The Following articles were originally published on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens website.
Tree Debris (Pt. I) covered some of the devastation as a result of a widespread ice storm that engulfed the Greater Toronto Area in December 2013. Imagine the city canopy as an open canopy; dysfunctional forest; forcing trees into artificial design (construct) and expecting them to behave as if they are in a confined area (forest) which would produce a closed canopy; but we’ve released the pressure to stay confined by planting them on road edges or in the open without others around
In the wake of the ice storm of December 2013, it was reported that Toronto lost about 20% of its tree canopy. That was the figure that was bandied about, yet it might as well have been pulled from the same thin, wintery air we’ve been breathing up here for what seems like eternity. It will be many more months, if not years, before we get a handle on how devastating the ice storm was to our green infrastructure.
We were warned. We knew it was coming. The winter solstice fell on December 21, 2013. And then winter welcomed us with a wallop in the form of an ice storm of unprecedented magnitude not seen in this area in recorded history. Ice storms are rare in southern Ontario. Two to four hours of freezing rain at a time, mounting to 17 hours of freezing rain over several days is an example of a typical ice storm. But forty hours plus of freezing rain in one big event? It sounds dramatic.
This past summer (2013), it was with heavy heart I said goodbye to another green space in Toronto – The Back Campus field at the University of Toronto, where I studied and now work. It was a pastoral setting amongst heritage buildings and old English elms. It was an integral part of the university commons.
Something didn’t feel right this spring of 2013. It was funky weather; rainy and cool. I didn’t feel in the mood to grow vegetables as I have done since moving into the house in 2003. I was feeling pissy, just like the weather. The pile of frustrations of too much work and not enough time to do everything that I needed or wanted to do was making me harried. The thought of the task ahead to shop for plants and maintain a veggie garden was too daunting.
What is that? What is a North American garden? It’s not an English garden, European garden or Japanese garden. Although, it doesn’t mean that it can’t look like one of these types, but with the use of native species. I’ve seen cold-hardy, honey locust pruned to look like acacia trees in the African Savannah of the Toronto Zoo.
The ABC set of descriptors are synonymous with invasive species. Invasive species are very successful exotics, i.e., colonizers that have been for the most part released of what keeps them in check. They are damaging to the environment. But the ABCs could also be easily ascribed to a number of native species, too. And it is those species that we have to be careful about when gardening, particularly in a small garden on the boulevard. It really pays to research what you introduce and invite to stay as a resident in your garden.
I’m conflicted. Everything about the Norway maple (Acer platanoides) points to it being a blight on the landscape. It’s invasive; taking over our ravines and crowding out native species. It is not a multi-purpose tree. True – it gives shade, produces oxygen, filters the air, and mitigates stormwater. But, it doesn’t host any insect parties. From what I’ve seen, it’s only good for aphids and tar spot fungus (Rhytisma acerinum).
There has always been an age-old issue of conflicts between humans and wildlife; us against them. In the past, we got rid of the “problem” swiftly but with little thought as to the long term consequences. Now, we have expanded and concentrated our population to the point that we are noticing the impacts. We have realized that resources are finite and we have to take into consideration the other surviving inhabitants around us who also rely on the same resources.