by Sandy Garland
WPP held its second annual colloquium on 8 March 2020. As I write this, read the notes, and look at the photos, it seems like a different world. It’s not that we haven’t been busy over the summer – gardening, rescuing, exchanging, and donating plants, learning to zoom, and getting outdoors as much as possible. But we’ve sadly neglected the important networking function of WPP.
Hopefully, with this summary of the lively discussions that happened at the colloquium, we can pick up some pieces, put the network back together and figure out how to strengthen it.
The colloquium started with introductions and a video by Edgar Hernandez featuring three of our members: Berit Erickson, Jessica Forrest, and Jeff Skevington. But we wanted to get to a series of smaller, discussion groups, and it’s the notes from those that follow.
Pollinator gardens in the community
notes from Joan Harvey
Tips for success
- Work with a partner and live close by…2 heads better than 1
- Get your Councillor onside…he/she has pull!
- Initiate project by surveying the neighbourhood to get their support, keep them in the know…they will feel they matter and take ownership…rain barrel, photos, planters, mulchers, naming the garden, security, constant feedback and questions
- Contact local nursery for discount and offer free advertising
- Apply for a Community Environmental Projects Grant (CEPGP) from City
- Have a Grand Opening…make it important…harpist
- Document everything in photo journal
- Have patience…many hurdles…8 months to shovels in ground
- Water Source….neighbour maintains a rain barrel (from councilor) under his eaves with hose to his fence bordering garden
- Bilingual Sign…Monarch Waystation sign had to be re-designed (we have stock of them now)
- Liability…we adopted the part of the park that contains the garden so under the City umbrella
Seniors’ retirement residences
Tips for success
- Volunteer your time…we did a PPt presentation, dropped off caterpillars in cages so residents could follow life cycle, then did several butterfly releases at Bruyere and Symphony in Orleans.
- Inspire the residents, and tap into their ready source of …experience, energy, time and interest….Mr LaPorte!
- Everyone wins! Staff is MOST appreciative.
- Be available for consulting, offering encouragement
- Bruyere has made a fundraiser from our initiative by having a butterfly garden mural painted on a wall; people can donate to have a loved one’s name in memory, put on a butterfly; we did 3 gardens at Bruyere and Symphony will construct one this summer.
Tips for success
- Get community on board to prevent vandalism
- Present at schools
- Principal has to be on Board to to succeed
- Financing through Grants such as the
- TD Bank
- David Suzuki Foundation
- Involve students in planting and garden maintenance
- Parent councils help with garden maintenance during the summer
- Involve local nurseries
- Celebrate with school assembly
- Individuals who are committed to the garden project leave the school. No one takes over the role
- Finding knowledgeable people or committed people to maintain the garden
notes from Katherine Forster
How can we initiate projects?
WPP can help identify organizations that are working with schools, faith communities, institutions, and public spaces.
Two of these organizations are: Monarch Teacher Network (schools, seniors residences, public spaces) and Faith & the Common Good – Ottawa Chapter (faith communities including schools). Horticultural societies (and garden clubs) is another good one, but unsure if they have any current gardens? What other local organizations have helped created a garden? Is there information from the first colloquium on this?
Does anyone in the WPP network have connections with these types of facilities (e.g. schools, faith communities, institutions, public spaces) and could they encourage them to get in touch with WPP member organizations that can help out?
What are some of the challenges/hurdles – how do we overcome them?
For faith communities there are are opportunities especially if you work with current volunteer gardeners for the faith communities. These gardeners have expertise in both gardening and in the space they are currently gardening in. There are also opportunities as many faith communities have a large volunteer base that supports the community. There are also opportunities for the faith communities to partner with the larger neighbourhood and service groups and clubs that meet in their spaces (such as Scout troops, day cares, horticultural societies, art groups, etc).
Many faith communities successfully raise funds themselves, can share plant cuttings (dividing) from their own gardens, may have plant sales themselves, and also some have keen youth groups and some of the activities (such as planting seeds) can involve young parishioners in terms of their Care for Creation activities.
If a new garden is too much, many gardeners are keen to add native plants in their current garden beds as they already see the benefit of connecting to nature and helping out! There are also opportunities to hold presentations and workshops in the faith community buildings (at no or low cost) to help raise awareness and education parishioners and the public.
