This Week in our Garden


dwarf bush honeysuckle
dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)

[PHOTOS: CWF]This week I’ve noticed lilies and irises blooming around town. In our own wildlife-friendly demonstration garden here at CWF headquarters, bees are busy with our blooms, as are both tiger and black swallowtails and other butterflies I saw flying busily around the gardens. So many plants from last week continue to bloom with one noticeable addition this week. Diervilla lonicera, or dwarf bush honeysuckle, is sporting its small yellow flowers. It is a low growing bush that has a sort of creeping habit.

dwarf bush honeysuckle
dwarf bush honeysuckle

In addition to our birds, insects, frogs and toads, a shy garter snake was spotted this week among some pallets by Darla Halpin and captured on film (or on camera, or whatever the current expression is) by Alain Wheatley, two longtime CWF employees!

garter snake

Spiderwort is a grassy type plant but with stunning purple flowers.

western bleeding heart

Our western bleeding heart is still going strong after all these weeks…and is much bigger too!


Potentilla is a small shrub that bears yellow flowers for a few weeks.


Fleabane can look weedy if on their own, but grouped together or as an accent plant can be delightful.

false blue indigo flowers

These false blue indigo flowers are so beautiful, they catch my eye every year. Below you can see them growing overall, in our front sign bed.

false blue indigo

Remember to check our Native Plant Encyclopedia and on-line maps, both of which have new photos uploaded each season. To help you identify butterflies, caterpillars and the snakes in your garden, order your Wild About... poster here!

This Week in Our Garden

wild blue flax
wild blue flax


Summer sights and sounds abound – from the songs of crickets to dragonflies buzzing by and more blooms gracing our various garden beds. Around town, honeysuckles and lilacs are still going strong. I will have to wait until next week to post all the images from our gardens, but until then, here’s the list…so come back and check out their photos next week!


Foamflower – this attractive groundcover has been blooming in a nearby woodland/park for a while now, but only just starting at CWF.

golden Alexanders flowers up close
golden Alexanders and flax

Golden Alexanders are a bright plant in the garden but they have to be kept in check each year.


Pussytoes – an unusual plant that makes an interesting groundcover.


Bluets – actually, they were in flower last week as well, but i forgot to include them! They are a tiny plant with such pretty flowers that are best if you have a large clump. Ours have both white and blue flowers – a pretty combination.

Canada anenome

Canada anemone – a bright plant for a partially shady area…but they will spread each season.

Blue-eyed grass – a plant that can be easily overlooked when not in flower, resembling grass, but its gorgeous bloom helps it stand out, although they only flower for a short time.


Lupins are always attractive…and our bees love them!

blue flag iris

Blue flag iris grows in a few of our beds.

fragrant sumac flowers
fragrant sumac flowers up close

Fragrant sumac – its flowers don’t stand out, but are kind of neat when you take a closer look. It has more of a rounded shrub look than it’s cousin the staghorn sumac.

highbush cranberry

High-bush cranberry – this shrub has pretty flowers, as do all the Viburnums that I know.

nannyberry close up

Nannyberry – another Viburnum with pretty spring flowers that will later provide fruit for animals.

alum root
alum root flower

Heuchera richardsonii, aka alum root has white flowers, unlike the bright red choral bells found in most nurseries.

pagoda dogwood

Pagoda dogwood – a graceful tree that the birds love to perch in before and after a drink or bath in the stream that leads to our pond.

prairie smoke
prairie smoke seed head

Prairie smoke still has some flowers, but many are turning to seed heads…a pretty wisp that gives it its name.


Wild hyacinth (Camassia scilloides)- a gorgeous plant that flowers for only a few days, gracing our front sign bed.

Still in flower from last week include violets, Solomon’s seal, columbines, geraniums, mitrewort, water avens. Check in next week for more plant and animal action at CWF!

Practice Makes Perfect



While I knew birds use song for a variety of purposes such as to attract mates and to defend territories, I had no idea how much time and effort males put in to making their songs sound so pretty.

In an article I recently read it explained that before the breeding season males actually practice their song, changing the pitch and making other changes, until it is perfect. They are so inclined to get their song just-right that they practice their song hundreds of times a day.

Now that’s dedication!

Are You Seeing A Lot of Butterflies?

Red Admiral Butterfly


Are you seeing more butterflies this spring than usual? If you live in eastern Canada then you probably are, especially red admirals. According to a recent article, there are an estimated 300 million red admiral butterflies from Windsor to New Brunswick, that’s 10 times more than normal.

This increase in butterfly numbers is being attributed to the warm winter experienced throughout North America. This has caused butterflies to emerge earlier from their overwintering forms from Texas, Florida and other places and has helped them survive on their northward migration. Strong winds have also played a role in the abundance of migratory butterflies.

