by Isobel Watson
It was a sunny weekend in June and I came back to school to plant a garden. A fresh mound of earth from Paramount Nursery had been delivered to the front yard of Glebe Collegiate Institute (GCI) the day before and it was surrounded by potted plants and volunteers who where ready to get their hands dirty.
The pollinator garden, comprised of flowers native to the Ottawa region, was an initiative of TWIGS, Glebe’s environmental club. TWIGS stands for Those Who Initiate Greener Spaces, and the garden was a small part of the club’s project to make the spaces around the school, well, greener.
“Planting our Pollinator Garden was one of the first steps in redesigning Glebe Collegiate Institute’s front yard. The redesign of Glebe Collegiate Institute’s front yard aims to create a green and usable space in partnership with the school and the neighbourhood community,” said Mika Young, leader of TWIGS at GCI. “Special thanks to everyone who was a part of planting our Pollinator Garden. We are grateful for all the new connections we have made so far. I look forward to what the future has in store for our TWIGS Club here at Glebe Collegiate Institute.”
Community members who were donating time, soil and plants from their own gardens joined volunteers from the club. Sandra Garland and Barbra Riley donated a large number of flowers from the Experimental Farm’s Fletcher Wildlife Garden and deserve many thanks from the neighbourhood.
Olivia Craft, Lynn Armstrong (a specialist in native and heritage gardening) and Elizabeth Ballard from the Glebe Community Association Parks Committee also joined us. Without their help, the garden would not exist; they taught the laymen among us (like myself) how to properly transplant the flowers.
Emma Kirke is a student from Lisgar Collegiate Institute who planted a pollinator garden at that school before becoming a major force in creating ours at GCI. Emma secured all the funding for the project, which was provided by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation to the Ontario Nature Youth Council to run a Special Spaces event.
I quickly abandoned the thought of not getting muddy and walked right into the flowerbeds, kneeling down to dig with the other volunteers and deliver the plants to their new homes. It was so rewarding to plant what I knew would be beautiful wildflowers on a gorgeous afternoon.
Beyond the fun and the aesthetic of it, the community pollinator garden is for a good cause. The world has experienced an alarming decline in honeybee populations in the last few years due in part to pesticide use and parasites.* If bees disappear it would be disastrous for humans, as the little insects are vital to the growth of most of our food crops.
Pollinators (including bats and birds, but mostly insects) affect 35 per cent of the world’s crop production.** They are responsible for the avocado on your toast, the pickles on your bean burger, most of the veggies in your salad and the beans that make your morning coffee.***
Pollinator gardens like the one planted at Glebe Collegiate Institute can help honeybees and other insects get the nectar they need while cross-pollinating the plants in the neighbourhood.
“I am really glad that we got the pollinator garden built, especially with everything we hear about the destruction of the bees’ natural habitat and the risk of their extinction. I really hope it makes a difference,” said Freddie Lofthouse, a member of TWIGS.
Volunteers from the school and the surrounding community will care for the garden over the summer with hopes that it will flower and attract honeybees, butterflies and other pollinators, and make the Glebe community a little brighter.
Isobel Watson is starting Grade 10 at Glebe Collegiate Institute in the fall. This is her first article for the Glebe Report.