Remind faith communities that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. They can mix native plants with their current favourites and this can still be beneficial to wild pollinators. Help identify some good native plants that could be used for specific needs IF there is interest – some faith communities are looking for specific colours, cut flowers for the altar, etc. for their gardens.
How can we ensure maintenance of the gardens?
Faith community gardens have built in maintenance with their current gardeners and have access to water (from the building) and no liability issues if you have approval from the faith community council. We could even be thinking of cemeteries.
Other community gardens
Some local horticultural societies and/or garden clubs may be interested in maintaining a garden, which would provide local expertise and hands to create new gardens.
How do we get the community involved (in planting, maintenance, learning)?
See above in terms of presentations in partnership with faith communities. Faith communities also have good ties with their neighbourhoods (some with other faith communities, some with local BIA’s and/or local community associations). They can also help supplement for schools (including private schools), in terms of the issue with schools being closed during the summer.
Horticultural societies may be interested in having local speakers talking about native plants gardens, wildlife gardens, “living with wildlife” and pollinator gardens.
What sort of support makes/would make these projects more successful?
Word of mouth through WPP members would help in terms of spreading community awareness of partner organizations that can help with new projects.
Reaching out to horticultural societies and garden clubs to provide them with a list of speakers (WPP could create a speakers list and topics they could talk about) that they could choose from and/or exploring with this groups where there are opportunities for collaboration or partnerships.
Free plants from gardeners who are dividing plants from their own gardens (more communities doing plant swaps, etc) and/or free seed or workshops on how to collect seed. There could be opportunities as there are already some current organizational structures in place in terms of school boards, local diocese, etc.
- Create a list of current organizations that work with these groups for WPP members as reference.
- Share ideas of possibly facilities that could be approached.
- Report annually on new facilities that are now partners.
Obtaining pollinator plants in the region
- Ferguson Forest Tree Nursery now selling perennials as well as native shrubs and trees – WPP working on seed collecting for FFTN and other native plant growers. Publicize FFTN.
- FWG spring sale
Annual plant exchange?
- Established garden can provide opportunity to exchange pollinator seedlings. Will this affect people who sell native plants
- Fall, September, good time to exchange plants or seeds
- Collect surplus plants, plants from properties being developed
- Publicize opportunities through Monarch Teacher Network, social media, Facebook, community organizations, and WPP, notification by email, text
- Operate cheaply, e.g., bring a pot to take a plant
Info about local suppliers
- For individual rather than commercial gardens
- Generate a list to provide members with accurate sources (which don’t require jumping through hoops) of pollinator plants for sale
- Group trips “field trips” to places where native plants are sold
- Encourage expansion of current numbers/selection of pollinator plants at large establishments (e.g., Canadian Tire). Pulicize, make them visible.
- Assign someone to reach out to Canadian Tire, etc., to increase stocks of native species and increase their awareness of the market for such species
- Assign someone to make a list on WPP
- Facebook posts: plant ?, where to obtain (locally and neonic free), field trips to remote native plant nurseries, e.g., Beaux Arbres, Connaught
- One person dedicated to updating sources list, year to year, verifying its accuracy so that it’s reliable
- Loot bag for next year’s colloquium: growing kit – tiny flower pot, peat pellet, seeds
Comments from Elizabeth Gammell
- FreeCycle already has a platform for local Ottawa area where one can offer, share and seek plants, being used now by most people for more typical garden species e.g. when they’re dividing clumps in their own garden. No reason WPP couldn’t use and dominate this venue for our own purposes, or create our own version on the same existing platform.
- Suggestion to alert when retail outlets are fleetingly carrying a (limited) number of native plants on their sales racks:
- Again, FreeCycle already has a platform for local Ottawa area and a meme when people post “AT THE CURB” messages, to alert when there’s a good item of furniture or leftover bricks or other objects put out fleetingly for garbage, indicating where and when seen, so that anybody who likes can go themselves. This existing platform could be used by us to create our own version to post “ON THE PLANT SALES RACKS” alerts, maybe…
- Again, the Free Circles local Otawa group as model “AT THE CURB” posting: could use this platform for our own “UNDER THE BULLDOZER’S THREAT” alert postings, proposing a place and timefor a rescue mission, others see it and jump in.
