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Our pollinator population is in big trouble - because of their population decline, so are our birds.
We're here to help increase the numbers and biodiversity of bee, bird, and butterfly populations through gardening.
With restorative garden practices and the focus on native powerhouse plants, gardeners can create food and an environment that supports the various life stages of our insects and birds. Combined, gardeners have an enormous, untapped impact on restoring large-scale biodiversity and on reducing our carbon footprint.
Cliffcrest is located in one of the most important migratory routes.
Birds visit the Bluffs in Toronto on their way north to the boreal forest and on their way south to South America. Monarch butterflies congregate at our shore and fuel up to cross Lake Ontario in order to continue their journey to Mexico.
As development in our area increases, the natural habitat for pollinators and consequently birds is lost. By growing native plants it is astonishingly easy to create an oasis in which bees, butterflies, and birds can thrive. We can also enjoy the beauty that native flowers, shrubs, and trees bring to our landscape. We aim to create many habitat oases and connect them to corridors for wildlife. This will allow the wildlife to find food and shelter and move through safely.
Through our stewardship, we want to inspire Youth and show that everybody plays an important role in improving the future of our neighbourhood and our planet.
Let's Bee an Oasis, Cliffcrest!
I was amazed by how little help nature needed to bounce back from sterile turf to a lively community of countless bees of all sizes, butterflies of all colours, and birds singing different songs. It all began by adding some native plants to an all-lawn garden. Within the first summer, the tiny plants flourished into breathtaking beauty.
It was thrilling how much beauty and joy came with native plants and the wildlife they attract.
Governments and scientists warn that pollinators are declining at an unsustainable rate. "Insect populations have declined worldwide by 45 percent in the last 40 years," urges Jode Roberts, a Senior Strategist at the David Suzuki Foundation. Without pollinators, humans could barely survive for 4 years.
Functioning ecosystems get increasingly converted into cities. We create lawns that consume more fertilizer, herbicides, and insecticides than our agricultural industries. Today cities and monocultural agriculture take up so much space that it just makes sense to put as much nature as we possibly can back into our gardens, schools and public places.
Realizing this, I became passionate about reaching out and sharing my experience. In early 2020 a couple of neighbours started the
This wonderful article puts science behind my experience and summarizes why and how we can make a difference.
How You Can Help:
Plant a Pollinator
Interested in adding more pollinator-friendly shrubs, trees, and flowers?
Do you have a sunny spot that can grow some native perennial flowers? Maybe you are thinking of converting some lawns or adding some native flowers to the existing mix. Native plants fit in with any style of garden.
Maybe you want to change your shaded woodland edges into a native wildflower paradise.
Grow Native Plants
Native plants have co-evolved with the beneficial insects and the birds
of our area to sustain our ecosystem.
Native plants are the one essential prerequisite to animal diversity by enabling a complex food web.
They will bloom at exactly the right time to feed them with their nectar and pollen. They are shaped to take advantage of native insects' physiology.
They feed local and migrating birds with seeds, berries and insect biomass that the birds recognize as their food.
Native plants can create ecosystems that don't rely on a gardener to keep them in balance.
They are adapted to our local climate, therefore require less care and water.
They are best equipped to evolve with climate change.
They are adapted to our soils, therefore don't need fertilizer.
They have deep root systems that sequester substantial amounts of carbon and foster healthy soil by feeding native microorganisms.
They are adapted to our native insect communities and support predatory insects. Therefore, they don't need pesticides and help keep pests in vegetable gardens in check.
Add a Garden Sign
Raise awareness about the importance of native plants with this beautiful double-sided garden sign in your front yard. It is designed by our volunteer Janine Penev. Signs are available for $12.- for pick up in the Bluffs or can be shipped.
Did you know?
Insects are the most efficient life form to transform solar energy, that is captured in plant material, into protein. They build the base in all terrestrial food chains and are key to feeding any higher form of life, including us.
There are over 360 species of wild native bees in Toronto.
Wild bees don't produce honey and don't live in hives.
They are solitary and harmless.
The honey bee is an introduced species from Europe and is managed as a livestock.
Wild bees are the most efficient pollinators. Different species still fly when it is windy or cold or rainy.
30% of Toronto's bees, and some butterflies, hibernate and lay eggs in hollow sticks and deadwood. They only emerge at the end of May. Please, keep your garden waste till then.
