Oaklands gardening project has insects in mind

Tamara Batory wants to foster a stronger community for her neighbours — both human and insect.

Batory, a student in the University of Victoria’s restoration of natural systems program, is organizing nine of her neighbours to convert the boulevard spaces outside their homes to gardens filled with plants that will feed local pollinators such as bees, butterflies and moths.

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Residents in the 1400 block of Lang Street in Victoria’s Oaklands will be out today planning their boulevard gardens that together will create a series of habitats for pollinators along the street. They’re still waiting to hear whether there are any underground lines below the boulevard before they start digging, so today they will likely be out with rope and string, planning their plots and creating preliminary designs for the gardens.

Batory’s goal for the project is two-fold. She hopes the gardens will create a greater sense of community for residents, while providing food and shelter for pollinating insects.

“We have to try to balance what we’re doing to the natural world, you know, because so many places get developed and the food sources and habitat for these little critters, they just disappear,” Batory said. “And if we don’t have them, so many things are going to fall to pieces.”

The neighbours will choose what plants to include in their gardens, with input and advice from Batory and from Kristen and James Miskelly, who own Saanich Native Plants, a nursery that specializes in plants and seeds native to the area.

Longtime residents on the street embraced the project as a way to get to know each other better and make the area more of a destination for people from outside the neighbourhood, Batory said.

She has received two grants for the project that will cover the costs of plants and soil: $500 from the Victoria Foundation and $400 from the Native Plant Study Group. With further funding, Batory wants to create signs to identify plants in each garden and include information about the specific insects attracted to each plant.

The group is one stop on a self-guided walk through the neighbourhood planned for today by the Oaklands Community Association that will highlight the residents’ work.

Those following the self-guided tour, which will be posted to the community association’s Facebook page, will also visit a pedestrian-focused space on Kings Road between Cook Street and Belmont Avenue modelled after the Dutch concept of woonerf, which prioritizes shared space, traffic calming and low speed limits.

The tour will also visit a rain garden at Hillside Centre that redirects rainwater into the ground while filtering out pollutants and debris, and a native plant garden at Kings Road and Roseberry Avenue celebrating its 21st birthday.

“It’s just highlighting different things about the Oaklands neighbourhood that residents are already doing to encourage good ecological growth, as well as community development,” said Sarah Murray, community development co-ordinator for the association.

The self-guided tour will follow a drop-in workshop for anyone who lives, works or plays in Oaklands to discuss plans for its future. Participants will discuss employment, housing and land use, transportation, quality of life, culture and education, and food systems.

Murray said feedback from the workshop will be included in a report to the city on an updated neighbourhood plan, something Oaklands hasn’t had since 1993.

The workshop is at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. today in the Oaklands Chapel on Fernwood Road.

For more information on the neighbourhood plan, go to oaklands.life/onp.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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