Aster is our Plant of the Year. This one is a white wood aster.

By Karen Heisz

As winters go, this hasn’t been a tough one, but we are nearing the end and I am sure you are looking forward to long days, warm nights and lots of time spent outside, as are the members of the Rouge Butterflyway.

Our Native Plant Sale, which begins on April 1, offers a curated collection of native plants chosen for their ease of growth, preferred growing conditions, and their value to ecosystems, specifically to butterflies.

This year’s Plant of the Year is “Aster.” Asters come in a variety of colours and tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, so there is sure to be one that’s perfect for your garden! The leaves are known to feed the caterpillars of over 112 butterfly and moth species, meaning that you will be helping to feed the baby birds in the neighbourhood. Remember that 97% of bird species feed caterpillars to their young, not seeds or berries.

One of the best things about asters is that they are a fall-blooming plant. When the rest of your plants are starting to look tired, asters along with Goldenro are in full glory, providing pollen to queen bumblebees preparing for hibernation. They are also an important energy source to our migrating Monarchs.

If you are interested in buying native plants this spring, please visit our Facebook Page or send a message to for this year’s catalogue and order form, and be sure to add an aster or two to your garden!

Once the plant sale has finished, our volunteers will be busy in the gardens at Sir Oliver Mowat and the Tony Stacey Centre. The large garden at Mowat is in a maintenance stage, keeping the lawn and weeds from encroaching into the garden space while we wait for new plants to become established. The entrance garden is filled with mature shrubs that want to grow much larger than appropriate for that space; pruning is a regular event while we decide what else to add. For now, the “milkweed forest” is a wonder from June to September, enjoyed by Monarch butterflies and home to dozens of Monarch caterpillars!

One final request as we move into the warmer weather: DO NOT remove the leaves, twigs and plant stems from your gardens. Although you may like things to be neat and tidy, this is the worst outcome for the creatures living in your soil, and for birds looking for worms and insects in and under the leaves. Worse yet, you will be killing the many insects nestled safely in their winter accommodations (aka plant stems) and waiting for the right time to emerge, which could be any time from March until August.

Each and every bee, insect, moth and butterfly has its own life cycle that begins and ends throughout the spring, summer and fall months. Instead, we encourage you to relax and enjoy watching the interactions of creatures in your garden. And, if your neighbours question your “laziness,” tell them you are supporting and increasing biodiversity. Thank you!