Ottawa

Helping pollinators in Ottawa, one native plant at a time

An Ottawa woman is encouraging other residents to roll up their sleeves and plant pollinator gardens to help struggling insect populations.

Native plant gardens attract pollinators like bees and butterflies

Berit Erickson grows a garden meant exclusively for pollinators like bees and butterflies, planting native species and keeping human intervention at a minimum. 1:12

Her garden is alive with butterflies and buzzing with bees, and all Berit Erickson had to do was plant flowers native to eastern Ontario.

Now, Erickson is encouraging others to roll up their sleeves and install similar pollinator gardens in Ottawa.

"There's really a critical need. Pollinator populations are declining and all insect populations are declining. Insects are the foundation of food webs," she said.

Erickson has been gardening at her home in Carlingwood for 20 years, but only recently did she make the switch to cultivating native plant species. 

"I realized that the plants that I used to grow, they might as well have been plastic plants because they had very little wildlife value," she said.

Berit Erickson decided to plant a pollinator garden when she lost a cedar tree in her front yard and had space for a new project. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

When she lost a large cedar tree in a storm two years ago, Erickson decided to turn the front of her property into a proper pollinater garden.

From spring to fall it blooms with a variety of plants, from asters and goldenrod to Mexican sunflowers and mountain mint.

Native plants are the best sources of nectar and pollen for local bees, Erickson said, and also the best hosts for butterfly caterpillars.

"There's so much life in the garden, and I really feel like I've made a positive change. And I believe that if I can do this, anyone can," she added.

The pollinator garden on the corner of Fraser Avenue and Sherbourne Road comes complete with brochures for anyone who wants to learn more. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Growing trend

Trish Murphy, owner of the Beaux Arbres nursery, just started selling native plants at the Westboro Farmers' Market this year.

She said there has been increased interest from urban dwellers looking to make a difference.

"By the third time we were there [at the farmers' market] we were getting repeat customers," Murphy said.

Erickson said native plants are the best sources of nectar and pollen for bees and also great host plants for butterfly caterpillars. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

She attributed the growing interest to news about the decline of monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

Pollinator Appreciation Day

The City of Ottawa organized the first "Pollinator Appreciation Day" this past spring, but stopped short of designating the nation's capital an official "Bee City."

In a written statement, city planner Amy MacPherson said while not every garden on city property was planted with pollinators in mind, staff are working with local groups to raise awareness of native insects.

"To support education and awareness, a pollinator garden has been established at Ottawa City Hall using locally sourced native plants, as well as a bee hotel for native bees," MacPherson said.

She said the city's official plan also "includes policies promoting the use of native plant species in landscaping."

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