FWG Gets Outside Help

By Ted Farnworth Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), The Royal Ottawa, TD bank, & Ernst Young LLP. What do they have in common? Well, each of them have volunteer groups that have recently come to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden to help us. Our regular volunteers do a great job, but we are always happy to have groups come out to lend a hand. Using enthusiasm, strength, and speed these volunteer groups were able to get many items off of our “to do” that included putting up new story boards, working on the eves trough/ downspout, moving large logs to the pond, placing flagstone around benches to help with water drainage, resurfacing paths with wood chips, and creating a brick pathway to the Back Yard Garden. And of course there was plenty of work on invasives – DSV and comfry. We even got rid of some unwanted honey suckle.
We welcome such groups to help us to maintain the Garden, and know that this first experience with the Fletcher

A pile of DSV pulled by the Royal Ottawa group

TD bank group adds new wood chips to a path

Work on a brick pathway to the BYG by E&Y group

Removal of comfry by the TD bank group

Garden is a great way for us to get better known in the community.

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Work on the Amphibian Pond

By Ted Farnworth The amphibian pond has been helped and hurt by the record rains that we have experienced. The good news is that many of the plants that we planted in the spring have done well thanks to the frequent downpours. But the rains have also encouraged rapid growth of many types of weeds that are competing with our new plantings. In addition, the torrential rains badly eroded the crushed stone pathway around the pond, and washed crushed stone and topsoil in to the pond. It seems that the dredging we did last fall has also encouraged the growth of flowering rush and so this invasive aquatic plant has just about taken over the pond.

A variety of weeds and flowering rush have taken over in the pond and surrounding banks

Small groups are now trying to play catch up at the pond, to make the pathway safe, to weed around plants we want to survive and flourish, to remove flowering rush and to start introducing other types of aquatic plants.

This past Saturday, a small group of eager volunteers made great progress on the pond and its surroundings. The pathway is now open again, weeding helped uncover many of the plants we stared in the spring, and more of the pond is now free of flowering rush.
Thanks to all who helped. The giant tadpoles, and several frogs seemed to appreciate our efforts.

 

  

 

 

A little weeding gives plants a better chance to grow on the pond banks

Ottawa School Board Students Visit the FWG

By Ted Farnworth

Students from the Ottawa School Board

The Ottawa School Board offers summer classes to new Canadians as a way of giving their students more opportunities to improve their English, get more comfortable with a school setting, and as a way to learn more about the city and country they now live in. The 15-17 year olds in this year’s class come from a variety of countries, and backgrounds.

As part of the course work, the instructors organize day trips to various locations and organizations in Ottawa. On Tuesday, they class visited the Fletcher Wildlife Garden to learn about the garden, in general, and dog-strangling vine in particular. It was obvious that many of the students were city kids, and so the many squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and insects they saw during their visit caused much excitement.

A short tour of the Backyard Garden was followed by an hour of DSV picking. It was a particularly hot, humid day, but the students managed to stack up several large piles of picked DSV. The only disappointment – no moose or wolves showed up to say hello!

Our Sandy Gets an Award

By Ted Farnworth

Friends of the Earth plaque

The subject of pollinators is hot one right now. More and more people are coming to understand how important these insects are, especially because of the role they play in the growing of many fruits and vegetables. We, at the Fletcher, often tell people that one of our objectives is to create a “garden” that is friendly to insects especially pollinators. Over the years we have build up a lot of experience with pollinators that we want to share. Sandy Garland has been working with a number of local groups giving them advice and help to create sites that are pollinator friendly, and this year she has worked at establishing pollinator gardens at the FWG. For her efforts, Sandy has recently received a Bee Cause Champion Award plaque from the Friends of the Earth organization for her work on protecting native bees. Congratulations Sandy!

FWG Gets Outside Help

By Ted Farnworth   

Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), The Royal Ottawa, and TD Bank. What do they have in common? Well, each of them has volunteer groups that have recently come to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden to help us.

Our regular volunteers do a great job, but we are always happy to have groups come out to lend a hand. Using enthusiasm, strength, and speed these volunteer groups were able to get many items off of our “to do” list. The PWC group put up new story boards, worked on the eavestrough/downspout, moved some large logs to the pond, placed flagstone around benches to help with water drainage and did some work on invasives.

The Royal Ottawa group was able to pull enough DSV in a morning to create a pile more that a metre high (see photo). The TD bank group also worked on DSV, and were able to dig out enough purple comfrey to create two giant mounds (see photo).

We welcome such groups to help us to maintain the garden and we know that this first experience with the Fletcher Garden is a great way for us to get better known in the community.

Pile of DSV after Royal Ottawa group finished

TD bank group with one of their comfry piles

Andrenid bees at the FWG

by Christine Hanrahan

Originally posted in May 2011

About 5 years ago, I discovered an aggregation of Andrenid bees nesting on the north slope of the Amphibian Pond. At that time they were in one location only. The next year I went back to the pond in early spring, hoping to find them. It wasn’t until late April that they appeared, in the same location, at the time a nearby willow was in flower. Eventually, I discovered that they were Andrena dunningi, a species known to time its emergence to coincide with the flowering of willow trees.

Andrenid bee. These bees were very active in early afternoon under a warm, sunny sky. I would guesstimate about 30-40 were seen, fewer than the number of nest holes.

Over the next few years, I found them mostly in the initial location, but in 2007, I also found some nesting in another section of the north slope, where an abundance of non-native plants, mostly mustards and Chenopodium species, were growing (for that one year). The nesting, of course, took place before these plants had grown to full height.

