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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Wildlife gardening is not just about native plants

by Sandy Garland

The Backyard Garden at the FWG is meant to illustrate how to garden with birds, butterflies, bees, squirrels, and all the other creatures that live in the Ottawa area in mind. We emphasize native species because we assume those are the plants these creatures are looking for to feed on. But, in a wildlife garden, structure is important too.


The location of our bird feeder is a good example of something we did right. The blue spruce at the left of the photo is not native, but it provides winter cover for many birds and squirrels. It’s close enough to the feeder for birds to flee there when disturbed, but far enough that squirrels can’t jump onto the feeder and gorge on the seeds. I measured the distance earlier and the trunk is about 12 feet from the feeder.

House finches take cover in its branches, red squirrels nibble on its buds in spring, and juncos hop around under the tent formed by its lowest branches.

The bare tree at the right of the photo, which is a bit farther from the feeder, is a serviceberry – a horticultural variety of a native species. At this time of year, cardinals and woodpeckers use is as a stop on their way to the feeder. In spring, its blossoms attract early bees and other insects.

Chickadees, which are the most common visitors to the feeder, tend to fly back and forth from the cedar hedge behind the spruce or from the Joe-Pye weed stems off to the left out of the photo. Between sunflower seeds, they seem to find something to eat on those stems, which we leave standing over the winter.

Food, water, shelter, and sites for nests and other homes constitute the elements of a wildlife garden. In winter, food and shelter are extremely important, so try to make sure your garden contains both.

More info:
All about feeding birds
Creating a safe garden for birds

FWG has amazing volunteers (but, of course, we already knew that!)

FWG volunteers are amazing people who are dedicated to creating wildlife habitat and beauty not because they feel like they ought to , but as they genuinely enjoy mucking about!

Isabelle always says how much she loves the BYG!

Isabelle always says how much she loves the BYG!

At this year’s volunteer potluck, Isabelle was recognised with our Annual Volunteer Award. Isabelle is the Habitat Manager for the Backyard Garden. This season was especially difficult as many regular Friday volunteers could not attend and the drought caused even the hardiest plants to consider taking a rain check until next growing season. Barry joked that whenever he walked through the BYG with Misti, he would regularly come across Isabelle toiling away busily in the heat, trying to keep one of our best-loved habitats picture perfect for visitors. The chipmunks were so accustomed to her presence that they would run up to her feet and keep her company at lunch!

Diane and her medal!

Diane and her medal!

Another volunteer recognised this year was Diane, who received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for her work in establishing the Monarch Waystation Project and developing the Butterfly Meadow strategy. Anyone who has done a stint in the BM knows that the fight against DSV is hard-core and ongoing – not for the faint of heart! Diane, with her volunteers, has created one of the most picturesque natural habitats at FWG, which is also extremely popular with grateful pollinators who think their little wild oasis is the bee’s knees! (Sorry, just had to get that in there!) The Jubilee Medal was created to recognise Canadians who have given back to their community.

Sincere congratulations and biggest thanks from all of us for the contributions you both make to FWG – the garden wouldn’t be the same without them and you!

Thinking ahead to Plant Sale 2013 – Seed collection!

Climbing rosehips.

Seed collection is an ongoing activity during the season. Just as flowers bloom at different times, so too do their seed ripen at various points of summer and autumn. We collect all the seed for the plants that we grow and sell at the annual native plant sale. Some plants we sell are donations, usually rhizomatous plants that we’ve never had luck growing from seed. We also have transplants from our own garden!

If you plan to collect seed from your own plants, be sure to collect only 1/3 – the rule of three is such that (in theory) 1/3 of the seed are food for wildlife, 1/3 for plant propagation and then 1/3 for you! Continue reading

Christine’s FWG Walks: Late August

by Christine Hanrahan

Christine is one of FWG’s volunteer naturalists who writes in great detail about her visits to FWG. A great way to visit with us virtually and keep on top of what you might see when here in person!

Hi all,

There is always something interesting to see at the FWG, and today was no exception. While walking through the garden with a couple of visitors from England, we were astonished to see an American Bittern take off from just west of the old field, about 4 feet away from us. It had been standing in the midst of sow-thistles, and it landed in the middle of the buckwheat field.