Update from Christine Earnshaw
Random Hacks of Kindness has accepted Sundaura’s idea of creating an app that would support a local hub of ‘ecological land care’. The ‘hackathon’ will take place on the weekend of April 24th to 26th at which time IT volunteers will develop the app based on the functions we set out.
The app would be a platform to connect businesses that offer native plants and other products, materials and services with individuals and community groups who are seeking them. The app would also list events, community initiatives and alerts, similar to what Elizabeth proposed.
If the app proved useful, then it would hopefully be replicated in other towns and cities in other parts of Canada.
Informal research – gathering and sharing regional pollinator information
notes from Alan Etherington
purpose: citizen study on relationship between different types of insect hotel and the timing and number of insects/parasites
- Lydia to draft hand out on different designs by mid May
- Mira to draft data collection form by mid May
- Sandra to lead a workshop in June for interested researchers
Learning about pollinators and plants
notes from Lydia
My thinking was to have relatively small wooden bee boxes (which will likely mostly attract mason bees) with relatively few cavities in them (3-5) since nests with a lot of cavities in them can attract more parasites. I’ve attached a photo of the type of trap-nests I use for my own research in Colorado. Perhaps we could design something like it (albeit probably with fewer holes)? I don’t think Mira and I had a specific research goal in mind in terms of what data we’d be collecting from these boxes, but there are definitely many possibilities! For example, the bee boxes I use in my research have cavities lined with semi-translucent paper straws such that I can actually count the number of broods each bee has produced without disturbing the bee.
A workshop for how to build, take care of, and monitor bee boxes would be great! That being said, I know I’m definitely not an expert with bee boxes specifically in the context of cities and I think I’d really like to get some input from others about it first. I can try and reach out to some people who have more experience with urban bee boxes and let you know what I glean! Does this sound okay?
Planting along roads, rights of way and other potentially available spaces
summarized by Elizabeth Gammell
Some decisions the WPP collectively might consider in terms of how:
- can be small, numerous, diverse
- no one individual or group is overburdened; individuals are as burdened as they choose to be
- can be fast, good for quickly channelling enthusiasm
- can lead nowhere long-term with higher risk that authorities either discover and deliberately destroy an initiative or unintentionally destroy it
- cannot be publicized nor inspire others unless by very passive osmosis among passers-by who on their own recognize an initiative for what it is
- risk that action by individuals misses out on collective knowledge that can help avoid unwise choices e.g. bad species
- may or may not be significant risk for the individual or an adjacent property-owner to get into personal trouble e.g. fines or other sanctions
- may risk gaining bad karma with authorities with whom WPP may like to cooperate on other initiatives?
Possible way forward: Capture wisdom and advice from successful guerilleros to share?
Possible action item: Someone to interview Jim to capture his experience such it that can be shared with more than a few in one time and one place
Possible action item: Ask Amy to get ball rolling by writing her thoughts on a list of things that would minimize triggering unwanted attention from City of Ottawa officialdom. Circulate this list to prompt others to add their experiences with other authorities. Eventually post this among WPP on-line resources with disclaimers.
Possible way forward: Ignore this approach as a less than productive priority for WPP collective efforts, and let any guerilleros among the WPP membership or the wider community do their own thing! Jim says there is no need to share information/advice, since a guerillero won’t run into any problems or get into trouble.
Above board approach?
- can be publicized to inspire other individuals and groups
- more likely than guerilla initiatives to last longer and serve as platform for further development
- earns useful credibility and respect for WPP and its member individuals and groups
- embodies a partnership and collaborative way of working
- can allow WPP openly to seek funding and resource contributions
- slow and annoying
- consumes enormous time , motivation energy especially for a volunteer collective
- initiatives can so easily be blocked or so compromised they’re less than worthwhile. Jim comments that this approach doesn’t really accomplish a whole lot, that guerilla initiatives may be the worthwhile way to go
Possible way forward: WPP member groups learn from existing initiatives (“don’t reinvent the wheel” “piggy-back”); WPP disseminate these inspiring examples and resources to broader community
Possible action item: Create and keep up inventory of interesting projects underway: globally, in North America, in province, in local region…
- Jennifer get ball rolling by starting a Word document list with examples from recent Toronto colloquium; circulate it to stimulate other WPP members to add to it
- “Somebody” investigate software geomapping platform being used by American rights-of-way habitat working group (mentioned by Jennifer)
Possible action item: collect lists of lessons learned elsewhere
Possible action item: collect and curate resources “pollinator initiative-in-a-box” packages, e.g., including planning checklists, forms, ad comms templates, etc. etc.
