I’ve been thinking about my garden for a few weeks now – ever since the shutdown of essential services I’ve wondered if I would be able to get to the nursery in the spring to buy flowers. Usually each year I try to add a few more perennials and fill in the gaps – as well as my containers – with annuals for immediate colour. I came to the conclusion that it would be best to buy some seeds and start them indoors, which would not only give me something to do while stuck at home, but would also make the yard more enjoyable in the summer if the nurseries should be closed and this lockdown should last so long.
Today I was delighted to find some seeds at the Independent Grocery Store at Hazeldean Mall while trying to pick up some groceries (which was horrible – I couldn’t get a cart or basket, and was only able to buy what I could carry) and selected a few that I thought would add some colour. Normally I try to buy flowers that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies, but beggars can’t be choosers, and it is getting a little late to order online or wait until my next essential grocery run to see what another store may have. Still, I managed to get some flowers that should benefit the wildlife in my backyard.
Bachelor’s Buttons – I’d had luck growing these in the past, though I’d purchased them so that the birds could feed on the seeds long before I became interested in butterflies and other pollinators. It turns out that their flowers are attractive to pollinators, too!
Cosmos – this is another flower I’d tried in the past, again to provide seed for birds in the fall. If I recall correctly, I did find goldfinches feeding on them and the Bachelor’s Buttons! Apparently their open flowers provide easy access to nectar and pollen for pollinators as well.
Nasturtium – I might have tried this in the garden before, but if so I don’t remember how it performed or whether it attracted any beneficial insects. I chose this mainly for the bright orange flowers, as all my other choices were blue, pink and purple, however, it does appear that they will attract long-tongued bumblebees, butterflies, hummingbirds…and aphids. Well, maybe now the aphids will leave my viburnum alone.
Sweet Pea – this is a new flower for the garden and one that can climb. It sounds as though it is beneficial to pollinators, but does not seem to be on anyone’s top ten list.
Wild Flax – the only perennial on my list, I chose it for its pretty blue flowers with yellow centers. It too sounds as though it is beneficial to pollinators, though not as strongly recommended as other flowers.
|Flower||Time for seedlings to emerge||Earliest Date|
|Bachelor’s Buttons||12-21 days||April 23, 2020|
|Cosmos||7-10 days||April 18, 2020|
|Nasturtium||10-14 days||April 21, 2020|
|Sweet Pea||10-14 days||April 21, 2020|
|Wild Flax||10-21 days||April 21, 2020|
I’ve had mixed results growing plants from seeds in the past, with slightly more successes than failures. Hopefully these seeds will be successful and provide plenty of flowers for the flower flies, bees, beetles and butterflies to enjoy this summer – stay tuned for updates!
iNaturalist is to plants and wildlife what eBird is to birds – a collective database that anyone can contribute to. And while the observations entered into iNaturalist depend heavily on photos submitted, the beauty of setting up a project is that it will automatically collect all the observations from the geographical area defined by the creator, subject to the parameters of the project – there are general species projects for geographical areas (such as Mud Lake and Gatineau Park), projects for specific types of wildlife (such as the Lady Beetles of Ontario or the CWF’s Help the Turtles project), and specialty projects dedicated to certain types of behavior (such as my personal favourite, Odonates Eating). It doesn’t take long to create a project – the most time-consuming part for me is defining the boundaries on the map. So during the next few days I spent some time tinkering with the iNaturalist website, and thus the South March Highlands Species Project was born.
As anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows (or who has picked me up to go birding!) I live in a townhouse in the sterile suburban wastelands of Kanata on the southwestern edge of Ottawa. My backyard is the size of a postage stamp, and my front yard is half the size of that as the driveway takes up the rest. We used to have two mature trees on the front lawn we share with our neighbours, until the one closest to the road came down suddenly in a windstorm. Thankfully no people were injured or property was damaged, but this was the same tree I’d seen a Pine Warbler in during the spring of 2017 and I was looking forward to seeing what else might turn up during migration. The tree closest to the house is right outside my computer room, and in recent years the Eastern Gray Squirrels have built leafy dreys right outside my window. Sometimes the squirrel sits on the branch outside its nest of leaves and twigs and stares at me while I’m working; I usually wave to it, but it just stares back at me. I always wondered if they realized that I’m the one who fills the feeders out back and tosses peanuts to them when they visit.
We haven’t had much rain in the last month, so the water levels of the Ottawa River have dropped and mudflats are developing in Shirley’s Bay and Ottawa Beach. I wanted to look for shorebirds, but Shirley’s Bay didn’t sound too appealing – a long mosquito-infested walk through the woods to get to the dyke, which is almost completely open to the baking sun – all the while carrying a scope that sometimes feels like it weighs as much as I do. So yesterday I drove over to Andrew Haydon Park instead.