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Feeding Nature and the Soul

Jennifer Hodge-Williamson

It has been a wonderful growing season so far. We have had what seems to be the perfect combination of sun and rain. The garden is in its glory. As I look out over mine and those of my neighbours they are awash with pinks, purples, reds, and yellows. The pastels of June have been replaced with the hues of the oncoming Autumn. I find my garden is heavily planted with flowers that support the nutritional needs of bees, birds and butterflies especially at a time when nesting has ended and the instincts of migration and hibernation are kicking in. Our gardens still need to support the natural food chain which will in turn ensure healthy populations in the spring.

I have been progressively adding native plant species to the cornucopia of ornamental flowers in my garden. There are so many worthy and beautiful plants indigenous to our region, province and country that can provide interest and beauty and they have developed balanced relationships with our native fauna over millennia. I’ve been out educating myself and others and explaining that every garden has room for a native plant or two or ten and when everyone grows some, a type of pollinator corridor is created which connects feast to feast and reduces the distance and energy required to forage. I’m not a native plant purist and know that many cultivated plants also provide good food sources and support biodiversity. I’m not opposed to growing a few plants that feed your soul because of their beauty or design, but in my opinion the majority of the garden should be devoted to attracting and nourishing pollinators - bees, butterflies, moths, bats, birds, beetles, flies and yes, wasps. One of the best ways to know what plants work is through observation and research. There are lots of active groups out there who can put you into the right direction for the right plant and you might consider booking a horticultural expert for a consultation (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) who can fast-track the selection of the right plants for your space.

Approach gardening with a yearning to learn, a child’s sense of excitement and joyful abandon. As I watch a myriad of bees and other winged creatures feed from Phlox paniculata, Veronicastrum virginicum, side by side with Agastache foeniculum and multiple incarnations of Echinacea, there is no doubt in my mind that as you expand your knowledge and you see wildlife visiting beneficial plants through something you created, you will not only have achieved the provision of the crucial nourishment that they need, but I think you will also find a nourishment within yourself that maybe you didn’t know that you needed too.

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