See The Garry Oak Gardener’s Handbook, our native plant propagation guidelines, flowering times (PDF 250KB), and seed collection times (PDF 260KB) for details on planning your garden and working with native plants. Choose plants whose needs will be satisfied as much as possible by the environmental conditions of your site, and know your plants’growth requirements and natural habitats as well as your property’s natural features. Grow several different species of native plants, as diversity is essential for healthy Garry oak habitat.
If you have a friend or neighbour who is able to give you a cutting or division of a native plant, this is an ideal way to acquire plants for your Garry oak garden. It is the least expensive, and if the plant comes from a nearby site, this may help to retain the genetic integrity of plants in your area. Divide perennials in late summer/early fall, or take cuttings in late summer or late winter. Trade with your friends and neighbours! See our native plant propagation guidelines and our NEW native plant flowering times (PDF 250KB) and native plant seed collection times (PDF 260KB).
There are several reputable suppliers of native plant seeds. This is an inexpensive way to find plants for your garden. Beware of commercially available ‘wildflower mixes’, as they often contain non-native and sometimes invasive species. See our list of suppliers and our native plant seed collection times (PDF 260KB).
In addition, the Native Seed Network is a resource for both the restoration community and the native seed industry, providing powerful search tools and information on aspects of native seed (USA-based).
Restoration plans and invasive plant management prescriptions often recommend mulching. But what is mulch, and how should it be used in Garry Oak and associated ecosystems? Follow the link for guidelines that answer these questions and provide references for more information:
Guidelines for Mulching in Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems (PDF 463KB).
Never take plants from local parks or natural areas. Often they do not transplant well, you will be harming the natural environment, and the practice is illegal. Be careful about suppliers of salvaged plants, as illegal plant scavenging is a concern for the future health of natural areas the plants came from.
Local naturalist groups may be aware of legitimate plant salvaging opportunities. When a new road or subdivision is going in, for example, a local group may ask for permission to remove healthy plant material for use elsewhere. Offer to help with these salvaging operations, and you may be able to keep some of the salvaged plants. See our Guidelines for the Collection and Use of Native Plants.
Contact your local naturalist group to ask if they are aware of salvaging programs in your area. In the Victoria area, contact Darren Copley for the District of Saanich Native Plant Salvage Program: 250-475-5579; firstname.lastname@example.org or become a member of the Native Plant Study Group and join their salvaging outings: 250-519-0404; email@example.com.
Use of rare plants is not recommended. When you are getting native plants for your garden, make sure they are local, common species and not rare ones. The use of rare plant species is a complicated process that needs expert assistance and carefully prepared plans. For further information, go to our list of rare and endangered species (XLS 56KB), COSEWIC or the BC Conservation Data Centre.
Native plants are more useful for attracting butterflies because the flowering of specific plants coincides with the emergence of the adult butterfly, and while feeding on nectar, butteflies assist in the pollination of plants. A number of plants in Garry oak ecosystems provide food for the larval (caterpillar) stages in the life cycle of native butterflies. Large butterflies such as swallowtails prefer to land on flowers with large composite heads because they can rest on them while feeding. Composites include asters, goldenrod, pearly everlasting, and yarrow. Flowers in the carrot family are also popular with swallowtails. Other butterflies are attracted to plants with large numbers of fragrant flowers such as honeysuckles (Lonicera ciliosa and Lonicera hispidula), mock orange, oceanspray, kinnikinnick, red-osier dogwood, columbine, sedum, violets, clovers, wild mint, alliums, and strawberry.
Native plants have survived in this area for many hundreds of years. Let nature take its course.