Nature Canada has just announced its 9th annual 2022 Nature Photo Contest.
The goal is to celebrate the plants and animals, landscapes, and nature moments that bring us joy and happiness. According to Nature Canada’s announcement, “Whether you choose to revisit memories, go for a hike or canoe, or simply enjoy discovering what’s hiding in your own backyard, there is so much to see and do in this naturally diverse country we call home”.
“You can submit your best nature photos on Nature Canada’s webpage, Facebook, Twitter
or Instagram using the hashtag #NaturePhotoContest, or by email or mail. The contest will run all summer with entries accepted until August 14, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
You will also have the chance to win some incredible prizes donated by generous sponsors, including a grand prize from Black Feather the Wilderness Adventure Company! Submit your finest photos for a chance to win this stunning four-day canoe trip for two paddling along the historic French River during the 2023 season. With no experience needed, you’ll be able to enjoy the thrill of whitewater canoeing while taking in the breathtaking scenery of the Canadian Shield, a trip valued at over $2,900! Other prize sponsors include: Brome Bird Care, OWL Rafting, 1000 Islands Kayaking, and more!
For more details about the prizes, how to submit your photos, or to view the panel of celebrity judges, please visit the 2022 Nature Photo contest page on our website. Should you have any questions, please contact us at photocontest@naturecanada.
ca or at 1-800-267-4088 ext 231.”
“North Americans have had a longstanding love affair with crisp blades of grass and the perfectly manicured lawns we shape them into. The tidy turf tradition isn’t homegrown though: the concept was hauled across the Atlantic by colonists who maintained lawns in Europe going back to the 17th or 18th century. The growth became a staple of the leisure class who revelled in lawn games like croquet and tennis and turned it into a status symbol, since bringing neatness to nature’s chaos required deep pockets. And so, keeping up with the trim-turfed Joneses began.
Though its shorn blades are a bare-footer’s dream and the smell of it freshly cut may be inseparable from summer nostalgia for many, a pristine lawn comes with a whole whack of taxing environmental impacts.
The fertilizers and pesticides we put on lawns can create runoff that pollutes surrounding bodies of water. In surface waters like lakes and reservoirs, the nitrogen and phosphorus contained in these products can lead to oxygen-choking, light-masking overgrowth of algae and other plants. The monoculture, free of wildflowers, shrubs, dead wood and trees, is also not ideal for wildlife. It provides neither shelter nor nutrition for flittering pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds that help plants reproduce, creating more vegetation — our food.
Lawns also require a huge amount of water to maintain, a mounting concern during increasingly dry summers. And they’re omnipresent in Canada: according to the David Suzuki Foundation, there are approximately 6.2 million lawns across the country.
“[We pour] an obscene amount of drinking water onto our lawns to make them green because they’re the wrong species,” says Jode Roberts, senior strategist at the Foundation. He notes that Kentucky bluegrass, one of the most common commercially available turfgrass species in North America, is a species brought over by colonists.
As a result, Roberts says, our lawns spend a large chunk of the summer on “life support,” browning and dying in peak season because the grass isn’t living in its ideal climate.
There’s indication that we’re taking more interest in our yards, and for at least some, in making them more varied. The run on garden supplies in recent years speaks to the enthusiasm people have for gardening at this time, perhaps driven by spending much more time in their homes over the course of the pandemic. And with heightened environmental concerns, diverse, non-lawn-focused garden landscapes are trending too.
Roberts leads the David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflyway Project, an endeavour that aims to enlist communities to help plant more pollinator-friendly flowers, patches and pathways across Canada. In the spring of 2020, he saw participation in the program increase exponentially. “I think we’re on the edge of a big shift with lawns … seeing it as an ecosystem or habitat rather than just as turf that has a single utility and is kind of an ecological desert,” he said.
Growing native plants is a crucial step in turning our yards into living ecosystems, since they’re the appropriate food source for the critters and pollinators that call them home. Plants tend to grow more easily in their intended environments, and require less care and resources as they sprout, too.
