In honour of Earth Week – Spring is coming

Pretty little ‘Glory of the Snow’, a sure sign of spring in Ontario

Every time I walk through a garden or a forest, I’m so grateful for everything that Nature gives us. Spring in Ontario has been a long time coming this year, and bits of flowers bursting out from the soil here and there are a very welcome sight! Next week marks Earth Week 2023, running from April 16 to 22, and it’s a great time to both appreciate the planet we live on, with all its natural wonders, as well as learn how we can best protect what we haven’t already destroyed.

This year’s theme is “Invest in Our Planet”. April 22 is designated as Earth Day, but as the official website states, “It’s not a Day, it’s a Movement”. The site contains a lot of great information for learning more about preserving our truly beautiful planet, as well as things each of us can do to help everyone working very hard on the front lines — becoming a member, signing a petition, taking a pledge, using their toolkits and fact sheets to spread information.

But I think one critical thing is paying attention to all of the little things that make the Earth so wonderful, from the tiniest little flowers and mosses to the trees and plants that clean our air and transmit chemicals that are beneficial to our well-being. A walk through a garden or a forest is a study in peacefulness, enjoying the fresh air, the soft sounds and the detachment from the daily grind.

A carpet of spring crocus makes a burst of colour under a still winter-bare tree

When we realize just how great a gift Nature gives us, we want more of it. We want to protect it. It’s important to begin our environmental journey by recognizing how precious all the tiny things we may not have been paying attention to actually are.

Multi-coloured hellebores in a rock garden in Niagara Falls

A Canadian initiative called For the Love of Creation, created in 2020 to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, brings together over 30 faith-based organizations “under a unified banner to mobilize education, reflection, action and advocacy for climate justice”. If you’re interested in this particular approach, you may want to sign up for their webinar, Addressing Environmental Racism in Canada, on April 25th from 7-8:30pm. The organization also has other activities you might want to check out.

These weird-looking woody protrusions are called Cypress Knees! Scientists haven’t figured out what they do, but they form above the roots of cypress trees growing in swampy areas.

The Canadian-specific site for Earth Day has more interesting things, including a beautiful t-shirt specially designed for this year. Buying it will help plant a tree, but before you do, they also ask you to consider putting an item of clothing that you don’t use back into circulation, perhaps as a donation or as part of a clothing exchange — unless you really could use a new t-shirt, in which case I think you can feel free to enjoy wearing this very cool design 🙂

If you do nothing else next week, at least go for a walk in the woods, or a botanical garden near you, and notice everything around you. The diversity and richness will surprise you.

A pair of mallard ducks out foraging for food on a flooded section of Heartland Forest in Niagara Falls

All photos were taken by me and all rights are reserved. E. Jurus

3 great reasons to love Autumn

Fall colours in the Niagara Gorge October 2022

Colours, cooler temperatures and lots of leaves to crunch underfoot — these are some of my favourite things about autumn. I don’t do well in the hot and humid summers we typically get, although this year’s wasn’t bad at all, to my great relief. When the thermometer’s hitting 32 degrees Celsius or 90 Fahrenheit, and the humidity’s also that high, summer can be like walking around in a steam bath. A lot of people become ill in those summers, and I’m invariably hiding inside to avoid throbbing migraines brought on by the blazing sunshine and heat. I start to relax when Autumn sets in.

There’s something so cozy about our Autumns, snuggling into a toasty sweater or hoodie and strolling along hiking trails or through farm markets. As soon as pumpkins show up, I’m bringing home four or five in different colours to decorate our front porch, and I start cooking hearty stews and baking cakes to have with a cup of hot tea.

Southern Ontario has been blessed with glorious fall colours this year. That isn’t always the case; what’s needed are

  • cold snaps (without frost, according to experts) to tell the trees that winter’s coming and it’s time to stop producing the green chlorophyll pigment which produces energy from sunlight and settle into their dormant winter state, and
  • enough rainfall to nourish the trees so that they keep their leaves long enough for the other pigments to shine once the chlorophyll disappears.

Normally we southerners have to go farther north in our province to see such vivid colours, and in many years the leaves are all on the ground by Halloween, which is fun to walk around in but a little depressing. We’re not guaranteed such splendour, and when I was out taking these photos, a lot of other people were out making the most of the beauty as well.

This October, Mother Nature had her entire palette out.

Moving into November, the trees were about half-bare, creating a fabulous carpet of crisp fallen leaves to walk around on. It’s a simple pleasure, but a profound one, and the first few leaves on the ground every year are a harbinger of autumn pleasures.

Once the leaves start to fall, we get to appreciate the sculptural art of the plants themselves. The mottled bark of some trees…

…the colours and shapes of giant leaves as they pack up for the winter…

…ripened berries offering food for birds and animals that winter here…

…the mellower autumn sun highlighting the shapes of plants getting ready for sleep…

So for those of you who don’t have the magic of Autumn on your doorstep, I hope these images will give you a little virtual taste of it.

All photos are by me and all rights are reserved. A selection of my best photos are available for purchase in a number of formats on my site at Fine Art America.

The golden days of late summer

I’ve never been a fan of Summer — too hot and humid for me (at least in my neck of the woods), and the contrast of light and shadow is harsh. Late Summer is alright. The daytimes are mellower, the nights are cool enough to open the windows at night for a fresh breeze, and the odd day holds a promise of fall weather.

Just as we start to change our clothing over, so do gardens. The sunflowers have shed their golden collars and are going to seed.

Chestnut trees are bursting with ripening nuts.

The vegetable section of our local teaching botanical garden is lush with fall produce.

The garden is displaying a little trickery — the eggplants have turned white…

…while the peppers are deep purple.

A rainbow of onions are free of their soil beds.

Apparently, once artichokes bloom, the artichoke itself becomes inedible, but the flowers attract bees and can be dried for arrangements.

Monarch butterflies are enjoying the gardens as well.

The afternoon sunlight has a gentler tone at this time of year.

In the rose garden, some of the blossoms are beginning to fade a little.

A few of the lotus flowers have begun dropping their leaves, leaving just a seed pod and a lacy frill of stamens behind.

But soon the autumn coats will come out, flaunting their gorgeous colours to make the evergreens look even richer.

Now’s the time to get out and enjoy Nature’s last glorious party before the winter sleep!

All photos are by me, and all rights are reserved. E. Jurus