Native Plants for Urban Montreal

Since we bought a country house about a year ago, I’ve become very interested in restoration ecology and planting native plants. Native plants integrate better into the local food web, providing food and shelter for insects and other species they’ve co-evolved with over tens or hundreds of millions of years.

I’ve really liked the books by Douglas Tallamy, such as Bringing Nature Home and Nature’s Best Hope. I especially like the idea of planting natives in home gardens to support the local ecosystem; Tallamy calls the collection of all such gardens Homegrown National Park.

So, I’ve been planting in our yard, tearing out invasive species, and making plans to put in more natives in the spring. One thing I’ve been thinking about, though, is how to do the same thing for our home in Montreal.

Our house is in Plateau Mont-Royal, a mixed residential-commercial borough just northeast of downtown. It’s a two-story home with only a small side yard, but we’ve got balconies, a roof, and big windows. So, I’m wondering: what can I do to put in some native plants and help out our local species?

I asked one of my new favourite podcasts advice. Native Plants, Healthy Planet is put out by Pinelands Nursery in New Jersey which focuses on native plants. They put my question on the air in episode 89 and gave some very detailed recommendations for plants that are native to my area that will do well in pots and planters. Examples: monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot), penstemon hirsutus (hairy beardtongue), and iris versicolor (blue flag iris), the provincial flower of Quebec and one of the flowers in the iris flower data set.

I ordered seeds from Aiglon Indigo, a nursery in Quebec that specialises in native plants. They sell mostly to professional gardeners and landscapers, but their line of seeds named after Brother Marie-Victorin Kirouac has a tonne of local species that are reasonable and affordable.

I’m looking forward to getting my seeds and starting the germination process. Most of them require some time in the cold to wake up, so they won’t go into the ground for another few months. Watch this space for photos.

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