Citing pesticide use and habitat loss, Kevan maintains that much of the problem stems from “land-use practices.” And this is where gardeners can make a positive difference. As Rachel Plotkin, a biodiversity policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation in Ottawa, stresses, “Gardeners can create pollinator-friendly gardens by growing native plants and by eliminating cosmetic pesticide use.” Bob Wildfong, executive director of Seeds of Diversity Canada of Waterloo, Ontario, a non-profit group that encourages the preservation of heritage plants, likewise emphasizes the importance of creating pollinator habitats in home landscapes: “If you want to have a healthy garden—and especially if you have vegetables—then you need insects,” says Wildfong. “The best way to ensure the presence of insects is to have flowers that bloom for the entire season.” Thus, gardeners should plant for sequential bloom, from spring through to autumn.
While planting nectar-rich flowers to attract pollinators (including hummingbirds) is important, Plotkin cautions this is only one piece of the puzzle: “It’s not just about setting up feeding stations for them. Even more important is fostering or restoring healthy, functioning ecosystems, of which pollinators are just one part.” Pointing to the need for much greater biodiversity in home landscapes as a step toward achieving this, Plotkin describes the “sterile lawn” as a “significant blemish on the face of biodiversity.” She advocates for gardens where interactions among plants, animals, soil, micro-organisms and the like are modelled on natural ecosystems.
A recent project embraces this vision, with a focus on pollinators. The City of Guelph is spearheading the creation of the world’s first public park designed specifically for pollinators, called Pollinator Park. One hundred acres of the decommissioned Eastview landfill site in this mid-size Ontario city will be transformed into a meadow—prime pollinator habitat—with grasses and wildflowers to attract insects.
Currently in the planning stages, the project promises to be far-reaching in its impact. “This is an excellent opportunity to increase public awareness and provide environmental stewardship,” says Jyoti Pathak, the Guelph parks planner responsible for overseeing the project. “This will serve as a model worldwide, turning what used to be a garbage dump into a bloom-filled haven for pollinators and birds.”