Victoria has exempted some high-profile gardens from its city-wide garden bed naturalization program that involves transitioning the plants to native ones.
The exempted areas are the northwest corner of Topaz Park, the planters along Government and Belleville Streets and Centennial Square, as well as the cenotaph at Pioneer Square.
“Staff has suggested that these areas remain predominantly non-naturalized,” said councillor Sarah Potts. “These locations are important visually to the city.”
These garden beds are joining those in Beacon Hill Park and seasonal hanging baskets that were exempted from the program when it was approved in 2019.
Under the naturalization program, the non-native species in flower beds are being replaced by Indigenous species that are adaptive, drought-resistant, pollinator-friendly, lower allergen, climate-sensitive and easier to maintain.
[These are] what would have been growing here had we not done anything at all,” said Potts. “A lot of the plants are brought in for aesthetic reasons and what can grow here. So this would be looking at what was here.”
Some of the native species selected by the city include: Mahonia (Oregon Grape), Arctostaphylos uva ursi (Kinnikinnick), Achillea millefolium (Yarrow), Vaccinium ovatum, Polystichum munitum (Western Sword Fern), (Huckleberry), Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage), Echinacea purpurea (Echinacea).
Plants like daffodils, on the other hand, are non-native.
“They’re annual plants that we know are really pretty and they bloom really bright and big,” said Nancy Shackelford, an environmental professor at the University of Victoria and director of the school’s Restoration of Natural Systems program.
“They tend to come from places like England.”
However, native plants can still be just as visually appealing as exotic plants, Shackelford added.
“There’s no reason we can’t give more space to those really bright, lovely [native] flowers,” she said.