Leaside Garden Society welcomes native plant planter

Gardening enthusiasts politely jockeyed for seats at last month’s Leaside Garden Society meeting — held at the Leaside branch of the Toronto Public Library.

April’s meeting is often a full house; members jokingly call it the “clipboard meeting” because of all the volunteer recruiting that takes place. Volunteers are needed for the Gardens of Distinction Awards, an initiative started last year to help recognize outstanding  gardens in the community. They’re also needed for the plant sale that helps fundraise for the society.

A majority of this particular meeting, however, was dedicated to a guest lecture on “native plants” by Paul LaPorte, owner of Ephemeral Ark Nursery.

“Holes in your plants… that’s awesome,” LaPorte said confidently. Of course, he was referring to the holes left in leaves in “native plants” that are from caterpillars, bees, or other insects thriving from them. Native plants are ones that are considered indigenous to the area — something that LaPorte said is actually hard to empiricize. But one thing is for sure, he said: There is no biodiversity without these plants. Insects need them to pollinate or they will disappear. And without insects, small critters such as birds and squirrels might start disappearing. So he strongly encourages planting native in your own garden to help mitigate the broad environmental damage that’s already been done in the 21st century city.

He said native plants require a lot of patience. They take two to three years to grow from seed. He was referring to trilliums (which, he added, can be bought and planted in private gardens — contrary to popular belief) as well as asters, hepatica and others.

LaPorte said he is a “100 per cent purist,” meaning he only plants native plants in his own garden. He showed pictures of his own backyard to illustrate how native plant gardens don’t have to appear disorganized. Excited murmurs filled the room as LaPorte announced that he had even brought some native plants for members to invest in, as they are harder to get hold of than more conventional — and as LaPorte calls them, “environmentally useless” — plants.

The next Leaside Garden Society meeting is this Thursday, May 14.