While looking across the buckwheat field, before we saw the bittern, we could see at least 50 monarchs!! It was quite the sight, believe me. There were more in the BYG, and elsewhere. Continue reading

Mowing strips and garden beds

by Sandy Garland / FWG

Brick mowing stripRegular visitors to our Backyard Garden may be wondering what we are doing along the edge of some of the flower beds. Until recently, most beds were edged with a double row of bricks. This “mowing strip” allowed the lawn mower to run along with one wheel on the brick path and trim the grass right to the edge. Nice and easy for the volunteers who mow.

BUT, the volunteers who maintain these beds complained that it was very difficult to weed between the bricks – in fact impossible, and weeds kept growing back as fast as they were pulled out. Others added that the bricks did not create a very “natural” look in a wildlife garden.

dirt stripSo, out they came! To help the mowers, we are trying to replace the bricks with a packed strip of soil around each bed. Time will tell whether this solution works for everyone.

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #2 – Bottlebrush Grass (Elymus hystrix)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Photo by epa.gov

Flowers: None

Height: 36-60” (100 to 150 cm)

Width: 16-60” (40 to 150 cm)

Light: Full Sun to Part Sun

One of the most unusual grasses we have at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, Bottlebrush distinguishes itself with remarkable awns that poke out at almost a 90º angle to its stem. In the morning dew, we find it photographs magically.

Aptly named with a head that looks like a bottle brush, its scientific name is equally apropos whereby ‘hystrix’ means hedgehog. This spiky head is nonetheless very airy in appearance, and its delicacy is nicely contrasted with bushier flowers or other grasses.

Remarkable for its ability to tolerate full sun to filtered light conditions, Bottlebrush can grow in dry to slightly moist soils. In the Backyard Garden, we have it growing by the frog pond and in the central grasses bed. Continue reading

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #3 – Great Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Photo by northcreeknurseries.com

Flowers: Blue to white

Height: 12-36” (30 to 100 cm)

Width: 8-12” (20 to 30 cm)

Light: Full Sun to Part Sun

Great Lobelia is a member of the Campanula family, hence its pretty, bell-shaped flowers. Profuse in blooming, the flowers are held atop tall, straight plants in clusters beloved by pollinators. Bumblebees and the odd hummingbird are known to enjoy a tipple from this plant!

However, Great Lobelia is also quite pest resistant, so no insect gets much of a snack from its leaves. This is because it contains a chemical compound, lobeline, which is even currently being used in medical research. Continue reading

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #4 – Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Photo by J Cameron (newhampshirewildflowers.com)

Flowers: White-Pink

Height: 12-36” (30 to 100 cm)

Width: 24-59″ (60-150 cm)

Light: Full Sun to Part Sun

Some native plants have the most unfortunate names that give them an underserved bad rap. Foremost among that group is Spreading Dogbane, which is commonly found in open areas like pastures, woodland edges and roadsides. This is another plant that can thrive in poor, dry soils. It spreads through seed held in little pods, or through its roots – hence the ‘spreading’ part of its moniker.

Dogbane is poisonous for grazers and can make them ill – hence its inclusion on the Ontario weed lists. However, in the home garden it is one of the prettiest native plants around. With its delicate arching form and small, sweetly fragrant bell-shaped pinkish flowers, Dogbane is one of those plants visitors to our garden always inquire about regarding its identity. We have it up against the Interpretation Centre by the parking lot where it does an admirable job of making do with less than ideal circumstances – even surviving periods of drought! Continue reading

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #5 – Bigleaf Aster (Eurybia macrophylla)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Flowers: White

Height: 12-35” (30 to 90 cm)

Width: 24-36″ (60-90 cm)

Light: Part Shade to Full Shade

Frequently one of the first asters to bloom, Bigleaf Aster is a forest and edge habitat herbaceous plant. Its flowers have delicate, airy petals surrounding a yellow centre. Unusually, the flowers can also appear as pale purple or violet. Bigleaf Aster begins to flower in July and continues until September. Continue reading