Category Archive : Native Plants

In Ontario, there are 35 static seed zones. These were established to ensure that planting stock was climatically adapted to the region of planting. This supported the approach of ‘ local is best ‘ where locally adapted seeds would be more acclimatized to the site. Recommended distances were no more than 50 kilometers from the parent stand and, if possible, less than 30 kilometers.

What is strikingly clear is that static provenances are no longer valid with a changing climate. Climatic envelopes, areas of suitable climatic habitat for tree species, are shifting north. This change will be ongoing and unrelenting. It is this unrelenting change that has us paralyzed.

So what are some issues concerning assisted migration? It is the intent of assisted migration to push seed provenances north or even introduce new species north and accomplish climatic adaptation in 1 generation in what would have taken nature several generations to achieve. One of the biggest risks of planting stock north of its current zone, is freezing damage. Natural selection has resulted in species aligning their growing cycles to avoid damage from late spring and early fall frosts. Events such as breaking dormancy, bud burst and flowering are carefully timed for tree species adapted to a local environment.

On an even larger scale, we could be mismatching tree species to photo period. By moving seed sources north, species are no longer matched to local day length. Longer photo periods experienced at more northerly latitudes may cause trees to be more susceptible to all frosts. By mid century, it is estimated that most of Ontario’s tree species will have to move 400 to 600 kilometers north to keep withing their climatic envelopes. This will, indeed, cause mismatching of tree species to photo period.

We have decided, at Bee Sweet Nature, to take the plunge. We will be launching an assisted migration program. A huge undertaking but we have always been committed to a sustainable environment and forests. Now the hard work begins where we build the program and try to introduce it to our clients and general public.

Every tree, shrub and wildflower has its own unique formula for germination.  It is up to us, as growers, to understand their uniqueness and simulate these requirements.  Some plants have very complex germination requirements while others are, relatively, simple.  Each germination inhibitor must be removed, in order, so that seeds may sprout.

Most seeds need a period of warm followed by a period of cold stratification.  These periods of warm and cold simulate nature’s winters and springs.  Some seeds may also need to get scarified.  This means we need to scar the dense seed coat so that water can get inside the seed and initiate germination.  Without water, no germination will ever occur.  In nature, the scarification would occur as the seed passes through the digestive tract of a bird or mammal and the gastric juices would pit the seed.

It always feels like spring is around the corner once we start moving stored seeds and nuts to their next phase of germination.  Right now, many seeds are being moved into refrigeration awaiting the beginning of spring.

Last year, in May 2016, we talked about a very special tree on site. Our American Beech tree had been recognized and protected by Trees Ontario as a Heritage Tree. It stands by the House of Dove as it has stood for the last 100 years. Trees of this age have unique genetics in that their longevity shows a resistance to disease, climate change, pollution and have grit to survive whatever Mother Nature dishes out.

We have waited 7 years for this tree to produce fruit and, finally, this is the year. After every wind or rain event I visit the tree and collect the seeds laying about on the ground and fight off the squirrels and chipmunks trying to collect seed for their winter stashes. We want to collect as many seeds as possible since, it seems, that we can only harvest every 7 years. Soon the seeds will be processed and next year a new wave of American Beech will germinate carrying the genetics of this beautiful heritage tree forward. Something worth celebrating.

This is the year we are readjusting our mindset, at the nursery, in regards to what we thought were valuable additions to the landscape. Many trees and shrubs that we believed to be of little or no value are now getting a second chance. Turns out it is all in the eye of the beholder. What is no worth to someone is someone else s gold.

We had blindly listened to opinions stating trees such as poplar and hawthorn were garbage trees and not worth planting. But, you know, these opinions were based 40 years ago and our southern Ontario landscape and the environment has changed greatly. Now when I take a second look at the hawthorn I see a tree ready-made for disturbed soil locations, abandoned hayfields, and hot, open lots. They tolerate no shade and are perfectly suited to our present-day environment. As a pioneer, and restoration species, it is at the top of the list.

