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If You Grow It, They Will Come

Toronto’s (un)Official Bee, a Bicoloured Agapostemon.

Such an interesting gardening season for me this year — my eye changed again. When I began eleven years ago, it was about aesthetics (making a neglected place “look” better); then, I gradually added edibles into the mix. For many seasons, I focused on exploring and growing fruits and vegetables which are also ornamental. I still care about these elements, but after this year, it doesn’t mean much to me if my garden is not attractive to native wildlife, too. After all, it’s their home. After some research, I focused on adding native plants that offer a succession of blooms for pollinators. So easy to do! For example, the goldenrods and asters are full of different bees — hundreds of them — today. They seed themselves, and if I object to their location, they are easily pulled. I must have watched the bees (including these green ones) for forty minutes yesterday, and I felt like I was transported to another world.

I think I’ve experienced a gradual transition from eye to heart along the way. I still appreciate a visually appealing garden, but without plants for pollinators and berries for birds, I don’t feel very much. I see tweaks, instead — places where wildlife-friendly plants and habitat could be swapped into the design. Otherwise, it feels dead to me, even though the plants are very much alive. We need to consider and discuss the life supported by a garden as thoroughly as we discuss colour, shape, and texture.

You may think you’re growing plants to beautify the neighbourhood or up your curb appeal, but you will grow, too. Gardens teach, heal, and feed on many levels; they have a quiet, sneaky way that grows people, as well as plants. When I first started gardening and building the soil, I found it literally “grounding” — not an insignificant benefit, if you live in a large city.  Then, when I began growing fresh, healthy food, I felt nourished in ways I hadn’t before. Now, watching the land come to life with insects and birds, I feel connection. If you grow it (or just get out of the way and let nature take over a little), they will come.

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