by Sue Stefko
After years of planning, which included submissions to the city, a grant through the city’s Community Environmental Projects Grant Program, and quite a bit of red tape to get all the permissions required to build it, the Glebe Annex Community Association’s (GACA’s) pollinator garden has finally become a reality! The garden was built in Dalhousie South Park on a sunny Saturday in June, with more than a little help from our friends. It takes a village, as they say.
In the early days, we worked closely with Amy MacPherson, the City’s pollinator garden champion, Jeannette Krabicka (who was the park planner who helped redesign Dalhousie South Park), and Sandy Garland from the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. They were indispensable in providing advice and guidance to select the right location and planting plan, while making sure the city’s guidelines were met through the design and location of the garden.
For the actual creation of the raised bed, we benefitted from the talents of Ben Hildebrand, a hobby woodworker who’s lived in the Glebe Annex for more than eight years. Ben generously offered his skills (and tools) to bring the project into fruition. He is no stranger to helping with community gardens, getting his start volunteering with Bytowne Urban Gardens (BUGs) in Glebe Memorial Park. BUGs is a community garden that promotes sustainable food production – a different focus than our pollinator garden, but is an important community resource. Ben was an enthusiastic supporter of the project – in addition to being the chief builder, he provided advice to improve the design, as well as hands-on expertise to help guide the small cadre of volunteers who came together to build the garden.
Heidi Thomson, GACA’s butterfly ranger and enthusiastic supporter of pollinators and native plant gardening, was another key contributor to the creation of the garden. Also a long-time Glebe Annex resident, Heidi helped us source native plants appropriate to the site, which was a challenge, as most pollinator gardens need full sun, and this one is under a fair bit of shade cover from the many trees in the park. She managed to get all our plants donated, which was much appreciated, given the price of the cedar lumber almost tripled between when we put together the grant proposal in 2019, to when we actually were able to buy the wood, totally blowing our budget.
Councillor Shawn Menard’s office also helped to provide some cash-in-lieu of parkland funding to help us with things such as signage, which wasn’t covered by the grant, and the list goes on. We can’t thank everyone who was part of this here, but every contribution is appreciated!
So far, it seems that insects of the chewing kind are enjoying the garden more than insects of the buzzing kind, but we’re starting to see some of the flowers peek out, and we’re hopeful that the plants can grow and get stronger before they are totally devoured.
The build process was fascinating in that we barely saw an insect while we were digging in the parched grasses of the park in June – but almost immediately after the planting, the garden was buzzing with life. The rains we received in July, and the tender shoots of the native plants, which include White Snakeroot, Zigzag Goldenrod, different types of aster, and Virgin’s Bower Clematis, among others, soon became a beacon for different types of life. We are also hopeful that the squirrels and the birds will help us deal with our new insect surplus. While those that moved in, which include earwigs, gnats and spiders may not be the target species, they are still an important part of the web of life, which helps contribute to our overall goal.
If anyone would like to help contribute to the ongoing maintenance of the pollinator garden, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would like this to be a true community resource, for people in the neighbourhood to participate in, perhaps learn from as the different flowers come into bloom at different times of the year, and insects and other visitors come to the garden. With so much shade in the park, coupled with the lack of a water source, this was a daunting challenge, but we’re excited that it’s finally come to fruition!
Sue Stefko is president of the Glebe Annex Community Association and has been a valued volunteer at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden.
It is great to see community efforts like this. But I urge those concerned about “pollinators” to consider that it is all native plants and (all) animals depending on these plants that is key. As a designer, I would also urge people to think of a “garden” as something more than a box in the lawn. There are countless areas on every property where native plants can be tucked into “microhabitats” and be happy. As a native plant gardener, I have begun to realize that there are vast areas of plant life where no native plants exist at all. Such as lawns, roadsides, and many, many places where individuals could step up and make positive change to assist/protect our very special Nova Scotia biodiversity. We have made several sites on Facebook to assist in this effort as a public service. Nova Scotia Native Plant Gardening, and also (with a more regional focus) Cape Breton Invasive Plants. Hope you drop by and maybe share your experiences! It is a great group, very civil and science focused.
(we don’t exclude anyone from other parts of Canada, as there are a lot of concepts and design posts, but the plant pieces will highlight those of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton) Cheers!