Saturday, February 20, 2016

Toronto's Invader: Phragmites australis

I was driving through my old 'hood this afternoon (northern Etobicoke), when I was distracted by a roadside invader that has caused a visual barrier that never used to be there. As a teen, I used to cross this roadway to reach to the other side.  Now I can barely see what lies beyond the reed grass growing in this spot. I can't imagine what it would look like in summer. No pruning gets done here. New spring growth will eventually weave through this winter thatch.

 I can't get over, how in the last 5 years, this invader has taken over.

Phragmites australis is a native to Eurasia and seems to be unstoppable.

Ah...excuse me Toronto, we have a problem. Southern Ontario, we have a MAJOR problem.

Within a 500 meter walking distance, the familiar Bullrushes /Cattails I used to collect as a kid still survive. Just barely, that is.

Not the most attractive photo due to the time of year, but this Cattail (Typha latifolia) was original to this roadside ditch. The area just north of this commercial landscape is 1km south of the northern branch of the Humber River.

It naturally migrated down south from the river and has done a marvellous job of reducing stagnant water ways along these ditches.  I can remember running my fingers over the reeds for a lengthy distance.

I would always be amazed when watching so many birds take the fuzzy seed heads and make spring nests for their egg laying, given it's right next to a busy roadside. I am glad they still remain. But for how much longer?

This 500 meter stretch has more Phragmites than Typha. So sad.

It's not a bad looking grass. But look at the size of it!

It towers over my head by at least another 3 feet.

My greatest worry: the Humber River is just 1km north. The Toronto Regional Conservation Authority has confirmed it has reached the rivers' ecosystem already. This is the greatest concern for me. Phragmites has such an aggressive root system that can overtake native species rather quickly. It is a true bully: by releasing a toxic by-product at the root level, which hampers the growth of native plants trying to compete. People - this is a huge ecological factor to our wetlands and native flora and fauna. Please read up on how invasive this plant  is here ---> Ontario's Invading Species Awareness website. There you will find ways to hamper its spread.

If you own property, and you notice this plant, please do your best to keep it at bay or to remove it entirely from your land.  

I've seen folks cutting some of the flower plumes to take indoors. Just know, when doing so you might be the catalyst in bringing hundreds of seeds, possibly spreading this bully to your neck of the woods. Be wise.

Here are practical ways to help control this invader:  Ontario Phragmites Working Group .

Thursday, February 04, 2016

What's happening to Horticulture as a trade?

I'm at a loss. I'm trying to figure out what is happening to the vocation of horticulture.

Attending Landscape Ontario Congress this past January, I specifically stopped to look at the horticulture job postings, even though I was not interested in changing my current position.  I like to get a scope of what sort of trends are happening within horticultural employment.

Perhaps it was a bit sparse at that time of year, but for me, it seemed too meagre in comparison to all the, landscaper forepersons,  landscape team member,  landscape maintenance worker positions posted. I was hard pressed to find many 'Horticulturist' or 'Gardener' postings at all.

Why is this happening?

I get the whole - bring the inside out, for the 'outdoor living' aspect of landscape trends. Yet, the distinct absence in trained, qualified horticulturists is quite alarming for me. Especially since I lead a team of what I hope will be "knowledgable" staff year to year.

I can't help but think that North Americans are using the term landscaper too much. To me, the word 'landscaper' encompasses too broad a term when dealing with our outdoor spaces. It's been widely adopted, because the various vocations concerning the installation and maintenance of gardens outdoors can be limiting to earning a consistent living. That's my estimation, anyway. If I were to say I was a landscaper to a client, I then could add to my list of abilities outside of gardening: turf maintenance, carpentry, masonry, etc... possibly snagging more than one job.

Yet, aren't we hurting horticulture and the other trades by hiring "landscapers"? Aren't we losing horticultural trades distinction by not hiring hopeful apprentices? Any one with a gas powered hedge trimmer or string trimmer is getting hort based jobs now. Anyone claiming they have "gardening" experience are getting the horticulture jobs out there.

When trying to explain to strangers, what it is that I do for a living, many people cock their heads to one side when I say I am a horticulturist. I have to break it down that I grow plant material and tend to gardens.

If I were to say I am a horticulturist in the UK or Europe, most people would nod in understanding. Here, it's a sad state of having to explain oneself all the time.

Hmmm. You don't see Stone Masons or Carpenters or Arborists losing their niche. They have certification, or have apprenticed for many years to develop their skill. The proof is in the pudding. Well so do horticulturists.

Please, the next time you seek gardening maintenance, invest in Horticulturists. Invest in those of us who have been educated in horticulture and deserve a good living at it. Invest in the future of horticulture. Get more bang for your buck because of those of us that LOVE and respect horticulture as a true trade. We know how to manage your gardens properly. Reduce the need for landscapers who can do any job on the cheap. Allow us to make your outdoor living spaces thrive!

Rant is over.
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