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Naturalization of my Property


I moved into my house in Cambridge, Ontario at the end of September 1996.  The thing that attracted me to this property was the natural aspect of it.  The back yard slopes gradually down to a natural pond at the rear that is about 200 feet across.  Off to the right side of the yard at the rear is a small wooded section.  The rest was a lawn, with gardens along the edge.

I immediately started work on enhancing the wooded area.  Fully enclosed by a buckthorn hedge, very little light got into this area.  About the only thing growing there were trilliums.  I carefully transplanted in many plants that I had brought with me.  Each year I added to them, until in 2000 it was a small jungle of woodland plants.

The next area that I focused my efforts on was the slope down to the pond.  I think it was in 1997 that I stopped cutting the grass right down to the water's edge, and started to plant native plants there.  Each year I gradually did a little more.

Finally, in 1999, I started the major project of naturalizing the whole back yard.  I stopped cutting the grass part way through the summer.  I collected and scattered lots of seeds, planted many plants, shrubs and trees, and let Nature go to work.

The results, as seen so far by the summer of 2000, were astonishing!  In just one year the yard has been transformed from a desert of lawn into a beautiful diverse explosion of colour and life!


"Create each day anew by clothing yourself with heaven and earth, bathing yourself with wisdom and love, and placing yourself in the heart of Mother Nature."
-- Morihei Ueshiba


Please note that I have not taken a purist approach to this project. In other words, I have not planted solely native species, nor have I vigorously removed all non-native species. The reasons are several:

  • It has not been my goal to recreate the landscape as it might have been in this area prior to the invasion of western culture. My goal is to reduce/eliminate the desert monoculture of the lawn, replacing it with a more diverse, more natural landscape.

  • I welcome a very few select non-invasive, non-native naturalized species, such as mullein.

  • There is a great deal of non-native vegetation on my property that is still serving a good purpose. For example, I have left the western part of the buckthorn hedge, to shield the wooded area and provide some privacy. I control its spread by pulling up the baby plants that are sprouting, and by cutting back those portions of the hedge that are growing too much. I am also gradually replacing it with grey dogwood and other shrubs. I also have a very dense buckthorn hedge along the western edge of my property that provides a lot of privacy.

  • I have purchased trees and plants that I was told were native, yet I later found out they were not, or were hybrids. For example, I'm not sure that the Basswood trees I bought and planted are native species. Sometimes it is hard to tell, as some species hybridize fairly readily and the many variants are hard to tell apart. (For those of you new to the lingo, "hybridize" means to readily cross-breed with another closely-related species).

  • Native species of some plants are very hard or impossible to obtain. I found that getting native junipers was very difficult (impossible?), so I settled on some of the commercial varieties. At least they're not invasive.

I haven't yet done much with the front yard. So far I am trying to keep it more or less in line with the rest of the neighbourhood, so as to not upset the neighbours.


Please join me now on a tour of what I have done so far.
Click on "Next" near the bottom of the page, or go directly to one of the pages.


My naturalization project is mentioned on the Nature Canada website:

For more information about Naturalization, please visit the Earth Caretaker website.

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Naturalization:  Before    1999    2000  •  2001  •  2002  •  2004  •  2005
Before & After Comparisons    Plant List    Animal List

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