New perennial garden at Main and Riverdale

Margaret Vant Erve and Joanne Green water the new garden at Riverdale and Main. Volunteers keep this garden in bloom. Photo by: Bridget Vickers

Margaret Vant Erve and Joanne Green water the new garden at Riverdale and Main. Volunteers keep this garden in bloom. Photo by: Bridget Vickers

By Meredith Newberry

It’s been said it takes a village to raise a family. Now, the same can be said of a new garden on Main Street. A group of Old Ottawa East residents are working together to maintain and nourish a new perennial garden at the intersection of Main Street and Riverdale Avenue.

It started when Echo Drive resident Margaret Vant Erve was reviewing plans for a new green space planned for the corner of Main Street and Riverdale Avenue. Drivers and pedestrians may recall that the area was formerly a turning lane from Main to Riverdale, and also a pedestrian crossing. The turning lane was removed during the Main Street reconstruction and in doing so a new green space was created.

The City plan for this space included trees and grass, but Vant Erve felt that something was missing. She envisioned a perennial garden would complement the city plan. She initiated conversations within community groups to gauge interest and support.

“SLOE and OECA heartily endorsed the project,” said Vant Erve. “They felt that it would further encourage more Ottawa residents to cycle, walk and enjoy Main Street. It also would foster community for the participants engaged in the project and [spread that fellowship through] their interaction with others who pass by the garden.”

This isn’t the first time the Old Ottawa East community has stepped up to take responsibility to beautify the neighbourhood. As reported in The Mainstreeter in June, a group called the Rideau Gardeners adopted a City-owned traffic island a few streets down from Main Street. They collected donations of flowers, and volunteer to maintain the garden.

To fund the beautification work at the Main and Riverdale intersection, Vant Erve applied for a grant from the Community Environmental Projects Grant Program. Her initiative paid off—the project was awarded $1,000.

The project involved City project managers for the Main Street Reconstruction as well as consultations with nearby experts to select various shrubs and perennials for the site (daisies and coreopsis have been doing well in this sunny, sloped location). Next, Vant Erve recruited community volunteers to plant, maintain and provide any other labour required to keep the garden blooming.

PerenialsThe new group soon discovered that getting water to the site was going to be a problem. “When initially planning the garden, I knew that we would need a reliable water source, as relying on rainfall is inadequate for a flower garden,” said Vant Erve. “I had worked hard to get a tap installed on-site, since the city was redoing the water mains and sewage. The tap was initially approved, but then public works did not have the budget to maintain it, so unfortunately the tap couldn’t be installed.”

Plan B came together when Riverdale Avenue homeowner Karin Brenner stepped up and offered access to her home’s exterior water tap. Volunteers may now use her tap to fill up two rain barrels, tucked away behind the trees. The Brenner family is reimbursed by the OECA for their water expense.

“Planting was done on a very windy June 18th just before one of the many downpours this Spring,” said Vant Erve. And while April showers may bring Spring flowers, too much rain has created an issue she said. “Anyone who has travelled by the garden will see that the shrubs are doing very well. The perennials are surviving but it is a sloped garden, so runoff is a problem.” The group wants to remove the mulch and add peat and compost to improve water retention next year.

There are six volunteers currently working with Vant Erve at the Main and Riverdale garden, but she welcomes anyone else who would like to participate in it’s care.

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Filed in: Environment, FP, Front Page

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