“Butterflyway” A cross Canada pollinator corridor built one back yard at a time
Did you ever have the feeling “what kind of a difference can just one person make”? Recycling, composting and planting for pollinators – how do the actions I take in my own backyard really make a difference for the environment, for our forests and natural spaces and for the pollinators that rely on them?
The David Suzuki Foundation established a program called the “Butterflyway” which very clearly shows us how our individual actions are collective and collaborative. Investing in native plants, trees, shrubs and grasses on our properties links us with similar garden efforts across Canada. The “Butterflyway” project from the David Suzuki Foundation has led over 2,000 hometown volunteers all across Canada since 2017 who are encouraging communities to plant native plants, grasses, shrubs & trees specifically selected to nurture & feed pollinators – birds, bees, bugs, bats and of course, butterflies. The goal is to create pathways, or corridors, of native plants specifically meant to support these crucial pollinators now and into the future.
In our region, the Haliburton County Master Gardeners are leading the “Butterflyway” project team – we’re the “Butterflyway Rangers” for Haliburton County. This group of skilled gardeners & local residents has the knowledge, connections and tools to help choose plants and start pollinator patches and pathways in our communities. In 2022 to date, we’ve supported the planting of over 200 native plants on 5 “Butterflyways” by over 30 volunteers in the Algonquin Highlands.
Why native plants and why pollinators?
Native plants are specially adapted & suited to our climate, terrain & soil, so they have a built in advantage. Even better, most native pollinators are adapted to the native plants – some quite specialized. We know the story of the monarch butterfly & milkweed, right? Pollinators are part of the food web we depend on, and we are part of both the problem and the solution to supporting them.
There are lots of native plants around, right? We’re so fortunate to be able to spend time in this beautiful, natural region. However, almost one quarter of our natural landscape has been built on, de-forested or converted to agricultural use, which creates real pressure on native plants & creatures. Our region is part of the made in Canada solution to sustainability, but programs like the “Butterflyway” project can help us have even a greater impact. The David Suzuki Foundation Butterflyway program has spearheaded the planting of 89,000 wildflowers in over 6,500 gardens since 2017.
What the Haliburton County Master Gardener led Butterflyway team will do:
- Recommend native flowers, grasses, shrubs & trees that are locally adapted and will best support pollinators in a range of areas (forest, open spaces, shorelines & wetlands)
- Help connect you with native plant retailers in the region
- Provide starting point designs for gardens that will provide food and shelter for pollinators
- Come out to your property for a “onsite consultation”. We will assess your soil, garden challenges and make planting recommendations if you need some extra help on your property (a donation to the HCMG is recommended for this service)
- Provide “Butterflyway” signage that you can use to mark your special pollinator garden
What you need to do:
- Pick a site and size for your pollinator garden. It’s your site and there’s no “one size fits all”, so it’s up to you! It is good to consider the “3x3x3” rule, planting three species of native plants that bloom in each of spring, summer and fall, with 3 individual plants per species, so enough space for 27 plants representing 9 different species is optimal.
- Pick a budget. We can direct you to retailers and local plant sales, and can help find grant programs that may help out with cost for large scale projects, but you do need to purchase your own plants. Don’t forget about improving soil quality before you plant with compost & water conserving mulch to help those plants get the best start possible.
- Pick up your tools. Yes, you’re going to have to put shovel into the ground to plant your wildflowers, grasses, shrubs & trees and then help them stay hydrated and healthy for their first year.
- Pick a spot to sit and watch the butterflies! Enjoy the fruits of your labour as insects buzz and butterflies flutter by, all benefiting from your hard work to provide them with shelter & food.
- Leave it be. Native plant gardens benefit from hands off gardening. Leave stems and leaves in place in the fall & only lightly trim in the spring to encourage habitat for overwintering insects and natural growth.
- And lastly, keep us updated (with photos too) as to how your garden is growing.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to become part of the Canada-wide Butterflyway program.