Alternative Gardens to
"The best way to tell the difference between a weed and a
valuable plant, is to pull on it. If it comes up easily, it's a valuable plant." ~
In 2012, when we introduced the Alternative Gardens class, we categorized the gardens into
five specific types and asked entrants to choose one type that best described their garden.
What we found when judging, however, was that most gardens had features of several different
types which made it difficult to score.
It makes sense, of course, that when planning an Alternative Garden, unless owners want a
specific type of garden (e.g. Fusion Garden), most people will develop their garden over time
starting, for example, by removing the lawn, then adding a drip irrigation system, buying
drought tolerant plants … etc. To address that we have modified several areas of the
The name of the class is being changed from "Alternative Gardens" to
"Ecogardens" to make it immediately identifiable as an environmentally focused class.
The full title will be the "Mississauga Living Green Ecogardens", as we have teamed
up with the City’s Environmental Advisory Committee to encourage residents to take positive
action for the environment.
Ecogardens – what are they?
Ecogardens are different from traditional gardens in that they are designed with the
environment in mind.
They demonstrate a wide range of environmentally responsible practices, including the use of
mulch and compost, rainbarrels and/or drip irrigation for watering and lawn care by
grasscycling. Ecogardens often have minimal or no grass with informal pathways or hard surfaces
through the plantings, and may incorporate reclaimed items as garden accents. They also may
include habitats (food, water and shelter), natural and/or purchased, for birds, bats,
butterflies and other insects.
Entry process and judging
Whereas last year you were asked to choose one garden type, you will now have the
opportunity to choose from four single types or to select the "Hybrid" option if you
think your garden has features from multiple types. The garden types are:
- Cottage gardens
- Edible gardens
- Fusion gardens
- Native plant / naturalized gardens
- Hybrid gardens
Everyone will enter the "Ecogardens" class, then select a type or a hybrid, as
shown in the example below:
- If your garden is a single type, just check the appropriate
- If your garden is primarily one type, with elements from another type, check both
- If your garden has a mix of features from several types, just check "Hybrid
Please note: Gardens will not be judged against each other, but on how well each garden
meets the judging criteria. (See "What We Are Looking
Descriptions of the four garden types and hybrid gardens are shown below:
- Cottage gardens: These seemingly old-fashioned gardens are densely planted with any
combination of shrubs, roses and perennials that give the appearance of having sprung up
naturally and randomly. There is little sense of design and minimal presence of weeds. Herbs
and vegetables can be included; annuals are allowed to self-seed. These informal gardens are
lush with plants, conducive to bird and insect activity, and present a changing colour palette
throughout the season.
- Edible gardens: These gardens may contain any mix of fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible
flowers, including trees, shrubs, canes and herbaceous plants. Ornamental plants (inedibles)
may be used as plant companions, or purely for decoration. Structures e.g. trellises and
stakes, are used for support, and effective pruning techniques ensure maximum crop yield.
Traditional planting techniques i.e. rows or blocks, are most commonly seen, but creative
design can greatly enhance visual appeal.
- Fusion / Watersmart gardens: These gardens are designed with plant materials and features
that require minimal watering and maintenance for sustainability. Plant materials are selected
and sited to make the most efficient use of water resources. Trees and shrubs are used to
provide shade and windbreaks, to shield the house from summer temperatures and give access to
winter sun. Hard surfaces are chosen to allow drainage through to the ground beneath, and mulch
is used to help the soil retain water..
- Native plant/naturalized gardens: These gardens strive to replicate the natural habitat of
trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants that are native to Ontario. Gardens may be meadow (sun) or
woodland (shade) gardens, or a combination of both, depending on local conditions. They may be
naturalized i.e. giving the appearance of growing in the wild, or planted in a more formal
setting i.e. in planted beds with walkways and other garden features.
- Hybrid gardens: These gardens will not necessarily match the specific garden types, but
will have many features in common, e.g. a garden with water conservation features, densely
planted to minimize weeds, and including native plants.
Finally, we hope that this new system will make it easier for you to enter. Remember, we are
not looking for perfection, we just want to see what you have achieved.
We applaud your efforts to protect and enhance our environment, and wish you success in the