Sunday, 3 July 2011


(As always, if you are pressed for time you can scroll down to the WHAT CAN YOU DO section.)
Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them...  A. A. Milne
I decided quite a while ago that one of my blog entries would be about pollinators, and the importance of wildflowers.  I have a two block walk to my bus stop, and during the summer months I am always amazed at the tenacity of life, and the variety of wildflowers that grow within a jumble of concrete and asphalt.  There is one little patch of grass and clover that seems to be home to one especially lovely bumble bee, and I frequently take a few minutes in the morning to watch her work. She seems particularly fond of vetch and purple clover.

Other flowers I’ve seen within these two blocks are:



...and a few unidentified species (if you can help me identify them, please do!)

This small walk in the morning is something I get great pleasure from.  I grew up in a suburb with lots of fields and woods, and have fond memories of collecting tadpoles, hiding in meadows, and being surrounded by insects and plants.  Knowing how critical wildflowers are to pollinating insects and to the environment in general (everything from helping to avoid soil erosion, to healthy insect life, to bird life, etc.), this tiny microcosm made me smile.
Imagine my dismay when I walked to the bus one morning and saw men in bright organge vests razing my beautiful flowers.

Suddenly, this...

...became this.


...became this.  I have many more examples, but I think you get the picture (or in this case, 'pictures').

I spoke with one of the workers, and asked who owned the property so that I could write and ask to have the wildflowers protected.  I was informed that the plants were being cut in order to make it safer for railway workers.  (While I support railway workers’ rights, and want everyone to have safe working conditions, I also have no doubt that a safe ‘fringe’ of wild plant life could be left while maintaining a trip-free environment.)
So, what started out as research for a blog entry on pollinators (yes, this is where I tease you shamelessly with promises of upcoming blog entries) quickly mutated into a blog entry about rescuing wildflowers.  In researching this, I came across a number of excellent sites (see here, and here for just a few) that provide practical how-to instructions in how to harvest seeds, and how to responsibly rescue wildflowers.

As an aside, the key word here is ‘responsible’. Many plants are under threat due to loss of habitat,  and global warming. (If you are interested, here's a great video about this.)  The additional stress of being appreciated and ‘rescued’ from a healthy habitat is not what I am advocating here.  What is suggested by Harry W. Phillips in Growing and Propagating Wild Flowers is as follows:

Native plant rescue, like propagation, is a way to acquire plants for the garden without harming the environment. Each year residential and commercial development and highway construction claim more of the natural landscape. Plant rescue means going into areas destined to go under the bulldozer’s blade and removing desirable plants. It is not the solution to the problem of protecting our rare species, but it does provide opportunities to salvage plants for use in the garden which would otherwise be destroyed and it is a means to preserve a few of our native plants. (Copyright 1985 by the University of North Carolina Press.  Used by permission of the publisher.

Now, last fall my father asked us to go to his house and help him dig up the large patch of Lilies of the Valley he had in his front yard. He and his wife were tired of them, and wanted to replace them with something more colourful. I wanted to plant perennials in my garden (a small strip of earth in front of my apartment window, really), so I asked my father if he would mind waiting until the spring, when we could dig them up and plant them in our garden. He kindly agreed.

We were happy with the results:

However, we found that there were still some bare patches, and once the lilies had finished blooming for the year, we decided we wanted a bit of colour too.  This is when I came across the website advocating wildflower rescue. 


We went to a local site that was waiting for contruction....

chose plants that were in abundance, brought them home, and planted them. 

(Oh and when I say “we”, I really mean that I an incredibly lucky in having an amazing guy who did all the work and deserves all the credit.)

I know we planted Chicory but have been unable to identify the other plants.  (Yes, we broke some of the rules outlined in the how-to sites I've posted, but we only chose ones that were very common here, and we did try to identify them.)  We’re not sure if these plants will come back next year, or if they’ll be happy in our garden, but we are happy to have them.

In upcoming entries I’ll discuss pollinators (no, I haven’t forgotten my original intent!), as well as discuss the use of native and naturalized plants in gardening.  However, if you’ve read this far, I think you deserve a break. 


  1. Go to this site  and read their suggestions.
  2. See if any local gardening, botanical, or environmental groups have organised any ‘rescue gardening’ projects.  If so, see how you can get involved.
  3. If not, then consider starting your own group.
  4. If these types of projects don't appeal to you, do some research and find other ways to help.  Donate money to a group trying to preserve wilflowers (frequently, you can 'get more bang for your buck' if you look into groups that are involved in helping maintain a healthy population of pollinators in the wild).
  5. Keep your eyes open for patches or strips of wildflowers.  Thank property owners for allowing the wildflowers to flourish (and if you suspect it is because they haven’t gotten around to cutting them, play ‘dumb’ and pretend that you appreciate their obvious interest in biodiversity).
  6. Write to Marc Lalibert√©, the President and CEO of Via Rail, at, and express your opinions regarding Via’s cutting of wildflowers.

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