You can help create habitat for these pollinators and others by creating a garden haven!

This Week in Our Garden

wild geranium
wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)


Around the area, crabapples are fading but the soft pink and white blush of apple blossoms are peaking, with lilacs and honeysuckles joining the show. At the CWf wildlife-friendly demonstration garden, many flowers continue to bloom, such as columbines, Virginia bluebells, barren-ground strawberry and choke cherry. Our red trilliums are finished and our white trilliums are fading. See how they turn a pretty pink as their bloom finishes.

white trillium

New bloomers this week are highlighted below.


Above is the mayapple flower. It is gorgeous, but not easily notices as it hangs below its large leaves, as shown below.

wild geranium

I love the native geraniums…they form a small bushy mound that adds colour and shape to partially-shaded areas.

yellow violets

Above is one of our violets. We also have blue-purple violets and white (below) ones too, seen with columbines, Virginia bluebells and prairie smoke flowers.

spring flowers by pond bed sign


star-flowered Solomon's seal

These star-flowered Solomon’s seals are pretty in our woodland garden. In the background is a tree that fell in a storm last year – an attractive accent in this natural setting that will slowly return nutrients to the soil. These plants  start more curved over and gradually raise themselves. Their spike of white flowers always seems to point upwards.

Solomon's seal

One of our Solomon’s seals. Some grow daintily by our pond, others are in the woodland garden.

water avens

Above and below are Geum rivale – water avens. They grow in a low clump that stays nice and tidy, never trying to take over the bed like our ostrich ferns. Aren’t their flower heads neat?!

water avens

This is one of our Jack-in-the-pulpits. It has a stricking flowerhead that can be overlooked as it blends in with its green surroundings.


Our starflowers are a new addition to our woodland garden. They are lovely little perennials that prefer to grow in rotting wood. These are growing out of the bark of an old paper birch.

shooting star

These are shooting stars. They have basal leaves (leaves that grow at the base of their stem, just at ground level) with a long stem that has pretty pink flowers that resemble shooting stars.


And for our animal fix this week, look at this little toad that was in the woodland garden, in the moss on a rotting log. Very cute!

For more information on these and other plants, check in with our Native Plant Encyclopedia and our on-line garden maps. We hope to fill in any blanks and add in more entries over the summer, so stay tuned!

This Week in Our Garden

eastern wild columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis)
eastern wild columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis)


It seems most roads I drove along this week had at least one crabapple in full bloom, with gorgeous shades of pinks and some with early apple trees adorned with pink and white blossoms. In CWF’s Wildlife Friendly Demonstration Garden, more blooms finish while other start. See below for the latest in our weekly update.

As for birds, all our regulars seem to have returned as staff see or hear the call of the catbird that follows us around the garden, the flickers that nest in a cavity (hole) of a snag by our parking lot and the pair of orioles that weave their nest in one of our mature deciduous trees on the property.



Animals shots typically require more patience or just great timing, so I don’t tend to get many on my short walkabouts in the garden…this beautiful oriole photo is by Normand Watier, from CWF’s Photo Club.

Plants still in bloom since last week include pasque flower, barren ground strawberry, trilliums, bellwort and Virginia bluebells. They have been joined by our lovely scented cherries that are replacing the quickly fading serviceberries.

choke cherry

The choke cherries above and below show the blooms along a spike type stem. The pin cherry at the very bottom grows in more of a rounded cluster, with blooms coming from the same point. They both smell wonderful!

choke cherry


pin cherry

The pin cherry above grows as a tall tree in the wild area behind our headquarters.

To see more photos, check out our Native Plant Encyclopedia and on-line maps, both of which have new photos uploaded each season.


This Week in Our Garden

red admiral butterfly on golden currant
red admiral butterfly on golden currant
I’ve been seeing red admiral butterflies these past few weeks but today managed to get a few shots of one on our golden current (Ribes aureum). This photo shows it having a drink with its proboscis. There were other butterflies about, on this shrub as well as the neighbouring serviceberries…and the odd dandelion! While our little yellow friends have been flowering for a couple of weeks now, it seems they are at their peak right now. Many natives in our garden are still in bloom this week, such as hepaticas, pasque flower/prairie crocus, bellwort, prairie smoke, Virginia bluebells, bearberry honeysuckle and western bleeding heart.

The serviceberries are in full bloom, but the petals are starting to drop in the wind. It’s quite fun having a springy shower of petals gently blow around me on my walkabout!

red trillium

Red trilliums are blooming in our woodland area, just off the path from the parking lot.

white trillium

So are our white trilliums.

sensitive fern

Sensitive ferns are now opening up. They are tiny and delicate at the moment, with a reddy-brown tinge to them. Only 3 or 4 stems seem to come up per clump.