This year, 2011, the bees were first noticed in late April, and, interestingly, I saw they had spread from their original site to the upper section of the track around the pond (not the Bill Holland Trail, but the “informal” track that was created when the bridge was closed last year), and to the west side of this track. I counted about 30 entrance holes at that point.

Constant foot traffic on the track meant that the burrows were continually being closed over, although new holes appeared regularly.

Andrenids prefer areas of bare soil with scattered vegetation, such as sparsely growing grass, and show a distinct preference for the tops of slopes. Their burrows are about 4-6 inches in length, as best as I can determine, so we don’t want to plant species with deep spreading roots that might prevent them from burrowing. Reading I have done since last week indicates that they will nest under exposed tree roots, but they are much happier with bare soil.

Some of the plants we have considered for this location (and we are not restricting the list to native only) include clover, grasses and sedges that form clumps (such as poverty oat grass and peduncled sedge), and possibly vines that will grow down the slope such as wild grape or virginia creeper.

Freshly dug nest site: you can see the mound of soil around the hole.

Andrenid nest entrance. Freshly dug holes often have a mound of soil around them (see photo above), but rain washes this away. Many of the nest holes are not apparent at first, especially if not surrounded by a mound of soil. They are also very small, approx. 1/4 inch or less.

NOTE: As of May 2017, we have found at least 7 species of Andrenid bees at the FWG: Andrena cressonii, A. dunningi, A. miserabilis, A. nasonii, A rufosignata, A. vicina, and A. wilkella (the last one is the only non-native). In addition to this location next to the pond, we’ve also seen them in the Old Woodlot.

FWG: “One of nine top garden destinations in Canada”

by John Davidson

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden is included in one of the nine best gardens in Canada to visit, according to travel writer Katharine Fletcher.

The article features several highlights in and around the Central Experimental Farm. About FWG, she writes, “Immediately adjacent to the Arboretum find the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, a public education project managed by the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club.

“Their Backyard garden features rock, woods, pond and other gardens where species have identification signs.

“There’s no better place to go for gardeners to discover what grows where, than to visit The Farm.”

Ms. Fletcher’s article appears in Travel2Next, an Australian-based travel web site, using independent travel writers, photographers and bloggers to deliver travel experiences, ideas and opportunities to its readers worldwide.

Read the full article

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The regeneration begins

by John Davidson

Michelle and other volunteers planted 1100 native plants on the south side of our pond today.

One of the highlights of Fletcher Wildlife Garden—the Amphibian Pond—has undergone a major, and necessary reconstruction since last fall.

Over the years, the pond had become a victim of invasive plant species which had overrun the area, had choked native plant life, and was seriously affecting the viability of the habitat, and the many birds, animals, amphibians and insects that called it home.

As early as 2006, it was clear that the pond was in trouble. An FWG post that year said that “Flowering rush grew exponentially until it covered all open water. frog-bit also became a problem. It and duckweed covered the surface by July, preventing sunlight from getting to the underwater plants that keep the water oxygenated.”

Elizabeth, starting at the west end of the pond. The seedlings were grown for us by Budd Gardens from seed we collected last fall.

After much debate and analysis, it was decided that the best solution to the problem was to dredge the pond, clearing out the invasive species, and replanting the area with more benign native plants. The dredging was done last fall, and for a while, the pond looked more like a construction zone than a wildlife oasis.

Now, however, the regeneration has begun. And already new, native growth has begun to take hold.

On May 27, an army of Fletcher Wildlife Garden staff and volunteers began planting 1100 native seedlings on the banks surrounding the water. Species included pollinator favourites, like milkweed, sneezeweed, asters, and goldenrods, as well as butterfly hosts, like Pearly Everlasting. Staff also put up a fence to protect the tender plants until they establish themselves. Loose-running dogs and young seedlings don’t mix.

The pond is already once again becoming a magnet for wetland wildlife: frogs, turtles, toads, red-winged blackbirds, and bats have all returned, and even a sandpiper was spotted the other day — a first for the Fletcher Wildlife Garden.

It will take a season for Mother Nature to work her magic. To see it happen, make a point of walking by the pond every couple of weeks or so, watching the new seedlings grow, develop and mature. By the fall—certainly by this time next year—the native plants should have taken hold, and the pond will once again look as if it’s been there, undisturbed, for years.

We are very grateful that a generous bequest from OFNC member, Violetta Czasak, allowed us to take on this complex and long-term project. Thanks also to Diane Lepage, who spent many many hours embroiled in paperwork and negotiations to get the work started.

Melanie, hard at work planting Heart-leaved Asters

Visit to FWG by Ontario’s environmental commissioner

By Ted Farnworth

Environmental Commissioner Dr. Dianne Saxe (right) talks with Ted Farnworth, Sandy Garland, and Diane Lepage at the FWG

On Monday, May 9, the Ontario environmental commissioner, Dr. Dianne Saxe, did a walking tour of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. FWG volunteers Sandy Garland and Ted Farnworth, along with Diane Lepage (OFNC president) pointed out many aspects of the garden including, the amphibian pond, the butterfly meadow, and the new woods to the commissioner.

Our efforts with dog strangling vine, insect hotels, and some early spring flowers also were part of the tour. The Commissioner was very complimentary about the many things she saw, and the work of our volunteers who make FWG what it is today.

Spring Fling Starts off the 2017 Season

By Ted Farnworth. Over thirty-five people showed up to the Sunday Spring Fling pot luck. Many new faces showed up to join volunteers back from last year. The IC tables were covered with a wide variety of goodies, finger food, and desserts that were enjoyed by all. Short presentations gave everyone a better idea of what we have planned for the 2017 season.  Many people asked questions, and a wide variety of topics were covered that helped newcomers understand what we do at the Fletcher, and how we do it.

Thanks to all who participated and contributed.