We are helping Oakville pollinators. You can too!
What’s a Pollinator?
A pollinator is an animal that helps transfer pollen between plants. This allows fertilization, which is essential for fruit and seed production. About one third of our food depends on pollinators. Some types of pollinators include bees, butterflies, flies, and hummingbirds. Pollinator populations are declining globally due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and urban development. Honey bee colony collapse has garnered quite a bit of attention, but many of our Ontario native bees and other pollinators are in trouble too! The Rusty-Patched bumble bee was one of Ontario’s most common bumblebees but it has not been observed in Canada since 2009. Monarch Butterfly populations have decreased by 90% in the last 20 years.
Supporting Pollinators with Native Plant Gardens!
One of the most important things we can do to support threatened pollinators is to plant native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. Choosing a variety of native plants helps to support biodiversity and ensures that native pollinators are getting to enjoy the plants that are just right for them! Many native plants and pollinators have co-evoloved. For example, milkweed is the only plant that Monarch caterpillars eat, so if we want to nurture Monarchs, we must plant native milkweeds. Native plants are also easy to care for, require less watering, and they look beautiful. And don’t forget that bees visit TREES too! Native flowering trees, such as maples, willows, cherries, basswood, and service berry are all excellent sources of nectar for bees and serve as host plants for many butterfly caterpillars.
Pollinator Gardens and Plantings at Schools:
Oakvillegreen has helped with the planning, planting and maintenance of over 10 school and community pollinator gardens in Oakville. Pollinator gardens at schools offer the added benefit of providing a great place for hands-on learning. Contact us if your school or community group is interested in creating a native plant garden for pollinators: email@example.com! We can also help your school or community group with a variety of fun, pollinator-related talks and workshops:
- Seed bomb workshops (Watch our how to video: seeds + clay + soil = fun)
- Seed starting workshops
- Milkweed growing in schools
- Building native bee house workshops
Glen Abbey Community Centre Pollinator Demonstration Garden:
The Glen Abbey Pollinator Garden was created in May 2015 by Oakvillegreen, our dedicated volunteers, and with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Whole Foods Oakville, and the Town of Oakville. This cute, butterfly-shaped, native plant garden sits just outside the library window and west of the main entrance to the community centre. The garden demonstrates just how simple it is to turn a patch of grass into a pollinator oasis! Pop over to watch the bees, butterflies and other insects merrily buzzing around!
The Glen Abbey Pollinator Garden doubles as a fantastic local teaching tool for organizations, schools, and individuals and as a beautiful garden for the Glen Abbey community, and it’s pollinators to enjoy. Imagine if each yard, school, business and park had a patch of native plants for pollinators! Read more about the Glen Abbey Pollinator Garden here.
What’s in the Garden?
The Glen Abbey Pollinator Garden contains an array of wildflowers and shrubs that are native to the Oakville region. See the following list to learn what types of plants you’ll find when you stop by for a visit!
Shrubs: Nannyberry – Viburnum lentago, Alternate-leaf Dogwood – Cornus alternifolia, Black Chokeberry – Aronia melanocarpa
Wildflowers: Black Eyed Susan – Rudbeckia hirta, Big Leaf Blue Aster – Eurybia macrophylla, Wild Bergamot – Monarda fistulosa, Wild Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis, Butterfly Milkweed – Asclepias tuberosa, Lanceleaf coreopsis – Coreopsis lanceolata
Grasses: Indian Grass – Sorghastrum nutans, Little Bluestem – Schizachyrium scoparium
Pollinator Projects with Sheridan College:
In September 2017, Oakvillegreen joined Sheridan College students, staff and faculty (led by Sheridan Mission Zero) and Paul O’Hara of Blue Oak Native landscapes to plant a new Medicine Wheel Garden on the college campus.
The garden is composed of 90-95% native plants, which is a huge improvement considered the land was previously occupied by a giant patch of invasive buckthorn. This beautiful space is intended to symbolize First Nations’ traditional teachings while promoting biodiversity and health and wellness. It will be a beautiful spot for students to learn and relax. Learn more about the Medicine Wheel Garden here, and read about the planting day here.
Oakvillegreen has also worked with Sheridan College to deliver educational workshops to students, including a workshop on supporting native pollinators that was held in November 2016. Along with PhD student Victoria MacPhail, we taught participants how to support native pollinators, which included a demonstration on how to grown your own milkweed, and a seed bomb-making activity. Learn more here.
How Can I Get Involved?
Volunteers are always needed to check up on the Glen Abbey Pollinator Garden throughout the season.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved as a Pollinator Garden Steward!
We will be hosting a “How to Plant a Pollinator Patch” workshop series in April 2018. Find out more and register here.
YOU can help support Oakville’s pollinators!
- Replace part of your lawn with your own pollinator garden.
- Choose native plants that are adapted to our local climate and soils, and as an bonus they’ll often require less water and care!
- Incorporate caterpillar host plants such as Milkweed and New Jersey Tea and other nectar sources in your garden.
- Plant a wide variety of species to ensure that there are plants in bloom throughout the season.
- Build a bee house with hollow stems for tunnel nesting solitary bees, such as leafcutter bees and mason bees.
- Make sure to leave some bare ground in your garden for ground nesting bees and don’t overmulch!
- Ditch the chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers as they are very harmful to all insects.
- Don’t tidy up too much – many pollinators overwinter in leaf litter, plant stems and broken branches.
BEE Prepared for these Common Pollinator Garden Misconceptions:
Won’t I Get Stung?: Having a pollinator garden nearby does not increase your chances of being stung. After all, a feeding bee is a busy bee! As well, most native bees are solitary, and either have no reason to sting or are too small to sting. If you notice a swarm of honey bees or a wasp nest, make sure to stay well back and give them the space they need.
But I’m Allergic to Weeds!: Seasonal allergies are typically caused by ragweed, a non-native, wind-pollinated plant. Unfortunately, native flowers such as Goldenrod often get blamed for the onset of allergies because their flowers are showier and they bloom at the same time. Goldenrod has sticky, heavy pollen that does not irritate since it requires pollinators to move to other flowers. So not to fear, your allergies shouldn’t be exasperated by planting a native pollinator garden.
Want to find our more? Check out these pollinator and native plant gardening resources:
- Bumble Bee Watch (Report bumblebee sightings here!)
- Bees of Toronto, City of Toronto Biodiversity Series
- Butterflies of Toronto, City of Toronto Biodiversity Series
- Toronto Pollinator Protection Strategy, City of Toronto
- Pollination Guelph
- Feed The Bees, Delta, BC
- Native Plants for Pollinators, Credit Valley Conservation
- Pollinator Plants for the Great Lakes Region, The Xerces Society
- Wild Bees in Trouble, Ontario Nature
- Four Ways You Can Help Pollinators In Your Community, Ontario Nature, video
- Pollinator Pals, Ontario Nature, poster
- Tips To Make Your Garden More Pollinator Friendly, Landscape Ontario
- Pollinators What’s The Buzz, The David Suzuki Foundation
- Native Pollinator Program,Wildlife Preservation Canada
- A Guide to Creating a Pollinator Patch, Ontario Horticultural Association
- Pollinator Garden Design, Installation Guidelines and Species Suggestions provided by Fern Ridge Landscaping
- Anderson Parkette Biodiversity Garden, Oakville Horticultural Society
- Understanding What Makes Plants Happy, an interview with Thomas Rainer