, yet can also tolerate long periods of dry soil.   The following plants are listed in alphabetical order by scientific name. Plants with hyperlink are ones that have a complete… Read more: The Rain Garden – Part 2: Plant Choices 
  • It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, My Garden is Growing 
    Designing a Rain Garden  Most yards, whether urban or rural, are high and dry – and for good reason. No one wants to walk around on a sloppy, muddy lawn each time it rains. However, such lawns limit the species we can grow to those that don’t require a lot of water, and we have many beautiful native plants that actually appreciate having their “feet wet”, at least occasionally.  At the same time, our rooftops collect gallons of water every time it rains, and often… Read more: It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, My Garden is Growing 
  • Can I Eat My Garden? 
    There are entire books on edible wild plants and on foraging, but I’ve never really paid much attention to them (even though I do have a few on my bookshelves).  For me, growing native plants is all about feeding Mother Nature, not about feeding me. But this year I harvested the first of my native wild black currants (Ribes americanum) with the hopes of possibly making a small batch of jam. So I thought for today’s article I would share with you some of the… Read more: Can I Eat My Garden? 
  • Got Shade Part 3 – Late Season Shade 
    Fall tends to be a quiet time for flowers in the forests. Long gone are many of the showier shade perennials like Woodland Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) and the Meadowrues (Thalictrum species). And the spring ephemerals like Trilliums and Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) are a distant memory. But it doesn’t mean the shade garden has to be bleak. There are some lovely shade plants that come to life this time of year – either with late season blooms, colourful berries or lovely fall foliage. Here are a… Read more: Got Shade Part 3 – Late Season Shade 
  • Fall Garden Prep for the Native Plant Garden 
    The leaves are starting to turn colour, the air is getting cooler, and there are lots of gardening articles being written about what to do with your Canna Lilies and rose bushes and dahlias for the winter. But what about those of us who grow native plants? Do we have to do anything to prepare our plants and flower beds for winter? After all, Mother Nature has been looking after herself for millennia.  How much fall prep you do will depend primarily on WHY you… Read more: Fall Garden Prep for the Native Plant Garden 
  • Got Shade? Part 2 – Summer in the Shade 
    This spring, I wrote an article about spring ephemerals – those woodland species that flower early in the spring and then, for the most part, disappear till the following year. Summer has arrived and we have a number of shade tolerant plants for your woodland gardens that bloom through the summer and into the fall. In today’s article, I’ll talk about some of these and share some images from my shadier gardens.  Plants that grow under the tree canopy of a forest have to be… Read more: Got Shade? Part 2 – Summer in the Shade 
  • Pollinator Gardens and Bee Stings 
    A growing gardening trend is to plant pollinator gardens, often using native plants, to attract and feed bees and butterflies. This is occurring as a response to the news that our bees and butterflies are quickly disappearing. This realization likely started because honey bee farmers were faced with major financial losses as a result of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) starting in the early 2000s. Around the same time, folks began noticing that Monarch butterflies were in trouble. It wasn’t long till we also began to… Read more: Pollinator Gardens and Bee Stings 
  • Why I Grow Native Plants 
    This month’s article is going to get personal. It won’t be a “how-to” or a “what to grow where” blog. Instead, I’ll share a bit of my personal journey into native plant gardening – a journey that has gone from curiosity to complete addiction.  I was lucky as a kid in that we often lived in rural areas and, when we didn’t, I had my uncle’s farm to visit for the entire summer holidays. We also camped a lot. Because we moved around a lot,… Read more: Why I Grow Native Plants 
  • Boulevard Gardens
    A Note on Boulevard Gardens  Most suburban, and some urban, yards have a narrow grass strip between the sidewalk and the street. Invariably the municipality requires you to maintain this strip despite it being their property. And because it is their property, they often have restrictions as to what you can or can’t do with it (always check with your municipality before creating a boulevard garden). Some of these restrictions make total sense – like the ones that say don’t plant tall things that will… Read more: Boulevard Gardens
  • Got Shade? The Spring Ephemeral Garden 
    It is April. Finally, depending on where you live, the snow is mostly gone, the days are getting wonderfully warmer, and the first flowers of spring are braving the cold nights and providing a source of nectar and pollen for the earliest of pollinators. Many of these early flowers bloom for a very short time and, surprisingly, many are found in shady forested areas. This is likely because in the forest they need to grab pollinator attention before the tree canopy fills with the leaves… Read more: Got Shade? The Spring Ephemeral Garden 
  • On Native Plant Range Maps 
    Have you ever thought about the fact that almost all books on native plants define their ranges as “Native in the Northeastern US and Southern Canada”, or “Native in the Midwest States and Southern Prairies”? Very few plants are native throughout those rather large areas of geography. Soil type, microclimates, even underlying geology can have a great influence on which plants would be found naturally in any given location. Wouldn’t a map be much more accurate and useful? After all, native plant gardeners, more so… Read more: On Native Plant Range Maps 
  • Are My Plant Seeds Native Enough? 