In North America, we have a vast variety of hawthorn. Unfortunately, since tIn North America, we have a vast variety of hawthorn. Unfortunately, since this is not a sought after species, most of the varieties are not found at nurseries. That spurred us on to conduct a survey to find local, wild hawthorns. So far, we have tentatively identified 5 varieties and will have to wait until the Fall to verify our findings. The fruit will definitively determine the varieties.

Trees invoke feelings deep inside of us.  Have you ever felt how quiet a forest feels; almost like standing in an empty, quiet church.  Or sometimes we feel sad when we plant a tree for a deceased loved one in an arboretum.

Northern Catalpa Tree
Northern Catalpa Tree

We have memorial trees, here, but they make us smile and relive fun moments with loved ones.  One such tree is our beautiful northern Catalpa.  Every summer when she blooms we remember Grandpa Bill and smile and recount the story as we have coffee admiring the blooms.

Twenty years ago, Grandpa Bill, had an oddly shaped Catalpa in the backyard.  Every year his wife would shout at him to chain saw down that misshapen tree but Bill would say, ‘ Look how beautiful it is blooming.  Let’s wait till it has finished flowering before we saw it down.’   Of course, it got too hot then and maybe we should wait till the fall to chop it down.

This went on for many years and the tree still remains in the backyard – misshapen.  Bill passed away and before the house and property were sold we dug up some baby Catalpa and transferred them to our house.  4 are placed all around the house and when they bloom his grandchildren remember Grandpa and his Catalpa.  There are no tears just smiles as we retell the story.  The story never seems to get old.

So you see, memorial trees need not be a sad affair.  I think they can remind us of loved ones; it is up to us what feelings the tree will invoke.

We started growing this tree many years ago because its large, white, showy flowers was an obvious pollinator magnet.  Afterwards, the bright, red berries are eaten by over 50 species of birds and small animals.

Adult Flowering Dogwood
Adult Flowering Dogwood

Unfortunately, fate has not been kind to this small native tree of North America.  In Canada, it is only found in our part of southern Ontario and as of 2007 is listed as endangered.  It is estimated that less than 2,000 trees are left in the wild.  The main 2 reasons threatening this tree are loss of habitat and the introduction of a fungal infection, Dogwood Anthracnose.

As far as we know, there is no selection program being carried out to select resistant trees to the fungus and breed them as Anthracnose resistant stock.  We, at our nursery, have been experimenting with planting the dogwood trees in situations which in not conducive to the fungal disease, with success.

We love this pretty, little tree and will strive to keep up with scientific data and ideas to save it.  Only time will tell.

The Silver Maple of Crieff Hills

Why the fuss about ancient trees? For me, the answer lies in their genetics and their gifts to their offspring. In long-lived trees such as maple, oaks, beech, and hickory, longevity is a desirable genetic trait. The longevity of these trees shows adaptability to a changing world. An ability to adapt to changing weather and climate, degrading air quality (air pollution), and soil pollutants such as roadside salts.

Silver Maple
Silver Maple

This particular silver maple was on a 300-acre farm purchased by Colonel J B McLean of the present-day McLean publications. Even by 1930, Colonel McLean could see that most of this area had been clear cut and, ‘the land was devoid of most songbirds.’ Somehow the silver maple was spared the ax and grew to its massive size beside the historic stone barn.

It was a thrill to see, this spring, the silver maple loaded with monstrous amounts of maple keys. Today, we are germinating approximately 200 seedlings from this ancient tree. And her genetics will live on.

Check Tree Availability

1,000  American Elms still remain in our Ontario landscape, over 100 years old, standing resistant to Dutch Elm disease (DED).  We, at Bee Sweet Nature Co.,  have progeny from these parent trees and are now offering them for reintroduction into the environment.

In 10 years, super resistant DED elm progeny will be available from the University of Guelph elm recovery program.  It is our hope that both natural and super DED elms will be planted together.  Why?  Even though emphasis is on DED we must also consider climate change.  The naturals have a vast genetic base that may offer adaptive abilities to our changing weather.