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Jul 5

The Medicine Wheel Garden at Maple Grove Public School

It all began with a telephone call on the day of the huge snowstorm in mid-April. With the thermometer hitting 37 Celsius on my patio today, it seems so long ago. I remember several hundred grackles, redwing blackbirds and assorted songbirds had fallen from the sky to congregate on my front lawn, devouring the extra seed I’d put out for them. And Nancy Astin, a teacher at Maple Grove Public School in Barrie, came on the line. She had a project. An amazing project - a Medicine Wheel garden!

Later, I was to learn how the idea grew from a number of factors, including the school’s pioneering partnership with Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority which had students growing native plants from seed for the school’s No-Mow Zone (as well as for streams that run by the school); the Land Acknowledgement that began to play over the school’s announcements and the realization that students had little idea of what it meant; and the need for a calming place to sit over the course of the day.

In one sense, this was right up my alley. I specialize in native plants, and these are the ones that the first peoples of this area would have used as medicines – whether for food, healing or spiritual well-being. But I don’t have that knowledge. My interest in offering the plants that make up the natural communities that would have been found here before the settlers arrived has been to heal our space on the planet, to link with other gardeners in creating networks so the creatures that support our foodweb can flourish.

So in another sense, I was intimidated. I am an immigrant. I don’t have the experience borne from the teaching of parents, grandparents and elders of the traditional uses of native plants, and I have little understanding of the meanings of the four directions teachings upon which the medicine wheel is based. I knew one thing, we could not proceed without getting advice and leadership from local indigenous people. Maple Grove was ahead of me there – they have had a long-standing partnership with the Barrie Native Friendship Centre and a meeting was arranged.
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Jun 30

Open in July

Yes, the nursery is open in July, we are hard at work and fresh plants are being added - but to be sure that we're here when you come, please phone 705-322-2545 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to let us know what time suits you
Jun 20

Grasses, milkweeds - and a reminder, we're closed Saturday June 23 for BioBlitz

The Return of the Native plant nursery will be closed this Saturday June 23, 2018 - I will be at the Tiny Marsh BioBlitz - but will be open 10 am to 4 pm on Friday and Sunday (call or email if you want to come early or late on those days, or at any other time.

I have a full complement of native grasses on sale, as well as our three local varieties of milkweed. Check the plant list for more details. 

If you want to learn more about beautiful native plants in their natural environment, you would really enjoy one of the BioBlitz outings that focus on the plants of Tiny Marsh (a huge property that includes many habitats, not just wetlands).

Leaders are Lynn Short, a long-time Tiny Township cottager who teaches horticulture at Humber College and is an expert in Phragmites control and Clare Holden, a member of Nature Barrie and Ontario Nature and a graduate of two Master Naturalist courses. Their walks run from 10 am to noon.

In the afternoon, you can gain an indigenous perspective by going out with Gary Pritchard of Curve Lake First Nation or Jake Charles of the First Nation of Georgina Island. For more informatio, go to Eventbrite, and scroll down to the schedule. 

Is it too late to plant? No. If you are dealing with potted - as opposed to just-dug bareroot - plants, you can carry on planting all summer long, although success is easier to achieve in spring and fall.

It's just that you have to take more care.

Watering is helpful for the first couple of weeks at least, and if the planting area is in full sun and there's no rain in the forecast, you might want to erect a temporary shade structure with newspaper or fabric for a few days. But native plants are tough, and most will soldier through if you soak the planting hole and the plant ahead of time. Rootbound plants (ones that have been left in a pot too long and have circling roots with hardly any soil mix left in the pot) will have the hardest time - be sure to break up the root ball and spread the roots out well.