When I moved to my current century home in rural Southwestern Ontario eight years ago, I was well versed in the plights and needs of our pollinators. Having created and tended gardens most of my adult life, I most often planted with them in mind and I welcomed any and all insect life with a childlike joy. What is more wonderful than watching butterflies dance around the flowers you have chosen for them? If a garden has fairies, it is surely the butterflies. But I certainly noticed that they no longer came in the numbers of my youth. I became an advocate for the Monarchs and the Bees. I manned information tents at local events and spoke to nearby horticultural societies. I painted a series of three pollinators; Monarch, Bumblebee and Ladybug, and I made these into notecards and t-shirts, which I sold to raise money for plants which I would donate to local seniors' residences to attract insects from which they might derive some enjoyment. I joined a butterfly gardening group and became a pod ambassador, caretaker and Monarch butterfly tagger. When I shared my knowledge with others I felt a flame burning within me. Each spring I catch myself holding my breath as I follow the Monarch migration news online. I celebrate when numbers are up, and cry when they decline. The Monarch is endangered. There is no doubt. In fact, this year has been seriously concerning for many, many insects of all kinds. Numbers are down noticeably.
Seven years ago I started my own gardening company. I had sat at a desk as a medical transcriptionist for over 30 years and I needed some kind of change. Our newest home had gifted me with an English style cottage garden and I reveled in the time I spent deadheading and observing. One evening after spending the entire day puttering, I went into the house and stated to my husband that "I'm happiest when I'm in my garden. Maybe I can do this for other people." That statement transpired into a revelation and a solid eight weeks of full-time work in other peoples' gardens. I knew I had found my purpose in life.
The speed with which this all happened, once realized, was dizzying. It just felt right. As I developed my organic methods within my own garden, so too did I utilize them in those of my clients. I was now in a real position to influence how people gardened and what they planted, and how each garden could add to the bigger picture in helping pollinators and promoting eco-friendliness. I wanted to be absolutely sure I was leading and learning by example so I enrolled in the Horticulture program through the University of Guelph's online studies program. By working through the days and studying at night, I obtained my Diploma in Horticulture with Distinction, an achievement of which I am very proud. With peers and mentors as my measurement, I now bring a bona fide confidence to my business.
I have followed, with great interest, the creation of pollinator corridors by Pollination Guelph just over an hour to the south of where I live and have read the words of Doug Tallamy, guru to the natural world. Conservation and sustainability of the lives of the creatures around us begins in our own back yards. We can live in harmony with wildlife. We can make our gardens beautiful by incorporating native plants most suitable for our birds and insects. We can strengthen the ecological chain...of which we are not only the most destructive part, but also that which can make the biggest difference.
This is my goal, my passion, my responsibility; as it is yours. I am here to educate, to guide, and to walk gently on this Earth.
I am a gardener. I am a photographer. I am an artist. I am a writer. I am an eco-warrior - and I hope I can bring you to the bright side because "Nature's Best Hope" (Doug Tallamy) - is us.
I'll leave you with this last note for now. There are times when being an eco-warrior is disheartening. There are times when it is overwhelming. Just when you don't think anyone is listening, you are presented with a gift which proves they are. Last summer I worked for a landscape company before deciding my place was better served in my own company. It was very difficult for me to grasp the concept of destroying nature to improve 'nature' in the minds of human-beings. One morning I arrived to work and a younger employee came running to me with a Monarch butterfly he had found sitting outside the shop door. He said "they told me to bring it to you and that you'd know what to do with it." I wasn't aware that they knew I was a butterfly wizard. So, I took the butterfly and proceeded to explain that 'she' would be the generation heading to Mexico, how she'd get there, how I knew it was a'she', and so on. My manager walked out to see me educating eight or so of the crew who were asking questions about butterflies and listening intently. It all made me feel pretty darn good and was not only the highlight of my entire time with that company, but probably one of the most important moments in my entire life. One garden at a time. One question at a time. Never let the opportunity pass you by. You just never know whose world you might be changing.
The photograph of the Monarch is one of mine.