July 13th, 2023

Cyclists riding down Hunter St when it's closed for cars in the summer. There is a colourful mural painted on the street and prairie grasses and native flowering plants.

As part of Renaissance on Hunter in downtown Peterborough, GreenUP has collaborated with the City of Peterborough’s public art program to design and install ‘poetry gardens’ featuring prairie grasses and native flowering plants that form a backdrop for road murals and poetry by local artists. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

By: Laura Keresztesi, Program Coordinator, GreenUP

When you look out on a landscape do you see a sea of green or do plant species pop out to you as familiar friends?

I recently had the pleasure of touring a truly inspiring and Water Wise front yard. This bountiful garden was an exhilarating showcase of biodiversity in an urban environment. It contains 78 species, most of which are native to this area.

I have to admit, at first I just saw a sea of green. A beautiful sea of many hues and dappled light, waving gracefully in the breeze.

Much to my delight, as the tour began, plants I’ve been learning about like Hairy Beardtongue, Yarrow, Heath Aster, Sideoats Grama, and New Jersey Tea started to pop out at me.

I started to identify the incredible diversity around me, picking out individual plants in a sea of beauty. The more I learn, the more I am awed by the abundance that surrounds us.

Can you recall a time when you saw things around you in a new light? Did your perception change once you knew what to look for? A time when an unfamiliar place became as familiar to you as your own home? What fun!

Through my role at GreenUP, I have had the pleasure of coordinating the Water Wise Landscape Recognition program which is funded by Peterborough Utilities.

Water Wise showcases a wide array of landscaping methods and local resources to make it easier than ever to conserve water at your home!

A leafcutter bee visits a black-eyed susan at one of the garden planters at Renaissance on Hunter in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

A leafcutter bee visits a black-eyed susan at one of the garden planters at Renaissance on Hunter in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

In the summer months, demands on water from activities such as watering lawns and gardens can significantly increase outdoor water consumption.

Peterborough Utilities Group’s 2022 Annual Report explains how average residential consumption of potable water increases significantly in June, July and August. The tracked increase in water use isn’t just what we drink, it’s the often the water we use for our lawns.

One way to become Water Wise is to rethink the way we plant our front yards and replace grass with drought-tolerant native species to reduce water demand.

For those who are excited to get hands-on and see these plants first-hand, you can simply walk, roll, or stroll Hunter Street in downtown Peterborough to visit the Renaissance on Hunter.

Now in its third year, Renaissance on Hunter is a public art initiative that is coordinated through the City of Peterborough public art program with support from the Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) and GreenUP.

Aa part of this year’s project, GreenUP was commissioned to design and install gardens in planters throughout the café district. Situated adjacent to a series of road murals, the planter gardens serve to delineate lane closures in the area and form a backdrop for installations of poetry composed by local poets.

While you enjoy the captivating road murals and inspiring poems, we hope you can get to know a bunch of drought tolerant perennials – learn the shape of their leaves, touch the plants, smell their flowers, and watch them transform through the season!

The City of Peterborough’s public art facilitator Wendy Trusler installs a poem by Sarah Lewis, who was the city’s inagural poet laureate in 2021, that will be featured for the month of July during Renaissance on Hunter in downtown Peterborough. The photo shows a poem on a stand surrounded by native plants along Hunter St. There are hands holding the poem in place while it is being installed.

The City of Peterborough’s public art facilitator Wendy Trusler installs a poem by Sarah Lewis, who was the city’s inagural poet laureate in 2021, that will be featured for the month of July during Renaissance on Hunter in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

GreenUP staff is particularly excited to feature native prairie grasses such as Sideoats Grama, Little Bluestem, Big Bluestem, and Wild Rye.

Alongside them, you may discover the majestic Purple Coneflower, delicate Yarrow, and whimsical Hairy Beardtongue, among other captivating species blooming on Hunter.

Perhaps you will find joy in the purple blossoms of Anise Hyssop, the vibrant hues of flowering Brown-Eyed Susan, and the elegant grace of the Compass Plant.

Maybe it’s the enchanting blue tones of Heath Aster and Sky Blue Aster and to the refreshing aroma of Virginia Mountain Mint that will delight your senses.

Through this collaboration with the City of Peterborough Public Art Program, GreenUP aims to foster a deeper connection between our community and the exquisite beauty of native plants. We hope you join us in celebrating the rich biodiversity of our region.

All the native plants selected for inclusion in this project are drought-tolerant and thrive in full sun. Planting biodiverse and drought tolerant gardens will become more and more important as we experience the rising average temperatures that result locally from climate change.

Sundrops, smooth rose, and chokecherry surround one of the entrances to Renaissance on Hunter in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

Sundrops, smooth rose, and chokecherry surround one of the entrances to Renaissance on Hunter in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

Has all this talk of native plants captured your attention? Here are three ways you and your neighbours can celebrate drought-tolerant species at home and create a cacophony of species right on your doorstep!

  • The Water Wise Landscape Recognition Program transforms garden bragging rights into a yearly neighbourhood challenge. You can celebrate the achievements of neighbours who let drought-resistant plants flourish in their front yards by nominating their yard for an award at https://www.greenup.on.ca/program/peterborough-utilities-waterwise/. Nominate a yard before July 31st to have a chance to win a rain barrel.
  • The City of Peterborough’s Rain Garden Subsidy Program can help you design a drought-resistant garden. Applicants can connect with GreenUP staff to learn about planting native perennials on their property and receive up to $1,000 to support this.
  • The online GreenUP Plant Catalog includes all the species on found on Hunter and many of them can be found at Ecology Park.
A native wildflower, hairy beardtongue brings delicate purple blossoms Renaissance on Hunter in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Tegan Moss / GreenUP)

A native wildflower, hairy beardtongue brings delicate purple blossoms Renaissance on Hunter in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Tegan Moss / GreenUP)