Photo credit (above): Jason Foley
The butterfly. Not just another gorgeous garden guest. Those are working wings, carrying these welcome insects along with the pollen that clings to them from plant to plant. Just like the bees, butterflies are wild pollinators that are considered crucial to human survival.
The Butterflyway Project launched in 2017 when the David Suzuki Foundation recruited a team of volunteer Butterfly Rangers in five Canadian cities. The goal was to plant at least 12 “pollinator patches” of native plants in each community to create pollinator corridors where those working wings would be rewarded with food, water and shelter along their journey.
Since then the Foundation has trained over 1,000 Rangers who have helped create over 1,000 pollinator patches establishing official Butterflyways in 15 communities. This year Bolton’s Janice Fisher, unit leader with the 2nd Bolton Girl Guide unit, was excited to be chosen to become a Ranger.
Now if you were able to have a conversation with a butterfly they would tell you that not all gardens are created equal. Native plants are the best choices so you should aim to have at least 50% native species in your garden.
As a Ranger Janice attends monthly webinars so is furthering her education about pollinators and the importance of choosing the right plant species. She explains that planting in clusters is another recommended strategy so they can visit a variety of plants before heading on their way. “Think butterfly buffet” says Janice. “As well consider continuity, having plants that will bloom at different times of the year.”
“The great thing is that there is no minimum size project” she continues. “We are supposed to encourage friends and neighbours to plant gardens, but local businesses can participate as well. In fact, if you are in an apartment you could have planters on your balcony.”
Janice has launched a Facebook group Butterflyway Project Caledon which has over 100 members. And while getting the Girl Guides involved in outside activities was one of the catalysts this is a Project that is growing in leaps and bounds. And other Butterflyway Projects are springing up around the Caledon community.
Caledon Public Library will be very involved in their own Butterflyway Project starting with planting a pollinator garden at the Albion Bolton branch. Watch for more announcements from CPL. Contact: Laura Nolloth firstname.lastname@example.org
Albion Hills Community Farm has had an active role in bee-keeping since 2015 and has been a Monarch Waystation (#27121) since 2019, registered with MonarchWatch.org. President Karen Hutchinson is a Butterflyway Project Ranger as well and says she will be sharing AHCF’s plans for involvement in the Project early next month.
TRCA’s West Bolton SNAP’s “Green Home Make-over” winner Alessandra McIntosh will be having a pollinator garden at her property in Bolton.
The Town of Caledon is hosting a Zoom meeting in mid-May to bring the groups together to facilitate discussion and planning. The concerted effort could mean an official Butterflyway designation for Caledon.
While it is too early to plant Janice says you can start seeds inside to be ready when the time is right. When Covid protocols allow it her Guides will be seen out planting around the community. If necessary they will be planting masked and one family at a time.
So, getting back to just what are the right plant choices for pollinators, and what native plants can you choose so that you have blooms in a variety of months? Janice points us to experts on the topic that she feels have both the knowledge and the right plants:
Plant Paradise Country Gardens, Caledon – has a section of their website devoted to butterfly gardens and owner Lorraine Roberts has authored books on gardening.
Native Plant Nurseries, Tottenham – native plants are their focus; as well they have links to a significant number of resources on their website
In Our Nature, Orangeville – another nursery that is focussed specifically on native plants; they also provide links to a large number of resources.
Just Sayin’ Caledon will be featuring stories on Caledon’s Butterflyway Projects throughout the season. Let’s create corridors for those pretty pollinators!