Though many campaigns promoting pollinator-friendly gardening have appeared well-intentioned, not understanding the importance of place has led to flubs. In 2017, General Mills’s Bring Back the Bees campaign distributed a mix of wildflower seeds across the U.S., including seeds from the California poppy that’s classified as an invasive species in some southeastern states, and the forget-me-not that’s banned in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Part of getting better acquainted with our backyards means carefully considering which plants to embrace — and which ones we yank. No Mow May, a campaign created by U.K. conservation charity Plantlife and promoted by the David Suzuki Foundation, encourages people to leave their mowers locked up until spring is done springing. The idea is to give plants often considered weeds a chance to grow, including one tenacious species that’s been the scourge of many lawn-lovers: the bright and multi-talented dandelion.
“There’s this vilification of dandelions historically, and it’s funny [considering] Europeans brought over dandelions because they were medicinal and useful,” said Roberts. “They ate the greens and made tea.”
Aside from adding a pop of yellow to landscapes, dandelions — like their fellow “weeds” burdock and clover — can loosen overly compacted soil with their strong roots. They’re also an important food source for pollinators in early spring when there’s relatively little for them to eat.
Changing the landscape
A landscape solution that addresses many of these concerns is xeriscaping: landscaping with minimal water use in mind. Gardeners will often opt for drought-resistant plants to achieve this aim, as well as indigenous species that will better thrive in their yards. According to supporters of water-wise landscaping, a xeriscaped yard has the potential to cut lawn water consumption in half.
This approach may help reduce runoff too. “The more natural that landscape is … the more likely water is going to be able to soak into that landscape [rather] than rushing off and causing havoc with the local receiving water body,” said Roberts.
A passive approach to our yards can also be a much more environmentally friendly one. In his co-authored book Redesigning the American Lawn, associate dean at the Yale School of the Environment Gordon T. Geballe puts forth the idea of the “Freedom Lawn,” which we don’t water, only mow sporadically, and maintain without pesticides and fertilizers.
“The lawn is designed to do pretty well in a drought situation,” said Geballe. “Grass itself doesn’t have too many diseases. The pesticides you put down aren’t to kill the disease on the grass — [they’re put there] to kill the weeds. There are some animals like grubs, moles and things like that, and so you can get insect pathogens or mammal pathogens, but there’s really no need for the weed pesticide.”
Of course, for those of us accustomed to the traditional lawn, letting the weeds grow may be easier said than done — particularly when we’re looking to impress. But Geballe explains that lawns’ resilience means they’re never far from resuscitation: “If you’re going to sell your house or have a wedding and you want the perfectly green lawn, fine, you can get it any time you want. You just have to — three months before your wedding — apply the pesticides and fertilizers and water, and it will look great, no matter how bad it looked last year.”
Roberts acknowledges that many are still quite attached to the conventional manicured lawn. “It’s a source of status; if you’re not keeping your lawn immaculately trimmed, then you’re a derelict neighbour,” he said. But he also sees a cultural shift happening.
Roberts cites the changing perceptions around milkweed, which was on a noxious weeds list in Ontario until 2013. The tall wildflower that blooms in pink clusters is vital to have along the main monarch migration routes, in rural and urban areas alike. “It’s an essential food source for a butterfly species that was imperiled,” he said. As well, he points to a tangible case of citizen involvement: “Over the course of two or three years, we saw a lot of demand from individuals and also groups that wanted to plant milkweed, and then we saw garden centres and nurseries starting to provide milkweed on their shelves.”
Maybe a little recontextualizing is all we need to do to fully accept our yards’ wild sides. Geballe tells the story of Georgia resident Murray Blum who let his yard go wild to support insect species, many of which are are experiencing alarming declines. Neighbours were instantly displeased that the nearly half-hectare plot stood out from the surrounding neat green. Blum mitigated this problem by putting up a sign stating that his yard was a bird sanctuary, which tempered complaints.
