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

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!