The Anderson Parkette
Every once in a while, a landscape designer gets to create something really special; something to educate; something to inspire; something to add beauty to the lives of the public. Anderson Bridge Parkette in Oakville was just such an opportunity. And thanks to the dogged efforts of a few it came to pass as this story shows…
Through hard work and persistence, Catherine Kavassalis, Co-president of the Oakville Horticultural Society, convinced her membership that a onceboring park near Oakville’s Bronte Harbour could be transformed into a work of art which could also benefit the environment. She pulled together support from several stakeholders including municipal and regional representatives and Conservation Halton, which is no small task in itself, and began the process of finding a designer to work with.
Why did Mrs. Kavassalis go to such great lengths? She writes, “In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly challenged the world to take action to protect the great variety of life on our planet by safeguarding regional species diversity. With support from the Region of Halton and the Town of Oakville, the Oakville Horticultural Society (OHS) proposed creating a new biodiverse garden in the Anderson Bridge Parkette (corner of Forsythe and Rebecca streets) in Oakville.” She
continues… “But we needed a designer experienced with native plants and sustainable landscaping. In walked Fern Ridge Landscaping & Eco-Consulting. They crafted a state-of-the-art, waterwise garden that blooms from spring to fall, with a permeable pathway. Under their guidance, volunteers from the OHS have created a ‘Garden for Life’ providing year-round beauty for area residents while supporting pollinators and area wildlife. We are proud of this evolving garden and welcome all to come and enjoy this special space.”
It’s fairly easy to get folks out to help build a garden since everyone likes ‘creating’. It’s comparatively difficult to get a group of volunteers to weed and water a garden through that crucial first year, but the Oakville Horticultural Society members have done an amazing job. Now, the garden is a showpiece in the community. The Town of Oakville has generously delivered water to barrels on the site so members can water the new plantings. (There’s a great irony to drought-tolerant plantings in that they need more water for the first year of establishment than ‘traditional’ gardens.) Keeping in mind that every garden is an evolving proposition, the garden is now finally able, more or less, to stand on its own.
Was the garden a success?
According to Mrs. Kavassalis, "The garden now contains over 50 plant species native to North America. In the spring, painted lady butterflies flock
to the pearly everlasting to lay their eggs and hummingbirds seek the delicate red columbines for their precious spring nectar (so important after their long journey across the lake). Rabbits start trimming the blazing star as it emerges, making the plants grow bushy and improving their stunning summer display of blooms. From our eastern bumblebee to the iridescent sweat bees and jewel-like syrphid flies, pollinators abound throughout the summer season. In the fall, goldfinches can be seen dangling from coneflowers as monarchs float from flower to flower preparing for their journey south. When winter comes, signs of mice and deer finding refuge can be seen. Bundled children sit on the bench and enjoy the beauty of grasses glazed with ice swaying in the chilly breeze. It is truly an oasis for life here in Oakville.”
When everyone shares a common vision for the greater good and for beauty, it’s all worth it! Gardening can be inspiring and it should be art. If it can educate at the same time, everyone wins!
Sean James is a graduate of the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture and owner of Fern Ridge Landscaping & Eco-consulting. He’s designed several public gardens including the Milton Millennium Garden and Anderson Bridge Parkette Biodiversity Garden in Oakville. He’s been speaking publicly and writing about eco-gardening issues since the early 90’s. He’s also the Chair of Landscape Ontario’s Environmental Stewardship Committee and several other eco-committees.
Anderson Bridge Parkette supports biodiversity while providing citizens with a place to relax and appreciate nature.
Gaillardia blooms from July to October. It’s a great plant for xeriscapes (drought-tolerant landscapes). Once established, it’s even tolerant of clay soil and bees go crazy for it.
The garden uses native plants and sustainable landscaping to provide citizens with a place to relax and appreciate nature.
Ensuring the garden is beautiful helps show that eco doesn’t have to be a sacrifice.
Using a public space to teach people the value of gardens that support biodiversity.
Pearly everlasting tolerates everything from clay to salt to sand (but not wet feet) and is food for painted lady butterfly larvae. It blooms from early August to when the snow flies.
Parkettes and other public spaces can be eco-friendly and educational.
Plant to support pollinators.