Invoking the memory of wildness

One of my favourite ecological thinkers, Benjamin Vogt, has written a beautiful piece that describes perfectly how and why my own style of gardening has changed and matured. I may never completely banish non-native beauties from my garden, but this quote resonates keenly:

A garden will never be wild, and the best it can do is echo or invoke the memory of what wildness is in our world of shrinking pollinators, songbirds, grasslands, and clean water. But every time I grow a native seedling – a Liatris, goldenrod, aster, or milkweed – I know something more: that my slow work in transforming my garden into an all native garden is a protest. It is a protest to all the ways in which we use this world and know are ethically wrong. For me, my garden has become a moral imperative, just as so much human art has been.

Read, and bookmarked for safekeeping, Benjamin. Well said.

The Ethics of Native Plant Gardening


My Bee Hotel experiment worked!

I was bored one day this past spring and to entertain myself, I drilled holes all over the tall stump of a dead plum tree. I was curious to see whether my makeshift “bee hotel” would attract solitary bees.

I happened to wander by this morning and behold, inhabitants! The only holes that are occupied are on the east and south sides, which makes sense. Those are the sides that warm up fastest in the morning.

I don’t think they’re bees, though. They look like wasps to me, but I’m not an entomologist. Know any entomologists?

Like mother gardener, like daughter gardener

This is me being ambushed by the paparazzi rector at St. Alban’s church in Glen Williams last weekend. I had been gardening in the rain around the church (best time to plant, IMHO) and I was lookin’ mighty fine.

muddymeAnd this is my mom in 1961, a year before I was born. That’s her legendary rock garden in Fulford, Quebec. Apparently my maternal grandmother, who died when I was two, was also a gardener. I actually have some of her peonies and irises growing in my garden; they’ve travelled over the years from the Saint John River valley in New Brunswick to Montreal to Kitchener to here.

Anyway, I guess when it comes to gardening, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Ok, back outside with Turbo. It’s a beautiful Saturday and I have the entire glorious weekend all to myself to work in my own garden. Yay!

The silence of frogs and my June 6th Garden

After all that racket I wrote about a couple of nights ago, now the tree frogs have gone completely silent. I guess the party is over and they’ve all found their mates. Either that or there’s been some kind of tree frog apocalypse.

The garden is taking a blooming break right now, but it’ll burst back into action again soon. Until then, here’s a look at my June 6th garden.

Dancing with Snapping Turtles

I’m showing you this photo of a Snapping Turtle, but the picture that should have been taken was me, in my high heels and skirt, picking it up and carrying it to my car while it peed on me.

Here’s what happened.

I was on my way home from work this evening when my drive up busy Highway 7 was interrupted by a car stopped in the right lane. As I steered around it I saw the hold-up: A man was on the road in front of the stopped car, and was prodding a big snapping turtle with a window scraper to try to move it along.

This was the moment the skills I learned (specifically, how to pick up a Snapping Turtle named “Jaws”) at a reptile workshop in January 2014 paid off.

I pulled over, jumped out, ran over to the duelling pair in wobbly high heels, and cried, “Stop! I can help!”. The turtle was living up to its name and had a firm grip on the end of the scraper. I asked the man, a very kind off-duty police officer, which direction the turtle had been headed and told him that it was probably a female looking for a place to lay her eggs. The man told me he didn’t know, it had been upside down on the road; he asked me to try to stop it from going back on the road while he went to find a shovel.

Not being one to take direction well when I can go one better, I moved to get behind the turtle. Snapping Turtles can’t retract their heads into their shell, so their necks are just long enough to protect their back legs. If I could just get behind it, I could grab its hind legs and “wheelbarrow” it… somewhere. First I had a gentle word with the prehistoric-looking creature, we stared each other in the eye and I said, “I’m not trying to hurt you, you poor thing”. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I swear the turtle calmed down a bit. Either that or it was judging the distance to my nose.The snapper was a good dancer, and every time I moved she swivelled to face me.I finally used the scraper to block her turn and I moved behind her, got hold of one leg and quickly thought, “screw that” to the wheelbarrow plan. She was wiggling and kicking and snapping and so I reached a flat hand under her tail and picked her up under the belly. She stopped fighting as soon as she was off the ground and just as the startled man arrived back with a shovel and a blue recycling box.

IMG_1882We inspected her for injuries (none found), and walked a short distance with the big turtle balanced between my hands to try to find a safe place to put her. Rubberneckers were having a good long look at the, um, unusual sight. I quickly decided that there wasn’t a safe place nearby to release her, so the kind man and I put her in the box, loaded her in my car, and took her to Silvercreek to let her go. We both took pictures of her (see above) before she slipped away, and the man told me that if he’d known I was going to pick her up he would have had his camera handy. Too bad. Frilly shirt, long skirt, high heels, and a snapping turtle. One of my better looks and worth recording for posterity, to be sure.

P.S. I was reminded to mention that if you find a Snapping Turtle on the road, help it safely reach the direction it wants to go. In this case the direction was across a busy highway, so relocation was a better option than another dead turtle.

Snapping Turtles are a species of special concern and can live as long as 70 years. In Ontario, females do not begin to breed until they are 17 to 19 years old which is why the death of just one turtle is a serious loss. Learn more about Snapping Turtles at Ontario Nature.

Look who’s knocking at my door: A tree frog

Gray Tree Frog
Gray Tree Frog

Usually it’s the dog that wants in, and Turbo takes exactly the same dramatic pose when it’s dinnertime and the door is between her and her food bowl. Mr. Tree Frog seems to have caught a moth between the door glass and his body, what’s he going to do – crush it to death?

He seems to be looking for food and for love, and not in that order. There are 3 or 4 of them outside in the garden, all making quite a racket. A lovely, summertime, racket.



Learn more about Gray Tree Frogs at Ontario Nature.