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What's growing on?

May 2013

Green heron photo by Christine HanrahanSome big changes in our newsletter with this issue. The chatty colourful version you've gotten used to over the past couple of years was produced by Tremayne, who is now off doing good work in Cameroon. That leaves us to patch together items of interest and goings on at the FWG. It's not pretty, but we hope you'll find this useful.

FWG Annual Native Plant Sale

Saturday, 1 June 2013, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm

This annual event is a major fundraiser for us, but its main purpose is to provide a variety of native plants to Ottawa gardeners. An information table will be set up as usual, and you may see some of the "merchandise" in bloom in our Backyard Garden. Watch Facebook, Twitter, and our web site for a plant list to be added soon.

Weed bee

The first work bee of the season will be on Sunday, May 19, 9 am to noon. Yes, I know it's the long weekend, but all the more reason to devote a few hours to the environment. You'll have all day Monday to rest up and/or have fun. The invasive species, garlic mustard, will be our target.

Insect hotels

Several of us were intrigued when the Pollinator Network circulated a web page of photos of "insect hotels" from all over the world. These structures, some of which are works of art, contain all sorts of natural materials, especially things with holes. Many bees are looking for just such spots to deposit eggs. They stock the egg chambers with pollen, insects, leaves, or other larval food depending on the species, then seal them up and buzz on to the next.

We know this sort of artificial structure works because last year, an AAFC researcher had good success with bee boxes she placed in 4 locations around the FWG. This year, in addition to her boxes, we are planning insect hotels for the Butterfly Meadow, Backyard Garden, and south of the Ash Woodlot.

  • ADVICE - Choose a sunny location close to flowers, keep it dry, provide a variety of hole sizes and materials to suit many species of bees
  • BLOG POST - Leafcutter bees

Changes in the Ash Woodlot

You'll notice some big changes in this habitat as several of our ash trees will be felled this spring. These trees have not been very healthy since the ice storm of 1998 and, with the attack of several insects, they are failing rapidly. AAFC has kindly offered to remove the trees that are most affected. This will leave gaps that will take some time to fill.

We've been planting sugar maples, beech, beaked hazel, balsam fir, and pagoda dogwoods; and black cherries and red-berried elders have been present in the understory for some time, but it will take many years to establish a mixed beech-maple forest, which is what we are aiming at.

Monarch Waystation project

We were shocked to hear about the drastic reduction in the population of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico this winter. Conservation groups all over North America are urging us to plant milkweeds to make sure the survivors are able to find their host plants and lay eggs.

The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, a "citizen-science" project in which volunteers in Canada and the United States report their observations of monarch larvae, has produced a series of excellent training videos showing. They provide detailed information about the butterfly's life cycle and illustrate how to identify larval stages. The FWG is participating in this project again this year.

At the FWG, we're hoping to establish a couple of good-sized stands of common milkweed as well as planting more swamp milkweeds along our creek. Watch for a June work bee if you would like to help.

Rescuing birds and other creatures

At this time of year, you may come across an "abandoned" baby animal or bird. We urge you to read the information on the following web sites - in advance - so you'll be able to tell whether the creature has really been abandoned or whether it should be left alone. These organizations are excellent and well able to care for wild animals, but please do not unwittingly steal one from its parents.


I just received a newsletter from the Xerces Society featuring cicadas. I'd just like to pass along a couple of the links it included to anyone who would like to find out more about these interesting insects that spend most of their lives - sometimes years - underground as larvae. This year, the 17-year cicada is expected to emerge, a unique spectacle.


Among other things, the FWG is looking at how it communicates with its volunteers, "friends," and the general public. We have

All have their followers, and we are working to interconnect them as much as possible. Their main purposes are to keep our volunteers informed, attract new volunteers, and share information with a wider audience of people interested in an ecological way of gardening. Are we succeeding? Your suggestions and feedback are always welcome.

What's happening this month

  • Erect a new bulletin board in the Butterfly Meadow to promote monarch waystations
  • Care for the new trees in the ravine, by watering and stabilizing the slope around their bases
  • Get ready for the plant sale - many hands needed to help
  • Figure out the best way to produce compost - can we find black olive barrels or equivalent?
  • Follow up on DSV "crop circles" to try to figure out what's causing them and whether we can use the information to control DSV
  • Weed the Butterfly Meadow and care for new plantings
  • Replant the birch grove
  • Work on the plum garden in our Backyard Garden

Lots of work for all volunteers! We hope to see you in the garden,
Sandy Garland
for the FWG management committee

This page was revised 13 May 2013
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