- Jennifer get ball rolling by documenting comments flowing from recent Toronto conference e.g. Toronto behaviour change team, on use of signage.
Circulate document to WPP members to trigger other WPP members to add examples.
Post as they come in in special web-section of WPP webpages?
Eventually edit, curate, summarize, package up as a WPP branded resource?
Possible way forward: Collect and document collective WPP members’ knowledge of needed permissions and/or limitations by our regions’ authorities. It’s hard to decide what to chose may be possible to pursue without being able to eliminate impossibilities (be it for WPP collective efforts, for WPP members, or for a wider community).
Possible way forward: At least begin to create a resource that documents a list of the range of authorities in our region.
Possible way forward: Include contact inks or coordinates at the authorities to direct individuals or groups to seek independently for themselves the actual current information on permission processes or limitations.
Possible action item: Discussions hit dead wall here, with observations that any of these possible resources was too difficult to create. But Elizabeth opined that, without some base level of this kind of info, there is not much that can productively be discussed or priorities weighed, either for WPP collectively, WPP members or to guide/inspire wider community to take initiatives in this domain.
Possible way forward: Consider how to address some broader societal challenges, e.g., esthetic resistance to “untidiness” among tax-paying public or among maintenance/operations types or among high-level executives among authorities.
Possible action item: None suggested, esp given how broad and deep the challenge and how limited the volunteer WPP collective resources are.
Possible way forward: Suggestion to consider an approach to privately-owned corporate spaces e.g. parking lot margins, company lawns.
Comment: objections were raised about futility of attempting the creation of a directory/guide to what might be permitted by a more limited range of public authorities, or even simply who these authorities are; would it not then be even less possible relating to the myriad of potential private companies?
Communications and outreach
notes from Sarah
Do you read the blog? Are you subscribed to it?
Some yes, some no. Those that said ‘no’ get the newsletter and as the blog links are in the newsletter, they inadvertently do read the blog.
None interested in writing a blog (2 had already submitted one)
How could we expand the network?
In reaching out to other groups, first be clear of what WPP is and how they could participate. The list changes depending on what the message is.
- Community associations – via the Federation of Citizens’ Association of Ottawa
- Plant producers (small nurseries, wholesellers…)
- Community Garden Networks
- Horticultural Societies
- Master Gardeners
- FWG list that is updated annually (by Pam?) – Elizabeth G. to check
- Algonquin Hort Training program
- Landscape Ontario – Ottawa chapter
- Bee keepers – honey producers (we have similar interests and needs)
- Plant sale audience
Who goes to schools?
- Can’t ask school boards, they don’t share that info.
- Let’s Talk Science, NCC, Monarch Teacher’s Network, Tree Canada
- Joan (MTN) will ask her contact for more info.
- Elizabeth G. will ask her NCC contact?
How could we enhance our French capacity and reach out to the Gatineau side?
- 2 members bilingual? (Elizabeth G.- conversational- and Maria S.)
- French bee keepers association?
- Club des ornithologues de l’outaouais
- Elizabeth G. to check with NCC contact etc.
Comments from Elizabeth Gammell
I committed to reach out to my French-speaking Gatineau contacts for suggested groups with which WPP could engage, or at least piggyback on their dist lists or at their meetings.
That said, I do not suggest this as an immediate top priority for joint volunteer effort of the WPP. Worth keeping in mind when other WPP initiatives could also be adapted to reach out and develop potential Quebec-side groups, and/or French-language resources.
- Some of my contacts have confirmed there is no obvious counterpart to the OFNC or similar — although there are French-language mushroom and bird special interest groups.
