June 8, 2012, Toronto — A new campaign to educate consumers about the invasive nature of some plants sold at garden centres is now underway in Ontario.
Invasive plants are spreading through our natural ecosystems, urban landscapes and agricultural lands at an alarming rate, becoming the second greatest threat to biodiversity. They have the potential to establish themselves and disrupt ecosystems forcing out native plants. Fewer native plants results in decreased biodiversity, which translates to less food and shelter for the wildlife dependent on the native plants. One of the ways invasive plants are being spread is through sales at garden centres.
To inform consumers of the invasive nature of some garden plants, Ontario Invasive Plant Council (OIPC) and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) officially launched the Grow Me Instead Nursery Outreach Project. The campaign was made possible with the partnership and support from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Canada/Ontario Invasive Species Centre.
“Invasive species cost Ontario’s economy millions of dollars each year”, said Michael Gravelle, Minister of Natural Resources. “This partnership is a great example of how we can all help conserve our province's biodiversity and provide a healthy, sustainable environment and a stronger economy for Ontarians.”
OIPC and partners are working with garden centres to inform consumers about popular garden plants that escape gardens and cause problems in nearby natural areas. The Grow Me Instead guide highlights a variety of native and non-native plants that do well in gardens and are non-invasive in Ontario. It is a helpful resource for anyone adding new plants to their garden, starting a landscape project, or removing invasive plants.
"We have found that gardeners are very eager to avoid these invasives and to learn what species are good alternatives,” said Owen Williams, chair of OIPC. “Aside from saving them a lot of work trying to control them in their own backyards, it is something that everyone can do to help conserve natural biodiversity."
In 2012, the Grow Me Instead Nursery Recognition Program was piloted in the GTA. This program recognizes nurseries that carry and promote the sale of the non-invasive and native garden plants featured in the Grow Me Instead guide. These nurseries also distribute copies of the guides.
The pilot project resulted in 10 nurseries joining the program, leading to stronger engagement with growers, retailers, landscapers and gardeners. In the next five years, the program will expand to include additional regions in Ontario, including Northern Ontario, through partnerships with local organizations.
“We are proud to be a partner of the Grow Me Instead campaign,” said Brian Denney, chief administrative officer with the TRCA. “Through public education and support for native plant propagation, we hope to see more beautiful landscapes in the GTA that reflect the region’s natural heritage, and contribute to a healthier community.”
The Grow Me Instead Guide can be found at participating garden centres across Ontario or can be downloaded.