Fourteen crates were generously donated by a local sustainable business leader, Adam Hynam-Smith from Dispatch, to increase urban greenery in Downtown St. Catharines. This provided an amazing opportunity to bring an existing ambition for pollinator gardens to life. Through a collaboration with the St. Catharines Downtown Association’s Streetscape and Sustainability committee, NIagara College’s ncStewards, and the Niagara College Indigenous Education department, these crates were transformed into pollinator planters with 8 different native plant species. The planters provide ecological value by creating habitat and food for native pollinators, and help increase urban greening in the downtown core.
Scientific Name: Asclepias syriaca
Description: Common Milkweed is crucial for the survival of Monarch Butterflies as it is the only host plant for the species. It offers the Monarchs a unique protection as emerging caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves, building a level of toxicity that is unappetizing to predators. Milkweed also attracts a wide diversity of other pollinators, supporting butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds with its rich pollen and nectar supply.
Indigenous Teachings: Milkweed species have been used as food, medicine, and technology for Indigenous people on Turtle Island since time immemorial. For instance, the fibers in the stalk have been twisted and braided into string & rope. The fluffy part of the seed was also used as a fire-starter.
Beneficial for: Monarch Butterflies, Milkweed Tussock Moths, Carpenter Bees, Bumblebees, Leafcutter Bees, Hoverflies, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, and other species of butterflies and moths!
Growing Conditions: Native to Ontario, zones 3-7. Plant 12-18 inches apart in part shade to full sun. Prefers dry to medium well-drained loamy soil with a pH ranging 4.8-7.2. Hardy plants that tolerate poor conditions. Grows 2-4 feet tall with roots penetrating as much as 6 inches to a foot deep. Perennializes by rhizomatous roots and seed pods. Hot weather will require more watering.
Bloom Time: Round clusters of pink, mauve, and white blooms occur mid-June through August.
Scientific Name: Rudbeckia hirta
Description: The dark center of the Black Eyed Susan holds 250 to 500 individual flowers. Each one of these individuals provides a shallow cup or nectar to pollinators. The shallow cups attract small wasps and flies, which benefit the flower with pest protection because they are predators of pest insects. The fruiting heads also provide seed for birds over the winter.
Indigenous Teachings: Some Indigenous communities referred to this flower as the “Deer’s Eye Daisy” due to its large brown center. First Nations people used it as a remedy for colds, flus, infections and swelling. The Ojibwa tribe even used its roots to create an infusion to treat parasitic worms. snakebites and earache.
Growing Conditions: Native to Ontario, zones 3-7. Plant 12-18 inches apart in full sun to light shade. Black Eyed Susans are a mycorrhizal species that does best in well-drained soil. The taproot can go as deep as 6′. Hardy plants that can tolerate drought conditions. Will require more watering during the blooming season. Faded or necrotic leaves need to be removed to encourage growth to live areas.
Bloom Time: Yellow buds will begin appearing in late summer to early autumn.
Scientific Name: Fragaria virginiana
Description: The dainty white blooms attract butterflies, flies, bees, moths and skippers, while birds and mammals enjoy the delicious berries in summer.
Indigenous Teachings: Representing love and happiness, the ‘heart’ berry, or strawberry, holds great significance to many Indigenous groups. Providing plenty of ground cover, this precious flora is often chosen as a companion plant to cool the earth and control other nuisance plants. The roots and runners stretch out across the forest floor – similar to how our veins spread out across our bodies and link back to our heart.
Growing Conditions: Native to Ontario, zones 3-7. Plant 6-12 inches apart in part shade to full sun. Prefers highly moist soils. Roots depth ranges from 6 inches to a foot. These are hardy plants that can tolerate poor conditions. However, during an extreme drought and while the flowers are fruit bearing, strawberries will require more frequent watering.
Bloom Time: Blooms of white flowers appear in late spring/early summer which typically last 2 months. After this time, bright red strawberries will begin to grow at the center of the flowers.
Scientific Name: Achillea
Description: The dome shaped Yarrow flowers have a distinctive smell, and provide nectar and pollen that is especially attractive to butterflies, wasps, flies, and many bees such as Leaf Cutter, Mason, Miner, Digger, and Bumble Bees.
