After a long, rainy day, I look out at my backyard garden, not being able to recognize it once again. Spring is upon us and everything is exploding with greenery and budding colour.
Then I simply ask myself, “How many of those plants in my garden are actually native to this region?” I realize that probably 80-90% of them do not originate from Southern Ontario. Tulips are native to Central Asia, were cultivated by the Turks, and then introduced to Western Europe. Peonies are also native to Asia. Lilac trees, which are part of the olive family, actually originated from the Balkan Peninsula. Of course, I have red trilliums (purchased from Humber Nurseries), wild leeks, ferns, and a few other native woodland plants, to help balance everything out.
Among the harmonious combination of foreign-bred and homegrown plants are the “outliers”. They are the invasive species we continually want to eradicate. I have the occasional Garlic Mustard “weed” popping up here and there, but the real detrimental culprit, with which I constantly battle, is the Common Buckthorn. It’s everywhere! My privacy hedge, which spans the entire length of my backyard, and multiple trees throughout the property. The only way I can keep them from spreading is to continually trim them so that they don’t produce blooms. It limits berry production, as they are very prolific. Birds will eat the berries and then deposit the seeds everywhere. To remove them would cost me thousands of dollars, which is simply not an option at this point. I’ll continue to trim and keep them at bay, but they WILL be replaced.
Where am I going with this? There’s a new generation of young Canadian gardeners/environmentalists, and they are learning how to identify invasive species, harmful insects, learning about soil pH, the importance of wetlands, and the needs of common Ontario wildlife species, among other vital outcomes. These are all important skills needed to become successful environmentalists. Where are they learning these skills? From dedicated high school teachers throughout the province, and they are demonstrating their learning at local, regional, and provincial Envirothons.
We’ve had the pleasure of meeting Wioletta Walancik from Second Marsh, who recently hosted the first phase of the Durham Regional Envirothon for high school students. Students rotate through four stations, with each one focused on either forestry, soils, aquatics, or wildlife. The culminating activity requires students to analyze, evaluate, and present a problem based on the Envirothon “Current Environmental Issue of the Year”. Other Ontario Regional Envirothons are currently taking place, as well. This year, we were able to introduce the MyScope to them, which was implemented at the aquatics and soils stations. We also supported the event by donating some MyScope Stick-on lenses for participants. It’s our passion!
Allison Hands and her team from Forests Ontario are working diligently to prepare for the upcoming Ontario Envirothon, which will take place at the end of May/beginning of June in Lindsay, Ontario. They are also preparing for this year’s North American Envirothon, hosted by Trent University at the end of July, at which teams from across Canada and the US will be competing for the coveted title.
Promotion and engagement in these types of valuable programs will educate our next generation of gardeners/horticulturalists/environmentalists. They are the ones, who will completely change our backyard oases into the “naturescapes” they once were and really should be. They will help to exterminate invasive species and bring back the plants native to our region. Their insightfulness will lead to the control of harmful insects and provide us with new and unique ways to fertilize our plants, perhaps using algae from the Great Lakes. We need a different outlook on how we view plants we consider weeds and they will teach us, as well. They understand the importance of wetlands and the impact housing developers have on them when building new subdivisions. They will do things much differently than we do. I only hope it will be sooner than later.