Our impact on landscapes has been massive for millennia, since we started growing crops and shaping environments to fit our needs, permanently changing their courses. Roberts noted that beloved as they are, monarch butterflies would never have made it up to Canada in the first place if European settlers hadn’t cleared massive swaths of forest that turned into the meadows where milkweed bloomed.
Though we moved far to one side of the spectrum with our landscapes, it doesn’t mean we can’t recentre, rewild and do better by doing less. Plus, if a perfect lawn signals something about status, consider that a varied garden offers the opportunity to express our style, values, convictions and more. “In this world where we worry so much about environmental issues, it is fun to have something that’s really under our control,” said Geballe. “Think of your home, the inside and the outside, as where you can express your environmentalism.””
If you saw a gaggle of tea-sipping garden enthusiasts spilling out onto Tattersall Drive Mother’s Day morning, you might have wondered what all the buzz was about.
That’s the day landscape designer and QCHCA member Danee Lambourne (Eden Project) led a Pollinator Plant Walk sponsored by the Community Association’s Climate Action group.
Danee focused participants’ attention on planting perennials, including those found in the boulevard gardens she and neighbours have implemented on her street. Pollinator-friendly gardens are easy to plant and maintain given a little fore knowledge like focusing on perennials, advises Danee. Alongside the many cultured perennials identified were some natives including Mahonia nervosa/Oregon Grape, Ribes sanguineum /Flowering Red Currant, and Kinnikinnick which are considered ideal for the native bees.
We depend on pollinators, including two hundred local native bee species, to pollinate most of the foods we eat yet it is widely acknowledged we are paving over and developing the habitat they require at an unprecedented rate.
Every bit counts, reminded Danee as the group ended its morning stroll in a Camas and Garry Oak outcropping on the Cedar Hill Park trail. If we consider the potential our streetscapes and park paths offer as connecting pollinator flight corridors, why wouldn’t we choose to plant pollinator-friendly plants?
What constitutes a pollinator-friendly garden?
FOOD & WATER. Provide pollen and nectar producing plants that bloom sequentially throughout the entire season, especially native plants.
SHELTER. Include nesting habitat for pollinators like bare soil, dried plant stalks and piles of woody materials.
PESTICIDE-FREE. Make your garden pesticide-free, avoiding even pesticide-treated plants.
And the tea sipping? A cup of garden grown tea and homemade cookies rounded out the convivial gathering along with a native plant prize draw with plants donated by pollinator champion Claudia Copley.
QCHCA’s Climate Action group is investigating ways to increase native habitat for native pollinators in our neighbourhoods. If that is something you’d like to participate in, let us know. firstname.lastname@example.org
Shiny Geranium has spread rapidly in Saanich and is known to be in the QCHCA area in several locations. It is a ‘primary threat’ which means it “threatens species at risk; dominates the under-storey in semi-open and open habitats”. Native to Eurasia, it is a low-growing annual or biennial with 5-petaled pink flowers that grow in pairs on short stems. Leaves are shiny, round to kidney-shaped, with 5 to 7 shallow lobes. Red stems are smooth and grow up to 50cm tall (see photo)
If you find small patches of this very invasive plant on your property, pull it up,
bag it securely, and put it into the garbage (not compost or green bin) before
the seeds disperse.
If you find this plant:
On private lands: email <email@example.com> or call 250.475.5471
On public lands such as boulevards, parks, etc: email <parks@saanich> or call 250.475.5522
For more info on shiny geranium, go to https://www.saanich.ca/assets/Community/Documents/Environment/Shiny_geranium_weed_alert_Mar2020.pdf
For more info on invasive species, go to https://www.saanich.ca/EN/main/community/natural-environment/invasive-species-noxious-weeds-wildlife/invasive-plants.html
Here’s a link from south of the border with more background information and photos regarding this invasive plant.
