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'Wins all over the place': pollinator garden idea taking seed
June 16, 2021

A new perspective on naturalized gardens and pollinator gardens may change how public properties look in the future.

Goodwood’s Christine Lau is a “ranger” with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflyway Project, who's charged with wrangling up community members to plant native wildflowers in yards, schoolyards, streets and parks to support bees and butterflies.

These gardens are considered “pollinator patches”, which, over time, will create a continuity of native wildflowers, which they call a Butterflyway. “It aims to help people help our native pollinators … find food and shelter,” said Lau.

While Lau’s team of volunteers are primarily focused on including more native wildflowers in their private yards and home gardens, she approached council to inquire about creating enhanced plots on township land.

She made the case for planting native wildflowers before Uxbridge council at a June 7 meeting.

“Once established, native plants are far more resilient than hybrids and imports. Since they are in their natural environment, less maintenance is required,” she said, adding “if we replace grass with a pollinator plot, we reduce mowing.”

Councillors were eager to consider the opportunities during the meeting.

Pollinator gardens promote greater environmental health and resiliency. Fiscally, replacing some grassland with wildflower plots reduces grass cutting, suggested Coun. Bruce Garrod.

“Every square foot (of garden) is one foot less we don’t have to pay a contractor to cut, and x fewer minutes that a gas-powered vehicle is driving around the park,” he adds.

“We jumped all over it,” says Garrod. “I’m tired of saying ‘win win win,’ but there are wins all over the place with this idea if it’s handled right. And I’m confident staff can work with her to make all that stuff happen.”

Staff will seek to identify where the gardens might go, what property types they can survive on, what maintenance they’ll require, and what resources are available to provide that maintenance.

Garrod said it was Lau’s enthusiasm for the project that had the councillors eager to consider many ways in which they could see the community benefiting.

“She’s got the passion around this, and it just comes through … and it reflected in her efforts, I’m impressed with what she’s doing,” he says.

Council passed a motion directing staff to work with Lau and consult with councillors and local environmentalists from Uxbridge Naturally to identify the opportunities and costs involved with implementing more native wildflower gardens throughout the township.

Lau said council’s enthusiasm and support is meaningful.

“It’s really wonderful, saying they’d like to get some staff to help me out,” Lau said. “Really, I have not attended any council meetings or been involved over the years, so I’m quite touched.”

“I’m just your average citizen that’s concerned over global warming and to be quite honest, I’ve never been a strong advocate,” she said, but admits, she’s been motivated to take action against the growing threat of climate change.

She said she’s been inspired by climate change activist and Time's 2019 Person of the Year Greta Thunberg, and has joined mailing lists with Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, and others including the David Suzuki Foundation, always interested in hearing of new ideas for her to do her part.

“Amongst all of them is the David Suzuki Foundation, and I admire David Suzuki tremendously,” Lau said. Upon hearing about the Butterflyway Project, she called joining a no-brainer.

The project focuses on prioritizing native plants and pollinators over imports and hybrids to boost the local environment’s resiliency.

Through her preparation to submit her delegation to council, Lau learned of another Butterflyway Project ranger in Uxbridge, Andrea Fraser, who’s already remodelling gardens at Uxpool and at the library with native species.

“With over 1,000 rangers in 400-plus communities across Canada, I’m not surprised we weren’t aware of each other,” Lau said. “I’m sure we can only benefit from each other’s presence.”