Indigenous Teachings: Yarrow has played a significant, and often life-saving, role in Indigenous and settler relations. The liquidy sap of the yarrow is known to have analgesic and antiseptic properties. Yarrow leaves were used to treat and slow bleeding wounds. Local Anishinabeg influence has imparted spiritual values to this plant. Some say that using Yarrow in certain rituals can ward off negative energy.
Growing Conditions: Native to Ontario, zones 3-7. Plant 6-12 inches apart in full sun. Prefers well drained loamy soil. Hardy plants that tolerate short-term drought conditions. Should drought conditions persist, Yarrow will require more frequent water.
Bloom Time: Clusters of white blooms occur June through September.
Scientific Name: Echinacea purpurea
Description: Purple Cone Flower provides nectar and pollen to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Fritillaries, monarchs, painted ladies and swallowtails feed on its sweet nectar. Their fruits, seeds, and vegetative parts are also eaten by animals. After the peak season is over, leaving the spent flowers in the ground will supply seeds to overwintering birds.
Indigenous Teachings: Purple cone flower was a critical plant for Indigenous and settler relations. Indigenous peoples have been using this flora to treat poisonous bites and stings, toothaches, reduce inflammation, sore throats, colds, and more. Some sources suggest this flower played a key role in modern medicine. The pharmaceutical industry is known for overharvesting or illegal picking the flower. This had lead to declining numbers of Purple Cone Flower.
Growing Conditions: Native to Ontario, zones 3-7. Plant 4-6 inches apart in partial shade to full sun. Purple coneflower prefers well drained soils for its short roots. Will require more frequent watering to survive any drought-like conditions.
Bloom Time: Distinct purple flower petals can be seen all summer.
Scientific Name: Asciepias tuberosa
Description: As the name implies, the radiant orange blooms of Butterfly Weed draw in butterflies as well as moths, hummingbirds for its nectar, while wasps and bees pollinate its flowers.
Indigenous Teachings: Butterfly weed was used by Indigenous people to alleviate pleurisy, a form of lung inflammation, and other pulmonary illnesses. Additionally, the stalk fibers were woven into twine and rope.
Growing Conditions: Native to Ontario, zones 3-7. Plant 12-18 inches apart in full sun. Prefers well drained sandy soils with higher moisture content. Roots can reach as deep as 16 inches. Drought tolerant, however, will need more frequent watering if drought like conditions persist.
Bloom Time: Bright clusters of orange flowers appear from May through to September.
Scientific Name: Aster
Description: Asters offer late food supply to pollinators such as butterflies, bees, flies, and beetles. They provide food and habitat during the winter months for many birds and small animals that feast on the seeds and find shelter in the dried stalks.
Indigenous Teachings: Indigenous peoples created infusions of the aster root to be used as a remedy for cuts, heart ailments and eye problems. The young leaves were once enjoyed as sustenance in early spring months.
Growing Conditions: Native to Ontario, zones 3-7. Plant 12-18 inches apart in full sun. Most asters are a mycorrhizal species that prefer loamy well drained soils. Depending on the species, roots can reach as deep as 1 foot. Asters require fairly frequent watering.
Bloom Time: Asters range in colour from purples, to yellows, and pink-like whites. With over 170 species, blooming time ranges from late summer to to early fall.
Scientific Name: Agastache foeniculum
Description: One spike on Anise can have up to 90,000 flowers making it very attractive to pollinators. Anise Hyssop is also a generous nectar producer, supplying honey bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and hover wasps with sustenance after a hard day’s work of pollinating.
Indigenous Teachings: First Nations people used Anise Hyssop as a breath-freshener, a tea and as a sweetener. Root infusions were created to remedy coughs and herbal infusions could be used to treat chest pains.
Growing Conditions: Native to Ontario, zones 3-7. Plant 6-12 inches apart in full sun. Prefers well drained, loamy, and fertile soils. Looser soil allows the taproot to reach up to a foot in depth. Requires regular and frequent watering until established. Once established, will be fairly drought tolerant.
Bloom Time: Throughout the summer, purple flowers on the stalk will open at different times.