- Two most mentioned general enviro interest groups with some naturalist activities and interests included are the apelimbour group (Pointe Gatineau – ‘friends of’ type for a local marsh, anti-buckthorn clean-ups, presentations sometimes on nature topics, pesticide impacts, etc.) and the Boucher Woods group (north Aylmer – ‘friends of’ type)
- There is a local chapter of the province-wide Société d’horticulture et d’écologie, which sounds like a good likely group with interests in common to WPP goals. The local chapter of course isn’t having meet-ups just now, but their Facebook shows past events have had presentations or outings mainly about classic (i.e. non-native) horticulture topics. One event, however, was a presentation about the local spring forest flowers. So there may be an interesting potential to have ‘someone’ from WPP make a presentation about WPP goals.
Their Facebook presence lists 967 followers. The events including presentations show around 50 tend to indicate intention to participate, but actual attendees range from 6 to 13 and for annual meeting/soiree.
Ideas for action
- Send information to the Société for them to adapt into one of their own Facebook page posts to reach the 967 local followers
- Reflect who could make up such an info packet to feed to them, attractive and easy for them to adapt into a Facebook post
- How to provide it in French?
- Discuss if WPP might offer to make a guest presentation at one of their events –in September or later. Discuss who that ‘someone’ to make a presentation could be
- Is there an existing presentation about WPP goals? Make one? Who?
Prepare such a presentation in French and/or translate an English version; whom has that French-language capacity, or a contact who could help to it?
To note: the City of Gatineau and the Gatineau public (probably including members of this Société may well be unreservedly starry-eyed about honeybees.
To reflect on: how much of a WPP presentation would or would not comment about the concerns about honeybees?
Thoughts on useful material to prepare and have to hand, when time comes to seek to engage French-language groups, Quebec-side groups.
I think the most useful to have ready would be about 4 French-language Facebook-length texts, attractive and easy for an organization to post on their own platform: 2 about inspiring projects or places people could check out on the Ottawa side, each with a photo; 2 featuring some good French-language/bilingual planning resources that readers can check out during off-season.
Maybe Sandy could select some existing texts (from our blog?) and maybe ask Maria if she could translate them.
- a French-language ppt presentation of ~30-45 minutes about the WPP: its aims, what types of involved people/groups, overview of wild pollinators and native plants, a look at some of the dilemmas (introduced honeybees, hort trade plants & availability, tyranny of tidyness/neighbourhood aesthetic standards/municipal regulations), some inspirational images and solutions, WPP wishlist for help and volunteers and resources
- an inventory of WPP’s own existing Fr material and Fr resources links on the WPP site
- looking ahead, consider how can prepare and have ready in back pocket a stock of quick Instagram-type items: something super easy to caption bilingually: e.g. simple local image of a wild pollinator on a native plant with E and F names, date
Elizabeth Gammell committed to reach out to a French language Gatineau bee-keeping contact — I’ve already done so, but do not see an obvious easy way forward, and not as a top priority for WPP collective action.
Pay attention to individual gardeners (separate from organization members), maybe even a working group to address their needs and wants.
To reach more people, pull together representatives from garden clubs, horticultural societies, and ask Berit to give her talk on how to and why start a pollinator garden and advantages of native plants, then urge reps to spread the word to the members of their clubs.
What does membership mean? What is WPP mission? Values? Need people other than Sandy and Renate to work on this. Clearly explain on WPP web site.
At FWG plant sale, provide more information about pollinator gardening.
We haven’t determined what membership entails, but in any case, it would be good if community associations or at least CAFES [Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability] received WPP’s newsletter. Do they already?
Where does WPP-PPS go from here?
Notes from Katherine Forster
FORMAL ENTITY – What options should we consider (e.g. seeking not-for-profit status, become a sub-group of the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club)?
Currently WPP is an initiative that was started by two volunteers of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden (FWG). On the website it states: “We seek to raise awareness, share information and resources, offer learning opportunities and events, support pollinator habitat protection & creation, as well as encourage appropriate, responsible action.” It does not have not-for-profit or charity status.
Some of the main activities of the two volunteers including writing blog posts (or posting blog posts from others), hosting two colloquiums (March 2019, March 2020) which has helped connect various partners, starting a working group for Local Native Seed Sources, sharing information and resources – including the two written resources for Community Gardens and Faith Community Gardens and conducting pollinator surveys (with the help of University of Ottawa students).
