The Parish of St. Augustine’s, Marpole has thoroughly embraced the shared baptismal ministry of safeguarding the integrity of God’s creation, respecting, sustaining, and renewing the life of the Earth. Prior to the arrival of current vicar, the Rev. Katherine Hough in 2020, the parish hosted a community herb garden, a memorial garden, composters for garden waste and a small native bee aviary. After the Rev. Hough’s arrival, the parish expanded its environmental ministry including feeding our feathered friends (conforming to the guidelines provided by the BCSPCA for safe feeding), joining the David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflyway Project and the Rev. Hough has become a Butterfly Seeker (walking a predetermined route weekly to record and photograph any butterflies encountered) both in her own neighbourhood and in Marpole as part of the project. An inventory of the gardens revealed that about 30% of the gardens already had native plants, including mostly nectar plants for both butterflies and bees as well as a couple targeted for hummingbirds. In 2021, the parish planted some native host plants, salal and kinnikinnick (also known as bearberry), and in 2022, decided it was TIME!!
With grants from Salal+Cedar and the Diocesan Climate Emergency Working Group the parish purchased a rain barrel to catch water for the gardens, switched to LED lighting in the church and in the daycare (realizing immediate cost savings and getting rid of some very environmentally dangerous mercury vapour lamps) and constructed a Boulevard Garden. The City of Vancouver encourages boulevard gardens and provides guidelines. Following those guidelines and with the assistance of Coast Salish Nursery which provided a consultant who came to the church, reviewed the plans and then plotted a garden and the plants to go in it, we did it! September 24, 2022, parishioners and community members gathered to dig, hoe, weed, add soil and plant. What started as a dried-out section of boulevard (we were in the midst of a drought, so were faced with dead plants and dog dirt) resulted in a vibrant new garden. It took much longer than anticipated due to the dryness and compaction of the soil, but perseverance paid off and after hours in the hot sun the happy planters retired to the hall for a wonderful lunch made by other parishioners.
What is unique about this garden is that it contains ONLY native plants both host and nectar. It is hoped that some of those plants will be eaten as host plants are there to provide food for the caterpillars which will turn into butterflies. The garden was enclosed for security purposes (annually we lose plants to thieves) and to keep dogs off the plants settling in.
Spring efforts have begun with the planting of a native licorice fern in the memorial garden, native chocolate lilies and snowy milkweed in the boulevard garden. Snowy milkweed is the only plant monarch butterfly caterpillars will eat so it is hoped to attract monarch adults to the patch and, if successful, increase the population of these magnificent, at risk, butterflies. Our host plants will, hopefully, also attract other, at risk, butterfly species.
Unfortunately, the two grants were not enough to complete the garden so the parish will be applying for a second grant from the diocese to complete the planting this spring along with the purchase of more rain barrels and doing more light swapping. If this garden is successful, we have our eye on the boulevard currently containing huge flowering plum trees as the shade and damp would make a great garden of ferns, bleeding hearts and other native shade plants.
The parish is deeply grateful for the support and encouragement from the Rev. Laurel Dykstra along with a grant from Salal+Cedar and with the workshop they provided before we started. We are also deeply grateful for the encouragement and enthusiasm received from the Rev. Alecia Greenfield and the Climate Emergency Working Group which has now finished its ministry but members will continue to support the now ongoing ministry of the newly appointed Minister for Climate Justice on Synod Staff, the Reverend Joyce Parry-Moore.
All are invited to stop by sometime at 8680 Hudson Street in South Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood and see how a little enthusiasm, vision and funding can transform a neighbourhood.