by Lynne Patenaude

The Friends of Riverview Park Green Spaces and a group of volunteers planted over 370 seedlings of 25+ species of sun-loving, mostly native, perennial flowers and grasses in a 6 by 12 metre oval garden in late October 2022. The Riverview Park Pollinator Garden was funded as part of a 2021 Healthy Communities grant from the federal government. It’s located on City of Ottawa land that our community association stewards near the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the Ottawa Hospital – General campus. You can find the garden just off the Hospital Link Rd (follow the path from the crosswalk 300 m east of Alta Vista Drive) or park in Riverview Park and follow the path from the end of Knox Cr. near Cluny Street.

Seeds came from the Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library, the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, and some local volunteers and were mostly started under lights. We were amazed at how well the plants came through their first winter and how full the garden was, even in its first year. Lots of pollinators visited flowers blooming from June through October, and birds visited seed heads in the fall.

The plants were mostly seedlings started in March 2022 under grow-lights, with some winter-sown seedlings and a few New England Aster volunteers. We are very lucky in Ottawa to share and receive free seeds through the Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library (OWSL), which has encouraged so many people to harvest and donate native plant seeds. The volunteers at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden donates surplus cold-stratified seeds and seedlings to community groups most years too, and we obtained some of their seeds for this garden through the OWSL.

After much back and forth about how to apply to plant a pollinator garden on city land, then waiting for four months for approval, we got the go-ahead! Over a week in mid-October 2022, a group of enthusiastic volunteers prepared the site, laying down cardboard and bringing in soil to this mostly gravel site. Wood chip paths were laid down around the garden.

We planted hundreds of native and near-native seedlings in a few hours on 23 October 2022. The garden was mulched and watered, and luckily we had mild weather for a few weeks, which helped the plants get established before freeze-up.

Plant list

  • Lance-leaved Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
  • Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) – sadly this turned out to be non-native Korean Hyssop
  • Yellow Hyssop (Agastache nepetoides)
  • Spotted Horse Mint (Monarda punctata) – did not return in 2023
  • Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
  • Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
  • Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus)
  • Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)
  • Alumroot (Heuchera americana)
  • Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)
  • Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
  • Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
  • Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
  • Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
  • Hairy Wood Mint (Blephilia ciliata)
  • Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta)
  • Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
  • Rough-leaved Goldenrod (Solidago patula)
  • Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida)
  • False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
  • New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novo-angliae)
  • Cut-leaved Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)
  • Spotted Joe-pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)
  • Canada Tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense) – did not return in 2023
  • Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia mexicana)
  • Side-oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
  • Little Blue Stem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

We were so happy to see that almost everything survived the winter. A low fence was added in spring to keep bunnies from feasting and dogs from frolicking, and gates were added at each end. The garden grew amazingly well this year, looking more like a garden in its third year, and was a hit with pollinators all year, and with birds this fall!

This garden is also registered as a David Suzuki Foundation Butterflyway Habitat Garden and is part of the Riverview Park-Elmvale Butterflyway formed mostly by participants in the Ottawa-South Eco-Action Network (OSEAN) Pollinator Patch program. Please come out and visit through the seasons! And visit our Facebook group.

The garden’s first full year

Spring 2023

Hairy Wood Mint (Blephilia ciliata)

Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

Summer 2023

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata) at the left, Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) behind, and Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) at the right

Lance-leaved Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) at left edge, Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) still blooming, Great Blue Lobelia lower front, Hyssop (Agastache sp.) behind, then Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). Rough-leaved Goldenrod (Solidago patula) at upper left and lower right.

Fall 2023

Whole front view, 17 October 2023.

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