Creating community through native plants

Author suggests planting gardens at local institutions

A good way to start a love affair between the community and native plants is to approach local organizations for permission to garden on their property, says gardening expert Lorraine Johnson.

“Gardening is a partnership with the land, a partnership with other people,” she said. “And gardening is an expression of love to the land.”

Lorraine Johnson, the author of 100 Easy-To-Grow Native Plants For Canadian Gardens, encourages people to get more involved in gardening. (Tiffany Fung)

The author of 100 Easy-To-Grow Native Plants For Canadian Gardens, Johnson recently spoke to other gardening enthusiasts at the S. Walter Stewart Library.

She described native plants as the “ones that evolve thousands of years in the region.” They are plants that originate in a specific area and continue to exist, grow and develop over time.

Native plants come in numerous styles and colours, Johnson said, and many of them grow unique fruits that cannot be purchased from the market. For instance, she mentioned a native plant named pawpaw that produces a “delicious” fruit that looks like mango and tastes like a mixture of banana and pineapple.

As for planting native species at public institutions, Johnson is all for it. She said outdoor gardens have already sprung up at many libraries and noted that other locations, such as Leaside Memorial Community Gardens, would be a good place to establish blooms. In fact, its sunny location would make it perfect for native favourites such as black-eyed Susan, butterfly weed and Culver’s root, she said.

Johnson recommended choosing hardier plants for public institutions to ensure the plants survive harsh weather and traffic.

“There is no harm in opening up that conversation,” she encouraged anyone wanting to approach an organization about starting a garden. “A lot of places are really interested.”

To make their case, would-be gardeners should assure the institution that they’ll be the ones doing most of the work, Johnson said. They could also emphasize the benefits to the community as a whole.

“The act of doing gardening together creates a community,” she said.