By Karen Heisz

If you have walked along the front of Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiaterecently, you should have noticed some substantial changes to the large garden and the main entrance garden.

Members of the Rouge Butterflyway project have spent over 54 hours so far removing invasive plants (burdock, dog-strangling vine, thistle and coltsfoot, mostly), trimming shrubs, and laying down cardboard and mulch to limit the emergence of new weeds.

Mr. Skinner, the school’s caretaker, has supported the group by removing the tallest burdock plants (over seven feet tall!) and helping with the disposal of dozens of bags of plant matter. The gardens are full of life; 23 observations were submitted to for identification and more could have been sent if the insects had stood still long enough to have their photos taken!

Our group was very fortunate to receive a grant from the Toronto Chapter of Landscape Ontario, which provided the initial funding to purchase the mulch for the gardens.

Although the work was difficult in the heat and humidity this summer, it has been a rewarding project. The Rouge Butterflyway group will work with the school’s environmental club members over the next school year to select and plant native plants that will support our native butterflies and other pollinator species.

It is our goal to use these very public and accessible gardens to show how beautiful a native plant garden can be, and how easy the plants are to care for once they are established. With the students’ help, there will be educational signage to identify the plants and the insects they support.

We hope that the community will enjoy watching this garden makeover and we welcome anyone who wishes to join to help with weeding and planting. We will also welcome financial assistance next year to purchase the native plants; please reach out to Karen Heisz at if you are interested in supporting the Rouge Butterflyway’s first public garden project.

Finally, the David Suzuki Foundation defines a Butterflyway as at least 12 gardens containing native plants. In this first year, the Rouge Butterflyway Project established 25 gardens in the area with native plants, and with the efforts of the Guildwood, Cliffcrest and Birchcliff Butterflyway Projects, our butterflies have a corridor along the lake throughout Scarborough. This is something to celebrate! We hope you will join us next year and add native plants to your gardens.