Roses are red, violets are blue, if you’re planting a garden, here are some tips for you

A bee on a chive flower

April 9, 2024
Home and community
Parking, roads, traffic and transit
Water and environment

If you love gardening then you probably love deciding which plants and flowers to buy and where to place them? When making your choices for the upcoming season, we have a few suggestions for you.

If you’re an experienced gardener, then you may already know that certain plants are better-suited to help pollinators or to control rain water. If you’re a considerate gardener, you know which plants are a nuisance to neighbours or can cause harm.

If you are inexperienced or simply looking for new ideas, then read on.

Help pollinators

Don’t tidy up too soon(link is external). Many pollinators and other wildlife overwinter in dead plant stems or leaf litter. Delay your spring cleaning until temperatures have risen above 10oC consistently. Leave some areas of bare soil for ground-nesting bees. South-facing sites with well-drained sandy soils are preferred.

Go beyond “no mow May” by converting parts of your lawn to a native wildflower garden or meadow instead, to provide habitat all year long. Traditional mowed lawns need lots of maintenance and don’t provide benefits to native pollinators or other wildlife. By reducing your lawn area, you can reduce your yard’s water consumption and your time spent mowing permanently, instead of for just one month.

To encourage pollinators in your garden, plant native wildflowers, including early and late flowering species, to provide nectar sources and other food for pollinators. If you’re looking for an example, we have a pollinator garden at City Hall. It includes species such as common milkweed, New England aster, wild bergamot, prairie smoke and a variety of goldenrods. Many native trees and shrubs also have flowers that support pollinators – did you know that maple flowers are appreciated by many of our early spring pollinators?

The City Hall garden also features a bee hotel. Bee hotels are different from beehives – they are smaller and provide places for native solitary bees to lay their eggs. Many commercially produced bee houses are now being sold online and in stores, but not all of them are well-suited for our native species. For more information on bee hotels, check out our web page: Pollinators | City of Ottawa

Soak up the rain

Rain gardens are shallow depressed areas that promote the infiltration of rainwater into the ground. They are planted with attractive hardy plants – ideally native perennials – and have loose soils that help rainwater seep down into the ground.

Plants are not just decorative in rain gardens, their roots loosen soils and maintain high infiltration rates. You should choose hardy wet-tolerant plants that can also experience periods of drought.

Some varieties to consider:

  • Purple coneflower
  • Joe-Pye Weed
  • Bowman’s Root
  • Mosquito Grass
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Garlic Chives
  • Pot o’ Gold
  • Little Bluestem
  • Woodland Phlox

For a full list of suitable species see this plant list(link is external) or ask a local nursery.

See rainwater projects for your home for more information.

Gardens near a road or sidewalk

The Right-of-way (ROW) is a City-owned portion of land that extends from the edge of the road and onto every property. Typically, it extends to the water shut off. You can learn more on or use the geoOttawa(link is external) program to help measure the City’s ROW on your property.

No permit is required for residential gardening in the ROW. Here are some things to remember if you want to install a garden the right way:

  • There is a list of plants that are not permitted in the ROW
  • Only soft landscaping and hand-digging gardens are allowed.
  • The garden must not interfere with the sidewalk.
  • The maximum plant height is 1.0 metres and 0.75 metres for corner lots.
  • Hard landscaping materials such as pavers, riverstone, gravel and planter boxes are not allowed.
  • Consumables including vegetables, fruit, herbs, nuts and seeds are not allowed.
  • You cannot garden within a ditch.

For information on little lending libraries in the ROW visit: Use and Care of Roads (By-law No. 2003-498) | City of Ottawa

Invasive species and noxious weeds

Gardeners are asked to avoid planting invasive species in their gardens, particularly near natural areas.

Noxious weeds are invasive species which are quick to reproduce and spread and can often out-compete other species. Wild Parsnip, Poison Ivy, and Giant Hogweed are commonly found in areas of uncultivated land, roadside ditches, nature trails, woodlots, and in some cases, on rural and residential property. 

Under the Ontario Weed Control Act(link is external), the City is responsible to take some action regarding the control of these species on city property. Private property owners are responsible for removing these plants from their own property.

These plants are of public health concern because touching them or their sap can result in painful skin rashes and burns.

If you decide to take measures to control these plants, regardless of the method used, wear protective clothing and goggles to cover exposed skin and protect your eyes. 

For more information on how to dispose of invasive species, please go to Waste Explorer | City of Ottawa.

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