Published on: August 1, 2017 | Last Updated: August 1, 2017 4:00 PM EDT
Peter Graham stands in the naturalized garden outside his Pointe-Claire home last summer. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette
About a year after threatening to take action against a homeowner over his naturalized garden, the city of Pointe-Claire has turned over a new leaf with a bylaw amendment that sets limits on what plants are considered noxious and therefore a nuisance.
A naturalized garden is a one that is covered with a combination of wild flowers, shrubs and grasses that is similar to what occurs in nature.
In June 2016, resident Peter Graham was served an infraction notice by the city that his wild-growth front garden was deemed a nuisance because of its messy combination of weeds, noxious wild shrubs and grass higher than 20 centimetres. He then set up an online petition that garnered close to 1,000 signatures.
Under the city’s new rules, grass is still required to be a maximum of 20 centimetres tall, but the height limitation does not apply to flowers, shrubs and grassy plants that are part of a natural garden.
Graham, who has lived on Sunderland Ave. for about two decades, transformed his front yard into a naturalized garden after the city felled a Norway maple tree on his lot about two and half years ago. He said his dispute with the city was settled this spring. He is pleased Pointe-Claire has a new rules that recognize naturalized gardens are an important part of the local ecosystem. He says naturalized gardens lessen demands on the storm water drainage system and help increase biodiversity.
“I really cannot think of one single benefit on the side of mowed lawns from a human health or human survival perspective,” he said.
Pointe-Claire officials say the bylaw amendment allows private natural gardens to be planted in front of homes. The city recognizes that natural gardens are ecologically appealing, protect native plant species, help thwart climate change and attract such pollinators as bees and butterflies, some of which are in decline.
City councillor Kelly Thorstad-Cullen, Pointe-Claire’s acting mayor, said the amendment bylaw recognizes that a growing number of residents want to plant a natural garden.
“We are always looking at ways that promote sustainable development in the city, which is part of our strategic plan,” she said.
“Bylaws are going to be constantly evolving based on the needs of the community in a city,” she said. “We realized we needed a bylaw that was going to help guide our residents to create beautiful naturalized gardens that promote the Beauty of our city and community instead of creating conflict with neighbours.”
The city’s list of noxious or invasive plants includes obvious species such as ragweed and poison ivy as well as goutweed, garlic mustard, burdock and buckthorn.
Pointe-Claire residents can also call on the city to provide some hands-on garden consulting, as well as take advantage of free compost and mulch.
“We have a great sustainable development department that can even come to your home and guide you as to what plants need to be removed from a natural garden and what should be encouraged (such as lavender and rosemary clover),” Thorstad-Cullen said.
While a naturalized garden might not be everyone’s gold standard for their home, people should have a choice when it comes to lawn landscaping. A naturalized garden is a good option for someone who’s not a keen green thumb, as it seems that once you’ve planted appropriate shrubs or perennials, you can let nature run its course. You then just need to make sure nothing noxious blows in and takes root in your au naturel garden.
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