Plants: The energy converters for the terrestrial, solar powered ecosystem.

Photosynthesis forms the basis of the food chain, converting solar energy into the energy that, stored as carbohydrates, feeds all of the other layers of the ecosystem. From hosting nitrogen fixing bacteria all the way up the food chain to carnivores, plants provide the carbohydrates that power the system. Plants manufacture soils, modify climates, store water and nutrients, cultivate and modify soil biology and form complex, interdependent relationships with fungi, bacteria, pollinators, grazers and a range of seed dispersers including insects and birds.

When we work with plants, the species we choose, where we source them, what we plant them with and how we care for them will affect the local and regional and global environment.

They are also beautiful, useful and fascinating to humans and incorporating them into our urban spaces helps to make happier, calmer and healthier and frames our experience of being outdoors.

Penstemon hirsutus

Regenerative Planting Practices:

  • Covering the site with plant material in three or more layers, including a ground cover layer that protects soil and soil life.
  • Planting a diversity of species
  • Selecting species and varieties adapted to the site conditions
  • Including plants that provide food and habitat for native species
  • Producing plants locally, from regionally adapted, genetically diverse seeds or source plants
  • Planting primarily perennial species, which require fewer inputs while increasing soil carbon

Degenerative Planting Practices:

  • Planting or distribution of species known to be prone to invasive behaviour in native ecosystems.
  • Incautious introduction of species likely to become invasive.
  • Planting in monocultures
  • Extensive annual plantings which require regular soil disturbance
  • Plant spacing that results in bare soil when not appropriate (such as in arid climates)
  • Plant combinations that do not provide habitat or food for native species.
Rudbeckia triloba

Livelihoods in working with plants:

  • Designing garden that support the lifecycles of specific insect or other threatened species
  • Designing gardens that feed or otherwise support humans -displacing  other, less sustainable sources of products
  • Creating gardens using local plants and materials and biologically sound soil management practices
  • Providing ecosystem focused landscape maintenance
  • Coaching people transitioning to organic and regenerative practices
  • Collecting and selling seeds from regionally native plants
  • Producing seed of locally adapted edible and ornamental plants 
  • Producing and propagating plants for the local market, especially:
    • Field grown perennials, trees and shrubs
    • Native plants
    • Perennial edibles
    • Edible ornamental plants

monarda didyma

Information and online resources

Plants and People

Healing nature and ourselves through gratitude and action. A lovely article by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Why 'plant blindness' matters - and what you can do about it

Weeding, writing and arithmetic… why green fingers are good for our children Guardian article on the importance of getting children back in to the garden.

Green therapy: how gardening is helping to fight depression 

Healthy Food

NY Times article on Seed ownership

Breeding the heirloom plants of tomorrow

Research has found that organically grown apples have more diverse surface biology and and measurable difference in flavour from apples grown using conventional pesticide and fertilizer regimes.

Replacing chemical pest control with strips of wildflowers

A free discussion guide from the creators of 'Seed, the Untold Story'

A video of a highly productive suburban yard


All the things a tree does in urban landscapes: (Video)

Indigenous forest management increases, rather than decreases, ecosystem productivity

A soil calculator and native tree species guide developed to help improve tree planting success in Ontario and Alberta

A video on relieving deep soil compaction prior to tree planting (this was identified as the most significant factor in success or failure of tree planting along highways) 

Diverse forests store twice as much carbon as monocultures 

There is a Forgotten Solution to Climate Change That We Must Invest In – Nature

Lawns / Replacing Lawns

To Nurture Nature, Neglect Your Lawn: Why poison the earth when you can have wildflowers at your feet and songbirds in your trees without even trying? 

Reduce your lawn 

Make Meadows not lawns

Why Lawns are not Sustainable in Ecosystem Gardening

Give Your Yard Back to Nature

Planting a Wildflower Meadow? Site Preparation Comes First!

Plants, insects and other life

Supporting the non bee pollinators on our landscapes

A design guide for street side pollinator gardens (Google drive document)

Video on importance of native plants to insects

What All the Affection for Monarch Butterflies Misses A thoughtful article about over simplifying our efforts to protect and preserve 'nature'

Give Your Yard Back to Nature

Bringing Nature Home - Regional native plant lists

Why Canada's urban spaces are critical for endangered species

Do nativars (cultivated selections of native plants) support native leaf eaters?

Pollinator Garden Plants and Practices - article on the intricate relationship between native plants and insects

Saving pollinators also saves money and reduces fossil fuel consumption

A look at the intricate relationship between plants and pollinators

Plants Can Hear Animals Using Their Flowers, And they react to the buzzing of pollinators by sweetening their nectar

Urban nature: What kinds of plants and wildlife flourish in cities?

Specialist Bees Need Special Plants

Native Plants

Ecozones and Regions of Canada interactive map

Ontario's Ecozones and regions

An interesting visualization of the similarity and differences in plant species between regions

Tracking Phenological change as climate changes

An extensive, searchable photo library of plants native to the north east forest 

Reintroducing native plants to abandoned urban lots 

Amazing diversity in limited spaces 

A nursery guide to propagating native plants (ebook sold through kobo)

Invasive species

Wikipedia list of invasive species in North America 

Ontario's invasive species act

How a popular landscape plant became an aggressive invasive species 

Groups and Organizations

North American Native Plant Society, committed to preserving native plant habitat in wild areas and restoring indigenous flora to developed areas.

Seeds of Diversity seed savers from coast to coast who protect Canada's seed biodiversity by growing it ourselves and sharing it with others.

Alberta Native Plant Council

The Native Plant Study Group (NPSG) is dedicated to learning about BC native plants as wild populations and in garden settings, and supporting the conservation and their habitats.

The Ontario Invasive Plant Council (OIPC) is a non-profit organization founded in April 2007 by a group of individuals and organizational representatives who saw the need for a coordinated provincial response to the growing threat of invasive plants.

Gaia College offers online and classroom education on organic land care and related skills. 

Sustainable Landscaping Initiative Vancouver is a non-profit organization created by landscapers, which strives to improve industry sustainability.

Ecological Landscape Alliance "Advocating for responsible stewardship of land and natural resources in landscaping and horticultural practices." Based in the north eastern United States but with an extensive catalog of articles and online and recorded seminars available to members.

I Naturalist Connect with Nature Explore and share your observations from the natural world.  

Aquilegia canadensis

Canadian Society for Organic Urban Land Care (SOUL)
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