Friday, August 26, 2016

Active Senior: Planting a Pollinator Paradise at her Retirement Community.

Thanks to summer intern, Saige Patti for this blog post.

Inspired by the Urquhart Butterfly Garden in Dundas, Heather Ridge decided to start a pollinator garden of her own, near a pond in her retirement community of St. Elizabeth Village.

Armed with an encyclopedia of plants, Heather planted the garden in 2014 with her friend Sandy, who is a member of the horticultural society. WHICH ONE?  Since then, she has added many more plants, built two obelisk trellises and a bench, and decorated with other ornaments like birdhouses and birdbaths.

Now, the garden is flourishing with plants including phlox, maltese cross, coreopsis, butterfly bush, heather, lobelia, salvia, sundrops, yarrow, gayfeather, and geranium. “I even have a cactus!” Heather says. There are vegetables, herbs, and three trees including a magnolia tree which Heather finds “messy, but gorgeous.”

Heather used to grow roses on her horse farm. “I always had my farm looking nice, but I’ve never done anything this intense,” she explains. The retirement community supported Heather’s project by helping her pay for it. When she started, she was interested in attracting butterflies, but her main goal was to make something beautiful. Turtlehead, her favourite plant, is planted right by the bench so that people can see it when they are sitting down. “When these bud out they look like the heads of a turtle,” she explains. She likes the plant for its distinctness.

Heather has done many things to enhance her garden, such as placing large rocks along the roadside to protect it from snow and salt in the winter, and having a bird box with alpaca wool for birds to use in their nests. She is happy to dedicate time and energy to make sure her garden is the healthiest it can be. “This year I had to water a heck of a lot more than I did last year… I come over two or three times a week depending on how hot and dry it is.”

She pulls a hose from her neighbours house to water the garden and rolls it all up again. The whole process takes her about an hour.

When asked about tips for keeping a garden healthy, Heather says she puts horse manure around her plants for the winter and uses black mulch as well to keep the moisture in. Heather also recommends that if you’re planning on growing a big garden you should gather some friends to help out. It’s easier to weed a large space with a little help. “Stay on top of it once you get the weed out of there. The first year is the hardest, so don’t give up.”

Heather gets her plants from Northland Nursery because it’s affordable. “They have everything there. You name it — they have it," she says. "If they don’t have it they’ll tell you where to get it.”

If you want to know more about pollinator-friendly, "Read up on it! Heather recommends. "The internet is there and it’s just a wealth of information.”

Heather reports that the positive feedback she receives from people walking by, is heartening. "People tell me, "Oh, Heather, it looks so nice. It’s so pretty to look at. It gives us something to look forward to." They love it! I’m blown away at how excited they are about it.”

Happy residents and a lovely garden that supports pollinator populations are definitely good rewards for all that hard work.