Who is this beautiful green spider?

This lovely garden huntress is the Orchard Orb Weaver or Orchard Spider (Leucauge  venusta). 

Over the summer she spun her web from our deck to the nearby by tree. By the look of her, she was very well fed.  
Spiders consume an astonishing number of insects every year. According to Spiders of Toronto: A Guide to their Remarkable World:* Spiders are estimated to eat about 200 kg of insects per hectare per
year. In a city the size of Toronto, this amounts to an astonishing 12
million kg of insects per year – equivalent to the body weight of over
150,000 average-sized people every year! Research shows that just
two of the spider species living at Highland Creek in Scarborough eat
2 of every 100 insects that develop in the creek. This includes large
numbers of mosquitoes. Multiply this estimate by the 40 or so other
spider species likely to live around the creek, and suddenly the impact
of spiders is clear. Spiders have a similar effect in gardens, where
they eat biting insects and pests, such as…

Our native bees are amazing

Over the summer, the native flowers we planted attracted a wide range of pollinators, including a number of native bee species. Using the City of Toronto's useful (and well illustrated) resource, Bees of Toronto: A Guide to Their Remarkable World, I've done my best to identify these garden visitors in the photos below (hint: click the photos to seem them at full size). Once you start to look for these charismatic little creatures, they're surprisingly easy to find.

Clover lawn round #3 - mid summer and the clover is lush and green

By the end of July, the Dutch White Clover had come in and was looking green and lovely (especially compared to the sparse microclover we tried earlier). We mowed it occasionally, and didn't water at all after it was established. Racoons and squirrels continued to regularly dig through the clover which did create some bald spots, but overall it has held up much better than the grass we replaced.

Gorgeous native flowers in bloom over the July long weekend


Native flower profile - Beardtongue

Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) is one of the best native flower species surprises this year. It produced a tall stalk of lovely white flowers. It would look better planted in a mass, and that will definitely be in my plans for next year. 

When we were in NYC we noted that the city is using Beardtongue in their plantings and it looked fantastic planted in big clumps with other native plant species.

Great inspiration both for our garden and to encourage the City of Toronto to use more native species in its flower beds.

For more on Beardtongue, the Evergreen Native Plant Database has great information about its ecological role and where it will grow.

Clover lawn round #2 - Dutch white clover and sweet allysum

After our first attempt to seed the lawn with microclover were less than successful, I decided to switch to standard Dutch White Clover seed. The OSC website states, it is "robust, adaptive, drought resistant and somewhat shade tolerant", so it should have no trouble with the clay in our yard.

Dutch White Clover seed is also significantly less expensive than microclover seed. For comparison, Dutch White Clover is $11.00/500 grams which works out to $0.55/25grams. Microclover is $8.95/25 g, about 16 times more. 
I also decided to add some Sweet Alyssum to the lawn after reading about Fleur de Lawn, an environmentally friendly flowering lawn mix developed with Oregon State University. Along with a number of other species, they included Sweet Alyssum in their mix. To jump start things, I planted 32 small Alyssum plants along the walkway where the clover was having trouble getting started.

The clover seeds sprouted within a day or two and after the first week the density of clov…

Clover lawn round #1 - Microclover

I admit that I bought into the marketing for microclover. It seemed like polite, well-mannered clover. At first, everything seemed fine. The clover came up, it was adorable.

Being cute and well behaved will only get you so far in the real world though.

After several weeks, and 2 rounds of seeding, the clover lawn was looking sparse and increasingly full of weeds.

In fairness to microclover, another problem was that we were not sure of the seeding rate. The OSC seeding package states that the seeding rate is 25 g/ 52 m2. We spread two packages and this should have been enough for the size of our yard. However, this seeding rate is likely for over-seeding a lawn (mixing clover in with existing grass) rather than starting a clover lawn from scratch. West Coast Seeds' seeding calculator for microclover provides a significantly higher seeding rate of 50g for 100 square feet for 100% clover which (in hindsight) seems more realistic.

We needed a new plan - on to Round #2...