    There’s a lot of activity on the various native plant gardening Facebook groups these days about winter sowing.  I’ve never tried it, but it makes total sense to do what Mother Nature does – set your trays of soil with seeds outside and let the natural refrigeration of winter do the cold moist stratification for you.  In my research for native plants sources, I have come across a handful of companies that specialize in native plant seeds. In fact, some ONLY sell seeds and not… Read more: Are My Plant Seeds Native Enough? 
  • Gateway Plants
    Gateway Plants, or How to get your neighbours addicted to growing native plants  Most people have heard the term “gateway drug”, referring to habit forming drugs like marijuana or alcohol whose use is thought to lead, in some people, to the use of other more addictive drugs. Well, in the native plant gardening world we’re always searching for the “gateway plants”, those plants we can convince our neighbours to grow that, we hope, will lead them to become addicted to growing native species in their… Read more: Gateway Plants
  • The Boggy, Boggy Dew
    Creating a Bog Garden I am fortunate, as a native plant gardener, to have a ½ acre property with dry shade, dry sun, moist shade, moist sun, and everything in between. Combine this with rich, sandy-loam soil and, for the most part, if I accidentally drop a plant on the ground, it will take root and grow (at least that’s what my friends claim).  This has allowed me to create gardens of deep-shade forest perennials and tall grass prairie, of moisture loving ferns and drought… Read more: The Boggy, Boggy Dew
  • A Marsh Marigold by Any Other Name 
    William Shakespeare, in his play Romeo and Juliet, wrote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. So why does it matter what we call it, then? And why do people like me sometimes get so frustrated when folks use common names instead of the scientific names for plants? In today’s article, I want to explore the benefits, and in some cases the frustrations, of using scientific names for our native plants instead of (or, at least, in addition to) the common names. … Read more: <strong>A Marsh Marigold by Any Other Name</strong> 
  • Time for a Black Eye
    Which Black Eyed Susan is Which?  Do you want a black eye? Black eyed Susan, that is. Or is that a brown eyed Susan? The other day someone asked me how to differentiate this group of plants that, at first glance, look so much alike. Today, I will attempt to tackle that question here.  Those who know me know that I get really frustrated with common names for plants. Depending on where you live, the name black eyed Susan is used for a number of… Read more: Time for a Black Eye
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?
    Many of is remember the old nursery rhyme Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? Although historians disagree on the possible political meanings behind this 18th century English nursery rhyme, I wish to use this question “How does your garden grow” to explore the various approaches to gardening with native plants. Naturalized Gardens We all garden with native plants for different reasons. Some gardeners attempt to create a more ‘natural’ habitat for insects, birds and other wildlife on their property and design their… Read more: How Does Your Garden Grow?
  • Invasive Species, Weeds, Nativars and Other Terms of Confusion 
    The native plant gardening world is full of terminology that those gardening with non-natives have seldom had to consider. In this month’s article, I hope to shed some light on what some of these terms actually mean so that you can speak confidently and knowledgeably with garden center staff and fellow gardeners.  Native vs Naturalized  I started my journey into native plant gardening with the purchase of a package of “wildflower” seeds. When I recognized California poppies, bachelor’s buttons, and a few others I knew… Read more: Invasive Species, Weeds, Nativars and Other Terms of Confusion 
  • 2b or Not 2b – The Story Behind Plant Hardiness Zones
    Most gardeners are familiar with the Plant Hardiness Zone (PHZ) maps that are found in many seed catalogues and garden centers, and with the paired numbering system (2a, 2b, 3a, 3b) etc. found on plant labels.  But what do these numbers really mean? How did they come about? And are they really relevant for native plant gardeners?  The earliest PHZs were delineated in the 1920s by the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University. In the 1960s, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) devised their own set… Read more: 2b or Not 2b – The Story Behind Plant Hardiness Zones
  • Can I have continuous bloom in my native plant garden? Part 2
    In my previous article, I discussed continuous blooms for the shady garden as a response to someone’s query, so in this piece I will look at plants for the “average” garden – moist to dry soils, full sun to part shade. (Unless noted otherwise, all images are from my southwestern Ontario garden.) Part 2 – The Less Shady Yard When I started growing native plants in my garden, I was disappointed that for much of the early part of the growing season there wasn’t much… Read more: Can I have continuous bloom in my native plant garden? Part 2
  • Can I Have Continuous Bloom in My Native Garden? Part 1
    Part 1 – The Shade Garden. In northeastern North America (where I live), Mother Nature likes to constantly change things up. Few of our native plants stay flowering for more than a month or two, and some for only a few weeks. But, in nature, bees and other insects cannot survive for long periods without flowers, so there ARE plants blooming from early spring right through till snow covers them. Unfortunately, the bees (and we) need to search them out. In the spring, our earliest… Read more: Can I Have Continuous Bloom in My Native Garden? Part 1