The hollow canes of raspberry shrubs are most beneficial for those cavity-nesting bees. Grow native raspberries, enjoy their fruit, and leave the dead canes till the end of May. If you really want to cut back, leave at least 20 cm.
70% of native bees are ground-nesting and need sunny, bare patches of soil as habitat to hibernate and breed. Keep some areas un-mulched, best in sunny spots, the more the better. Covering lightly with leaves is the second-best option.
Bumblebees emerge very early in spring and males can still be seen until late in fall.
Other species of wild bees have a very short window in which they emerge and collect nectar & pollen to deposit with their eggs. They rely on native, co-evolved plants that bloom at exactly that time they emerge. The different kinds of bees also depend on the specific physiology of the native plants with which they have co-evolved.
There are 110 species of butterflies in Toronto.
Butterfly caterpillars rely on the
specific leaf chemistry of the host plants
they have co-evolved with and often can only eat one kind of plant, called a larval host plant.
Lepidopterans, comprise of butterflies and moths, struggle the most of all insects.
Juicy caterpillars are a great food source for birds.
Only 2% of caterpillars survive to become a butterfly.
Most butterflies have a short lifespan between only one week to 9 months. Native plants offer them the right food at the right time for their 4 different life stages (Egg, Larva, Chrysalis, Butterfly).
Some non-native plants are great nectar (sugars, amino acids) and pollen (protein) sources but very few are also larval host plants, and therefore support all life stages of pollinators.
These larval host plants are with very few exceptions only native plants. Plant as many native plants from flowers to trees as you can.
We tremendously underestimate the role trees play as larval host plants, as well as nectar and pollen providers. Oaks are topping the list in supporting 557 species of caterpillars, followed by Cherries with 456, and Willows with 455, in the region of eastern Canada and northeastern America. Additionally, to supporting 300 species as a larval host, Red and Sugar maple provide ample nectar very early in the season.
A lot of seeds and plants in garden centres have been treated with pesticides and kill all pollinators. Visit community seed and plant exchanges and sales instead.
Half of the pollinators are night active. Lights are irresistible to them. This causes them to flutter around the light source until they die of exhaustion. Keeping unnecessary lights off at night can help our wildlife.
96% of all birds rely on protein-rich insects to raise their young, even if they are herbivores the rest of the year. Check out this article by the Bird Watcher's Digest.
Science shows that in years with higher insect biomass, the bird population increases tremendously.
Dead trees provide excellent habitat for insects in all life stages and offer a rich buffet to our woodpeckers.
In fall and winter the healthiest food for birds are seeds from dead flower heads as well as fruits and berries from native shrubs and trees.
Birds need a shrub layer for nesting in spring and to hide in winter.
Window collisions kill one-third of all birds in North America each year. Keeping windows unwashed during migration helps to avoid reflection of nature in the windows and therefore collisions.
The biodiversity of an ecosystem is greater, the higher the number of species it contains. The greater the biodiversity is, the more resilient and self-perpetuating/healing it is. Growing a lot of different native plants will require less maintenance, no pesticides, and no fertilizers.
All native plants support a higher number of other species in their ecosystem than any introduced plant. Another reason to purposely grow native plants.
The size of a habitat co-relates directly with the number of species that area is able to carry sustainably. We need to create habitat corridors in cities and connect them with natural areas to increase the overall resistance of ecosystems. Everyone counts and makes a big difference in sustaining our wildlife.
About Introduced Plants
Ornamentals are purposely offered because they do not feed local insects, consequently, they do not contribute to the local ecosystem.
Invasive plants have been introduced for ornamental or agricultural purposes. They are very well adapted to the local climate and spread rapidly. When we buy them for our gardens we can not control their spread into the wild. With no natural pest, they are so successful that they outcompete native plants and can cause a complete ecological collapse of ecosystems. By helping to remove invasive plants in your garden and public places you assist in restoring the balance of natural ecosystems. Invasive plants are still offered in garden centres and it is up to us to be informed and not to buy them.
If we fuel the plant importing industry by buying exotic, ornamental plants, we increase the risk of introducing fungi, bacteria, and insects that can destroy entire species. The almost complete eradication of tree species like Elms and Chestnuts caused by Dutch Elm Disease and American Chestnut Blight had enormous consequences for the entire North American ecosystem they supported. This is why it is important to resist buying exotic plants.