Monday, August 21, 2006

Native Plant Geek

I discovered this weekend that I am a native plant geek. I've taken an online nerd test before and actually registered as barely nerdy at all (which is just fine with me because I've always figured Dave is the real nerd in the family) but native plants were not on the exam. The evidence is in the following conversations while on a garden tour put on by the Waterloo-Wellington Wildflower Society.

A man, fingering the leaves of a small tree, "I think this is a cornus."

Me: "Yes, it's cornus alternifolia."

Him: "I have a cornus florida. It's a little more rare than cornus alternifolia."

Me: "Wow, they're really pretty."

Then later, with two women:

Them: "Do you know what those small trees with the big leaves are?"

Me: "Yes they're pawpaws, in the banana family. They're the only tree in the banana family that are native to Ontario and the fruits are edible." (Sadly, I couldn't remember the latin name but I have known it in the past - I blame the baby brain aka dumb mum.)

And in another garden, with the owner:

Her: "The black-eyed susans are stunning but I don't what these are."

Me: "It's rudbeckia triloba. But I don't know that one."

Anyways, just in case anyone's interested, the tour provided great inspiration. The first garden was nice but had lots of non-native plants, which don't do much for me. The next garden was in a huge backyard with large oak trees and belonged to someone who shares my passion for native plants. There were many native shrubs and she'd even gone to the trouble of labelling many of the plants. Being a native plant geek, I especially pleased that she even included the latin names. The best discovery was her black elderberry, a large shrub in full sun with beautiful clusters of shiny black berries... now I just need to figure out where to plant one in my yard.

The third garden belonged to Henry Kock, a U of Guelph professor, eco-activist, key player at the university's arboretum and all-round character. Unfortunately, he passed away this past Christmas but volunteers have been maintaining his garden, Hotel of the Trees, in his absence. He has a great collection of unusual native and non-native trees. This garden had a sign reminding me of the arboretum's plant sale, so I've gotten a catalogue and am planning my purchases.

I may have to talk about some of my favourite native plants on this blog in the future...

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