The FWG is a project of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club (OFNC), a not-for-profit organization with a board of directors. It provides waiver forms for all participants. If WPP hosts events (at the FWG or elsewhere) is it doing a similar effort in terms of having all participants sign a waiver form?
Official status has its pros and cons and it depends on what WPP chooses to pursue in terms of activities for 2020 and beyond. Having a not-for-profit status provides more credibility (but the feeling is that WPP already has credibility) and it may help the public understand WPP role (for those in the public that are not familiar with Fletcher or OFNC).
- Does WPP need funding (many funds require a NFP or charity status)? If there is an interest in being bilingual – does WPP have the capacity?
- Could WPP partner with a NFP or Charity org if it wants to pursue a larger project (with funds needed?)
- Has WPP approached OFNC to see what the current board would consider in terms of WPP being a sub-group (is this a viable option)?
- If there is interest in being a sub-group and the OFNC does not have the capacity for this, should WPP approach the Friends of the Farm?
- Does WPP have concerns about liability for current participants (for workshops, etc) including students who do the monitoring?
- Would WPP be able to staff a position (and supervise) if funding is received?
- What would WPP do in terms of admin needs (if NFP status was sought – board, finance, accountant, etc)
- Is the current status (being an initiative and not having an official status) beneficial in terms of flexibility and very low reporting requirements?
- Identify key projects to pursue and determine resources needed including funding – this will help determine next steps in terms of status.
VOLUNTEERS – How can we encourage volunteers to become more involved, to help enhance the network?
Similar to the first discussion – some of the main activities of the two volunteers including writing blog posts (or posting blog posts from others), hosting two colloquiums (March 2019, March 2020) which has helped connect various partners, starting a working group for Local Native Seed Sources, sharing information and resources – including the two written resources for Community Gardens and Faith Community Gardens and conducting pollinator surveys (with the help of University of Ottawa students).
What type of volunteers are needed? Writing blog posts? Translation from English to French? Doing pollinator surveys (train the trainers idea) or leading students to do surveys? Leading walks, workshops and/or working groups? What else has been identified as a priority project and what skills are being sought?
If there are specific projects that WPP wants to focus on, volunteers can be recruited through a variety of ways, with a detailed description of the skills/need/hours required:
- volunteers students through the universities and colleges
- Volunteer Ottawa – unlimited postings with membership ($175) – share costs with OFNC/Fletcher?
- high school student volunteer hours
- Good Work posting (https://www.goodwork.ca/) (flexible rate)
- Promote need at Fletcher Plant Sale in June (have a flyer that the cashier gives at payment counter)
One idea to recruit more photographers to take photos of pollinators would be to have a contest, promote a two-week photo event (during the “high season” of pollination or a time of year where there is currently less data?) that is heavily promoted – both in the lead up to the two-week contest event and during the event (social media, posters, cross promotion – help from other organizations, local event) and offer prizes.
- Identify key projects to pursue and determine volunteers (and specific skills) needed – this will help determine next steps in terms of volunteer recruitment.
ADVOCACY – Should WPP-PPS become more involved in advocacy?
Currently WPP is not involved in much advocacy other than some blog posts (ask Sandy and Renate to confirm). WPP should identify which current member organizations are focused on advocacy and whether they want some of this advocacy done through WPP and/or if there are any opportunities and/or interest to partner. WPP can help with networking for these partnering opportunities.
If there is interest, WPP members would need to identify critical areas in terms of advocacy:
- raising the awareness of general public on need to help native bees (increasing biodiversity + resiliency),
- ban on neonicatanoids for all plants sold,
- businesses currently using bee-washing to promote the expansion of urban bee-keeping (will this be detrimental to native bees?),
- how gardeners can help expand habitat to help with native species that are listed in the Species at Risk act
One idea would be to create a flyer that has some advocacy information to help raise awareness with those who purchase native plants at Fletcher Plant Sale in June.
- Determine if there is interest from member organizations and/or general members (which includes ability to help also) and if so, start a working group that will determine how to go about it.
- If WPP does become a NFP or charity, seek approval from board that WPP should be involved in advocacy.
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