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Many interests can encourage engagement in native plant conservation. Which apply to you?
- finding inspiration in the beauty and diversity of native plants...
- wanting to explore new ways of gardening...
- being concerned about wildlife and loss of habitat...
- wanting to improve water and air quality...
- feeling a sense of stewardship towards the environment...
Out of these interests spring many activities in which you can participate. A growing appreciation for plant biodiversity, a strong sense of place and meaningful connections within your community will be positive results of your involvement.
Native plant gardening takes place in diverse locations. Everyone can contribute to a greener urban environment. Creating uninterrupted natural corridors throughout the city provides healthier conditions for all living things. Balcony gardens help extend these corridors, and you may be surprised to see what wildlife comes knocking at your door!
Wind and heat are factors that you have to take into account when balcony-gardening. Plants need support or shelter and a good supply of water. The selection of plants depends on your balcony's exposure to the sun because each native plant has its own light requirements.
Balcony gardening is usually carried out in containers. This is an opportunity to reuse old pails, tin cans, buckets, clay pots, etc. You can create layers and add to the diversity of your garden by placing the containers on shelves of different heights or by including lattices in order to support vines.
Take a look in our resources section for more information about balcony gardening.
Sharing our backyard with these delicate creatures is one of the benefits of butterfly gardening. From an ecological perspective, providing habitat for butterflies is important because they are amongst nature's pollinators. Although some plants depend on the wind to carry their pollen, for the majority, the transfer of pollen is carried out by pollinators such as insects, bats and hummingbirds. Both native flora and food crops are therefore dependent on healthy populations of pollinators.
Understanding the natural history of butterflies is an important step in creating a garden that fulfills their needs. The life cycle of the butterfly, from eggs to caterpillars to adults, creates an added challenge for the butterfly gardener. Each butterfly species has special requirements for what plants they use to lay their eggs, as hosts for caterpillars or as nectar sources for adults. If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, you need to pay attention to these requirements.
Remember that butterflies are cold-blooded animals requiring warm temperatures in order to be active. A sunny location that is sheltered from the wind is attractive to them. Adding a patch of wet sand or mud in the garden will provide butterflies with the minerals they need (dissolved in the water, which they drink) and offers an excellent opportunity to observe them. Finally, make sure your garden is pesticide-free because butterflies are very sensitive to chemicals.
As you explore additional resources on butterfly gardening, take a close look at lists of suggested plants. The use of native plants will ensure that you support the complete life cycle of the butterfly. Plant and butterfly diversity go hand in hand.
Reclaiming urban environments is at the core of guerrilla gardening. This activity is undertaken by individuals and communities who are concerned about issues that range from food security, to political activism, to biodiversity conservation.
There are many public places in the city, uncared for or unused urban deserts, which are being turned into green spaces by citizens. These include lanes, boulevards and the edges of parking lots.
If native plants are used in guerrilla gardening, they help us reconnect with the natural world and make it part of our everyday life. Finding these plants in unusual places encourages us to pay attention to the environment in which we live and develop a sense of stewardship and responsibility.
For more information, please consult our list of resources.
Native Plant Gardening
The use of native plants in gardening has a positive impact on the environment; native plants are well-adapted to local soil- and climate-conditions and are part of natural communities where every living thing depends on one another.
A well-established native plant garden is easier to maintain, requires less water and fertiliser, and is pesticide-free. It also provides habitat for wildlife, increases biodiversity and protects local areas from invasive alien species.
Enjoying the beauty and diversity of native plants, understanding and valuing our natural heritage, and sharing our discoveries with neighbours and friends are some other benefits that can be enjoyed through native plant gardening.
Some people garden with native plants by introducing native flowers to a conventional garden and learning to appreciate their aesthetic qualities. Others use nature as a model and plant naturalized gardens in order to try to recreate the native plant communities that are found in their local area.
As you start gardening with native plants, remember that they include not only native wildflowers but also mosses, lichens, ferns, vines, grasses, shrubs and trees. You will find the model on which to plan your garden by exploring local natural areas, learning to identify the native plants that live there, and understanding how they relate to one another and to local conditions.