With our fluffy pussy willows finished the other week, another sort of willow begins to flower this week.

golden currant

Here’s another shot of the golden flowering current. This is an all-round winner of a bush, with attractive fruit that birds just love and then brilliant fall foliage in the autumn weeks.

barren ground strawberry

Barren ground strawberry is now flowering. It is a pretty clumping plant that can make an attractive ground cover.

green frog

Melissa, our gardener extraordinaire, noticed a green frog lazing about the pond this week.

red berried elder

And we found another red berried elder in the woods, a litte one that is blooming before the more established bush from across the path.

Stay tuned for more visitors, blooms and other happenings at our wildlife-friendly demonstration gardens!

The North Saskatchewan River

The North Saskatchewan River

[Photo Credit]

Here we are at the North Saskatchewan River. “Kisiskatchewan” or the “swift-flowing river” of the Cree begins in the Columbia Icefields of the Rocky Mountains, travels across Alberta into Saskatchewan where it meets up with the South Saskatchewan River and empties into Lake Winnipeg, a path of about 1,287 km.

The headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River are part of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. This area is known for its glacial beginnings, wildlife, tributary valleys, rapids and rich history with mountain explorers. It is not uncommon to see grizzly bears, coyotes, mountain goats, elk, wolves and bighorn sheep. The high mountain areas of the river’s head-waters even provide breeding habitat for golden eagles.

The North Saskatchewan River and its surroundings provide great opportunities for hiking, camping, sightseeing and canoeing.

Definitely sounds like a river that has a lot to offer!

This Week in Our Garden

Virginia bluebells
Virginia bluebells


It’s almost May and…it snowed. Yup. And it didn’t just sprinkle down…it stuck…for hours. For my friend in the Quebec Laurentians, it lasted days thanks to the cold temperatures we’ve been having. So much for the balmy (not to mention highly unusual) days of March! Nevermind, I live in Canada and the weather is a-changin’ so I know to be prepared for just about anything.

Despite the odd weather, spring plants are continuing their early show. This week, conventional plants like Forsythia are still blooming and daffodils are up in full force. See below for the photographic story of what’s happening in CWF’s Wildlife Friendly Demonstration Garden.

Some plants that bloomed last week are continuing on this week, such as prairie smoke, prairie crocus/pasque flower, hepaticas, Dutchman’s breeches and bloodroot. As we have different beds with varying conditions, some plants are fully up and opening while others are still thinking about it, such as our prairie crocus in our pollinator bed. Joining the crowd this week are:


Mitrewort (Mitella dyphylla), although similar to foamflower (Tiarella spp.) with its leaves and size, is very different in its snowflake-like flower. Thank goodness for macro lenses that allow me to share their magnificence online!

western bleeding heart
western bleeding heart

Western bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia). This plant is similar to Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) with the most obvious difference being its flower colour. It is a much smaller and more delicate version than the non-native species commonly seen in gardens.

These Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are just starting to flower. Even their buds are attractive – with pink-purple buds that open to blue-purple flowers, often displaying both colours at the same time, as above.

ostrich fern

Ostrich ferns (Matteucia struthiopteris) are a few inches tall now, pretty much caught up with the others in the garden.


Bellwort (Uvularia spp.) is a plant that could easily be ignored if one walks by too quickly. But a close look reveals its beautiful blooms.


It’s so blustery and grey outside that the photos I took of our serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.) weren’t the most exciting. So here’s a shot from a previous year that shows one of our serviceberries covered in flowers, with its leaves only just beginning to open. I’ll include a close-up of its flowers next week.


Another flowering shrub this week is one of Canada’s native plums (Prunus nigra or P. americana – this is a wild part of our property where we haven’t finished identifying the plants growing there).

Bearberry honeysuckle (Lonicera involucrata) This little shrub has flowers that are less showy than the two above, but are lovely when close up. Once its warm enough, bees will be out enjoying these and other blooms, an important early food source for our pollinators.

For more information, check out our online gardens which we hope to complete this summer, or our Native Plant Encyclopedia, to which we add new photos and entries each year.

Ancient Plant Blooms Again

Ancient Plant


When you look at this plant, imagine a wooly mammoth or saber-toothed cat walking by. “What on earth?” you might say…although “when on earth” might be more relevant. This plant was apparently recently grown from fruit tissue dated almost 32,000 years old. Truly amazing. Here’s the story as told by Devin Powell with ScienceNews, sent to me by Sean Brillant, CWF’s Marine Program Manager.