When Suzanne Sharples was growing up in Caledon, she spent her summers tending to a large vegetable and flower garden. But since moving to Toronto, gardening has not been a priority…until now.
Suzanne has recently become a Ranger for the David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflyway Project. A notice for the project on Facebook prompted her to turn to the Internet to learn more. The project’s website explains that it was initiated in 2017 to help combat a sharp decline in pollinator insects, specifically bees and butterflies. The goal is to plant patches of native wildflowers and plants in as many neighbourhoods as possible to create a pollinator-friendly corridor or “Butterflyway.”
The Rangers spearhead the project in their communities by organizing a local team to help them establish a dozen pollinator patches. The project has grown from 250 Rangers in six cities initially, to more than 1,000 Rangers in 100-plus communities this year.
While Leaside already has a connection to the Butterflyway Project with the Butterfly Canoe in front of the library, the position of Ranger appealed to the energetic Suzanne because of her background: “love of the outdoors and a desire to give back to the community through a productive project.”
The organization provides inspiration, a framework for their endeavours, and a series of webinars for training purposes. The first webinar dealt with the history of the project, resources and tips on how to be successful. Other topics include pollinators, schoolyard “greening,” community science and Ranger networking.
The Rangers are responsible for providing seeds for pollinator-friendly plants such as milkweed, lavender and black-eyed Susans, and the soil for the planters and gardens. Suzanne’s early duties included ordering seeds and asking the community via Facebook to donate pots. She then started planting in small containers, even germinating milkweed seeds in her refrigerator to provide the best conditions. At the same time, she approached local residents about taking flowers for their gardens and balconies.
With her goal of securing 20 patches in Leaside, Suzanne’s next steps include connecting with community groups, contacting garden centres and businesses, and networking with other Rangers in nearby communities like East York and the Beaches. These connections are needed not only to find suitable locations for patches, such as pre-schools, shops, parks, businesses and retirement homes, but also to recruit volunteers to maintain the gardens once they are planted. For example, she hopes to attract high school students who are looking for a fun way to earn their community service hours and younger children who will enjoy learning about gardening and ecosystems.
Suzanne says she is “very excited at the response to the Butterflyway. Leaside has been supportive in helping with planting the containers required, and many friends and residents have requested plants and information. I’m looking forward to connecting with businesses and volunteers in the upcoming weeks.”