For those of you who weren’t able to attend Claudia Copley’s wonderful, informative and engaging zoom presentation on April 26, or if you would like to see it again, she graciously allowed us to record it for you https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/
The following is a message from Julie Lommerse, Saanich Parks, re ‘People, Pets and Parks’
“At the July 5, 2021, Special Council Meeting, Saanich Mayor and Council approved the development of a strategy titled People, Pets and Parks: A District Wide Strategy for Sharing Saanich’s Parks. The goal of the strategy is to conduct a transparent, clear and robust public engagement process, resulting in the development of a shared use framework. That framework will allow Saanich and its park users to achieve positive relationships between people (pet owners and non-pet owners) as well as pets and the environment.”
Saanich is” pleased to announce that Lees+Associates are the selected consultants hired to develop the People, Pets and Parks Strategy. Sub-consultants for the project include: Modus Planning, Design and Engagement (public engagement), LADR Landscape Architects (precedent research), and Mustel Group (market research)”
The first round of public engagement will be beginning soon. Engagement opportunities will be advertised “through a variety of channels (Facebook, Saanich News, posters, etc.) but (Saanich) will also update interested individuals via email.” Interested individuals are encouraged “to self-register for updates by visiting the project webpage, or go directly to the signup form.”
For years Karen Yearsley has raised a bit of money for Habitat Acquisition Trust by collecting donations in exchange for tomato plants, but was wanting “to simplify finding homes for the extra seedlings. Last year she learned about the first “Little Free Seed/Plant Exchange” installed over on Beechwood Ave. and it seemed to her like a possible solution and also fun way to contribute to her neighbourhood. A neighbour constructed the basic box for the seeds from her scrap materials, and she painted and installed it and the shelves. She says, “I love the way some days nothing changes and other days there’s a lot of turnover. You never know what will be out there!”
Be sure to drop by to see the little seed/plant exchange and enjoy the opportunity to ‘grow’ community! Thank you, Karen, for this lovely initiative!
Less is more . . .
The list below of actions we can take to help mitigate the effects of climate change is an excerpt from an Elizabeth May newsletter that we thought was worth sharing.
- Lower speed limits significantly
- Expand telework
- Sunday city driving ban
- Support walking, cycling, micro-mobility and public transit
- Internal combustion vehicle alternate day licensing
- Strengthen HOV lane and carpooling programs
- Maximize freight efficiency
- Overnight high speed rail services to replace air travel
- Reduce business travel
- Electrify vehicles and building heat.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller
Interested in volunteering for the BC+55 Games? A Volunteer Awareness Event is being held at Saanich Commonwealth Place on April 30 at 2pm. This is the first time that Greater Victoria will be hosting these games and welcoming an estimated 4000 participants. Please pass on this invitation to anyone you think may want to get involved!
Brenda Taylor, Rowing Olympian, will be the guest speaker.
If you cannot attend but want to volunteer – here’s the online registration link – https://www.bcseniorsgames.net/vic2022. There are volunteer roles for everyone!
‘A Roof for Everyone: GVAT Mini-Workshop on Housing Crisis in Saanich’ is a free event taking place at Broad View United Church, 2625 Arbutus Road, on Saturday, April 23.
The event is organized by First Unitarian, Holy Cross, St. Patrick’s, and Broad View United churches (all GVAT members). The workshop will address housing issues in Saanich and is intended to:
- inform participants of the gap between current and projected housing needs in Saanich, and the available housing supply;
- create understanding of different housing terms (market, affordable, social, supportive, emergency)
- dispel biases and misconceptions about renters and residents of social housing;
- invite participants to imagine inclusive communities and how we can create space for new residents in our communities.
Saanich Councillor Zac de Vries will provide an overview of community housing needs and how the local government plans to address these needs. A Q & A period will follow, after which participants will break into small groups to discuss different questions related to housing and inclusive neighbourhoods. These groups will report back their conclusions to a closing session. The workshop conclusions will provide input to GVAT’s housing campaigns and help inform further public discussion.
Due to the interactive nature of the workshop, the number of participants is limited to 40 in a large and well-ventilated space. We ask that participants wear a mask while in the building. To register, please complete this form:
For further information contact Stephen Tyler: firstname.lastname@example.org