Goldenrod is an essential source of nectar and pollen late in the season for migrating monarchs and queen bees preparing for winter

By Karen Heisz

The songbirds are returning, the snow is melting, and many of us are anxious to get into our gardens. If you planted new native plants in your garden last summer, now is the time to dig out your photos so that you remember where you planted them. When they first emerge from the ground it is often difficult to recognize them! Many a native plant has been removed accidentally by a gardener thinking it was a “weed.” I urge patience!

I also encourage you to resist the urge to tidy your garden. Please leave the leaves and small twigs on the soil to improve water retention, provide habitat for insects and food for birds. Natural spaces should not be neat and tidy like our homes.

Once again, the Rouge Butterflyway will be holding a native plant sale for our community. We have carefully chosen 15 easy-to-grow native plants, including two native grasses. We have also curated a “Sunny” kit and a “Shady” kit for those who prefer to have their plant choices made for them. New this year, we are highlighting the benefits of a specific native plant: the 2023 Rouge Butterflyway “Plant of the Year” is Goldenrod!

Goldenrod has been unfairly maligned for many years as a cause of seasonal allergies. In reality, the true offender is ragweed, often found growing alongside the innocent Goldenrod. Goldenrod has yellow or white flowers and is pollinated by insects; the pollen grains are too large and heavy to become airborne. Ragweed, on the other hand, has greenish-yellow flowers and small, light pollen grains. This plant is pollinated by the wind, which is why it causes so much trouble to allergy sufferers!

Every garden should include at least one species of Goldenrod: it feeds the caterpillars of many moth and butterfly species and it provides much needed nectar and pollen late in the season, essential food for our migrating monarch butterflies and queen bees preparing for winter. In the fall and winter, it provides an abundance of seeds for our songbirds. And it’s really quite beautiful in bloom.

We are offering three species of Goldenrod in this year’s sale to meet the needs of every garden. You may rest assured that these three types of Goldenrod will not spread aggressively throughout your garden. We hope you will give them a try!

Our plant sale will run until April 30. The plants will be ordered from Native Plants in Claremont in May and, depending on the weather this season, they will be available for pickup in May or June. Please send an email message to if you would like our catalogue and order form. Prepayment details are found on the order form.

Finally, we hope you will come to meet us at the Port Union Community Centre during the Earth Day event on April 22. We will have more information about our activities in the community, our plant sale and this year’s favourite plant, Goldenrod. This year, all orders will be entered into a draw for a $50 gift certificate for a design consultation with an expert at Native Plants in Claremont.

Thank you for considering the needs of butterflies, bees, birds and other insects and wildlife when you are planning this year’s garden. We look forward to meeting you!