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2022 Greener Greenspace Profile

Adelaide Butterfly Garden

Located in Thunder Bay, the Adelaide Butterfly Garden is a well-cared for pollinator garden and public greenspace that provides a place for sharing information and resources to catalyze ideas for community-led pollinator habitat creation and protection. 

Design and Process 

The garden was designed using the "Back to Eden" method. Wood chip mulch was spread widely at a depth of 4-6". Juvenile plants were planted in small pockets of soil and compost within the mulch. As the mulch breaks down, it contributes nutrients to the soil, attracting beneficial microbes and leading to the health of plant material. The mulch naturally suppresses weeds while contributing to moisture retention. These processes mimic those that occur naturally.

Ontario native species plant varieties are grown by volunteers and added into this native species demonstration area each year. Plant labels showcase the beautiful variety of indigenous plant species and promote their use in home gardens. By incorporating indigenous plantings, locally occurring insects, birds and mammals are drawn to the space where they can find plentiful food, suitable locations to reproduce and appropriate habitat. Flowers that provide nectar and pollen attract a wide variety of insects, which then attract birds who feed on the insects, and so on up the food chain.

Soil quality is enhanced by using wood chip mulch that contributes nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. Dead and decaying plant material, leaves and other organic matter are left where they lie, adding nutrients as they decompose. Chemical pesticides and herbicides are avoided, preserving air and water quality. Existing trees, shrubs and other vegetation have been preserved, and additional species planted, helping to clean the air in this urban park. 

Maintenance is primarily conducted by volunteers, by hand. Volunteers use a push reel mower and battery-powered trimmer to maintain a small grassy area which connects the garden to the public pathways.

New plants are occasionally watered when initially placed in the garden. The garden is sustained by natural rainfall and plantings are adapted to local conditions. The site has a compost bin and an area for holding organic material, which remains on site (excluding aggressive invasive plants which are pulled and solarized off-site). Existing resources are utilized whenever possible, avoiding purchasing new materials and reducing waste. A winter sowing project uses suitable containers donated by the general public to germinate seeds. Plant pots and seed starting trays are kept yearly and reused as required. 

The garden is registered with the David Suzuki Foundation Butterflyway Project and is designated as a Monarch Waystation through Monarch Watch. Signage for these initiatives has been installed, and signage raising awareness about the decline of Monarch populations, the Monarch life stages, and their need for native plant habitat.

The center of the garden displays a Hospice Northwest Butterfly Remembrance Wall and permanent seating area with benches. Personalized memorial charms and colourful ribbons are placed on the wall to remember and honour loved ones. 

Community Collaboration

The Adelaide Butterfly Garden was the brainchild of Dan Fulton, an employee of the City of Thunder Bay who initiated the garden on what was an empty city lot. He obtained permission from the City to develop the site from a weed-infested, neglected space into a butterfly garden. The founder passed away unexpectedly in September 2021. Soon after, interested community members who wanted to see his dream come to fruition met several times with the Director of Parks & Open Spaces to develop a plan and identify priorities. A group of dedicated volunteers attend garden nights twice a week throughout the growing season, tending to plants, weeding and caring for the garden. Private donors, dedicated volunteers and municipal departments enabled the garden to develop. 

Although none of the volunteers are specifically trained in ecological and regenerative land care practices, several members are particularly interested in increasing biodiversity, restoring indigenous plants and incorporating regenerative land care practices into the space. These members share knowledge with other members and the general public, helping to spread awareness and encourage sustainability in all aspects of garden care. People of all ages and abilities are welcome to participate.

Seeds harvested annually in the garden are shared with the community at plant sale fundraisers, info booths, winter sowing/growing projects, local seed swaps, and during regular volunteer activities. Volunteers are engaged in seed harvesting, cleaning, creating homemade seed envelopes, and packaging seeds with labels and instructions for sharing with others. 

An iNaturalist project has been created to map the biodiversity of the Adelaide Butterfly Garden. Signage invites the public to take photos of butterflies, birds, insects, bees and upload these images to create an atlas of life in the garden. This project is used to promote citizen science and bioblitz events such as the world-wide City Nature Challenge and the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Big Backyard BioBlitz.

This unique public garden provides a space for the natural sharing of information and resources to catalyze ideas for pollinator habitat creation and protection action. Volunteers contribute countless hours every year to maintain and enhance the Adelaide Butterfly Garden, raise awareness in the public sphere and city council about the need for more pollinator habitat and pollinator corridors to connect greenspace, model organic land care practices to support biodiversity, and promote natural climate solutions.  Recently, the volunteers have advocated for improvements to green infrastructure by calling for the increased use of turfgrass alternatives and native species plantings on both public and private property. 

To learn more, visit the garden's Facebook group. 

Greener Greenspaces is a recognition program for sites from across Canada that exemplify greener greenspace stewardship. The aim of the program is to showcase examples of ecologically-focused land care as a means to inspire others and to further the movement across Canada.

See the full list of 2022 recognition recipients here

Canadian Society for Organic Urban Land Care (SOUL)
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