As you explore further resources on native plant gardening, remember to use plants and seeds from local sources and never to dig plants from the wild. Take a look at our leaflets for additional information that will help you get started in native plant gardening.
In naturalized gardening, nature provides a model on which your garden is planned and established. Native plants are part of communities where they grow and thrive together. They are also dependent on other living things, such as insects or micro-organisms in the soil. This means that these creatures have to be taken in account when establishing a naturalized garden.
Plant communities vary according to climatic, topographical and soil conditions. Assess these conditions in your own backyard before you start planting. Then explore local natural areas to match your conditions to those found in nature. This will guide you towards different types of gardens: woodland, meadow, alpine, prairie or wetland.
Because many human activities have a negative impact on habitats around the world, naturalized gardening is one of the ways habitat can be enhanced, which in turn helps to restore and conserve biodiversity.
In naturalized gardening, your main teacher is nature itself. However, you may want to explore these resources for additional information.
Concerns for a healthy environment encourage many homeowners to adopt organic gardening principles. In this form of gardening, no synthetic pesticides, insecticides or fertilisers are used. The focus of organic gardening is taking care of the soil, which, in turn, supports healthy plants. Environmentally-friendly practices associated with organic gardening include: composting as a source of organic fertiliser, mulching as a way to conserve water and fight off weeds, companion planting to help protect plants from insect pests and diseases, careful watering to help store moisture in the soil, and the hand-pulling of weeds in order to avoid the application of herbicides or the use of small gas engines, which contribute to smog.
Although these principles are also applied to native plant gardening, organic gardening is usually associated with the production of vegetables and fruits. Individuals who are not gardeners contribute to healthier communities by purchasing locally grown organic products.
For more information, please consult our list of resources.
Green roofs are appearing across Canada and are having a positive impact on quality of life. Replacing a standard roof with soil and vegetation provides many environmental, social and economical benefits.
Dark-coloured roofs absorb solar energy and contribute to what is called the "urban island heat effect". Green roofs can help counter this effect because vegetation, through the processes of transpiration and evaporation, help cool the air. Green roofs also reduce storm-water run-off, which can result in water contamination, sewage overflows, flooding and erosion.
Vegetation on green roofs filters airborne particulates, block the movement of dust and absorb gaseous pollutants. Green roofs also provide insulation to the building, thereby helping to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.
Green roofs provide increased habitat for birds and pollinating insects, linking up with other green spaces. They add beauty in our living- and working-neighbourhoods and help create a stronger sense of community as people join together to rethink their relationship to the environment.
There are challenges to gardening on rooftops. The conditions can be very windy and sunny, with extremes in temperature. This will influence your choice of plants. Many green roofs use native, drought-tolerant grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and trees planted in native soils.
You will find further information and inspiration for rooftop gardening in our resources section.
Gardening for wildlife must take into account four essential needs: food, water, shelter and space. Through this type of gardening, habitat can be restored or created. In addition, as more and more green spaces are established in backyards, on rooftops, on balconies, in school yards, or in local parks, corridors are created that enhance habitat for wildlife. This helps counter habitat loss and fragmentation, which represent a major problem for biodiversity worldwide.
When you garden for wildlife, make sure to include a variety of plants. Some provide food such as nectar, nuts or berries, others, like evergreens, provide shelter, and some attract insects, which in turn bring in birds and bats. When you are looking at resources about the plants to use in your wildlife garden, make sure you choose plants that are native to your local area. While exotic plants can be attractive to certain species of wildlife, they do not provide the benefits of native plant gardening.
Wildlife means more than birds. Although creating bird-friendly backyards is a well-favoured activity, bats, butterflies and other insects, reptiles and amphibians can all benefit from careful considerations of their habitat-needs.
Remember that attracting wildlife to your garden involves a responsibility to ensure that you provide a safe environment. For example, a shrub full of berries situated by a large window creates a hazard for birds. A bird feeder should not become the local diner for the neighbourhood cats. Your backyard should be pesticide-free in order to ensure that the wildlife you are attracting is not put at risk.