The utter, utter bliss of not owning a car

A phantom presence haunts most discussions of urban transportation in Ottawa and indeed most of North America. It is the unspoken dread of not owning a car. If the city puts in more protected infrastructure and devotes more space to active transportation, how will I drive there? The flip side of increasing modal share for active transportation is of course decreasing modal share for driving. This does not in fact mean that driving will become impossible. It just means that the universal access that drivers enjoy now will not be possible. But how accurate is that word enjoy anyway?

The spouse and I got rid of our car almost two years ago. We weren’t using it that much and figured we could use the money to support our ridiculous lifestyle which involves raising three children on one and a bit incomes in urban Canada. It is absolutely a stretch to raise a family like it’s 1977. Because it’s not. We both had student loans, housing is much more expensive, and so on. One way to eke out this existence was to eliminate the budget items of car maintenance, gas and insurance, and the eventual looming cost of a new-to-us vehicle. When we were making the decision, it seemed like giving up the car would be a sacrifice, but worth it to have a primary caregiver and household major domo running things at home.

It has turned out to be the opposite of a sacrifice. It is complete bliss. And I’ll tell you for why.

  1. We never worry about the cost of gas. It can go up or down and we pay no attention. We vaguely notice people complaining on the radio or in the paper or on Twitter. We really notice how boring actual face-to-face conversations about the cost of gas are. We have a Vrtucar membership, and gas is included as part of the per kilometre charge. I suppose if the cost of gas doubled our fees might go up, but not so far.
  2. We never worry about traffic. Commutes to school and work are by bike, on foot, or by schoolbus. On days that are too snowy and icy, the schoolbus doesn’t run, the kids stay home and I don’t worry about them being delayed or crashed into as a result of black ice. Traffic reports on the radio are as irrelevant to us as discussions of gas prices. They are like  reports from another planet almost. Why is it news that huge roads, extending the false promise of an unimpeded drive in a personal motor vehicle, are congested with traffic at rush hour? And why do cities keep believing and promoting that false promise?
  3. We never worry about unexpected repair bills or complete death of the car. Our first car up and died one day. The clutch seized and it would have been more than the car was worth to have it mended. We had very little money and I still remember that horrible sinking feeling. Or the horrible sinking feeling at the mechanic’s when told that the suspension job would cost $1200.00. Now we are impervious. Lots of other nasty surprises can come our way but at least not that one.
  4. I never have to take the car in for servicing ever again. Since I am the major domo, oil changes and trips for repairs fell to me. I recently read that many men don’t like taking the car in because they have little technical knowledge, and fear being shown up by the mechanic. I have some technical knowledge and hated being condescended to by people in repair shops. There was a strong flavour of “hey, little lady” about most interactions. No longer.
  5. A whole category of irritating, time-consuming boring chores has been eliminated from the to-do list. I especially loathe paperwork. We don’t have to: renew the car insurance; renew the license plate stickers; fill up the washer fluid; change the windshield wipers; and best of all, clean out the car! I do enough housework in the house. I hated all the Cheerios stuck in the back seat, and hated cleaning them out even more.
  6. I feel good. (I thought that I would). Last spring I kept thinking, why do I feel so terrific? My whole self felt lighter, as though I were floating. Then I realized it’s because I spend so much time out in the world. I no longer leave my little burrow at home and get into another enclosed space for transportation. All the little walks and short bike rides to run errands all add up to a lot of physical activity. Every time I book a Vrtucar I have to walk at least ten minutes. It’s not just the physical activity. It’s also that all this walking and biking takes place in the outdoors. My head is in the sun, or I’m feeling rain on my face, or I snuggle down inside my coat and hat against the winter wind. The internal debate about whether to drive or bike/walk rarely arises, since the active option is the default. On rainy days I used to have endless wittering arguments with myself justifying taking the car. Now there is no car, so I just put on the rain suit and go. Last fall I realized that I felt cozy biking home in the rain, protected by jacket and pants and helmet cover, and laughed at myself for really having drunk the KoolAid.

To my surprise, the joy of being free of all these chores and worries far outweighs any disadvantages of not owning a car. Thinking about gas and traffic and repair costs and patronizing gits and tedious tasks took up an enormous amount of energy. Debating whether to take the car or not added further burden. Until that burden was gone, I did not realize how onerous it had been.

Utter, utter bliss.

Zero Waste: The Loot Bottle

Zero Waste: The Loot Bottle

Or, confessions of a parent who hates children’s birthday parties. I am the oldest in a large family and I was burnt out from running children’s birthday parties before I left my teens. Time somehow seems to run backwards when I’m in the midst of one, and I find myself wishing it were all over.

A seemingly immutable tradition is the handing out of loot bags to the guests at the end of the party. One parent I know calls them instant landfill, and another refers to the stuff inside them as shitty bits. Still, Little wanted a birthday party with all the trimmings. Fine. I’ll have the party. But I will not be handing out shitty bits at the end of it.

Inspiration struck, helped by an assignment the teenager had for his outdoor education course. The challenge was to pack a one litre widemouth water bottle for everything you needed to stay overnight in the woods after a 65 kilometre bike ride out into the country. It really made him think about what was most essential, and about how to get as much nutrition into as small a space as possible.

Voila! The Loot Bottle was born. Children do not need shitty bits, but mine at least are in the perpetual state of needing a water bottle. No matter how many we have, there’s always a search before we head out on an excursion. I would provide water bottles filled with zero or almost zero waste treats for the kids.

I ordered a dozen bottles from Mountain Equipment Co-op. The total came to more than $50.00 so, yay, free shipping. Once they arrived I had a better sense of what would fit into them. I went to the drugstore and bought chunky sidewalk chalk, and discovered an excellent sale on Easter-themed Life Saver books for $1.00 each. Six rolls of Life Savers for a dollar!

This wasn’t completely zero waste. The candy boxes were wrapped in plastic and I had to undo those to separate out the tubes of candy. Unlike many of the candies familiar to me in my childhood, the wrapping of those tubes remains the same: a layer of wax paper, a layer of foil, and then the tube of paper holding it all together. IMG_0181.jpgThree chunky sticks of chalk fit in each bottle and I decided to put them in little plastic bags so that chalk powder wouldn’t end up over everything. I should perhaps have wrapped them in paper.

Next time I have to gird myself to throw another birthday party, I will return to my loot bottle concept. The options for fun stuff to put inside them are endless and I may even achieve a version with no waste at all. I could do bike-themed ones with lights and ankle straps.

The children loved the loot bottles. One little girl said to me, “Hey, I can take this with me when I’m on my bike!” Exactly. Then she went off with the other little girls and they sucked their Life Savers so that they could attach them to their noses and look like they had nose rings. That party maybe wasn’t so bad after all.

#MeToo: Woman (and her child) on foot

To be a woman in public is to be subject to glances, comments, sometimes touches that are unwelcome. A threatening murmur, often barely audible, underlies most interactions. Sometimes that murmur becomes a terrifying shout.

So it was a few weeks ago when I was walking home one morning. I had walked the spouse to work, and done a few errands, and had traversed the river using the beautiful and welcoming Adàwe Crossing.

I reached the intersection of North River Road and Donald St. at about the same time as a white van signalling to turn south from Donald onto North River. I started crossing North River Road . The van kept moving through the intersection. I lifted my hand to signal “stop” and kept walking. Maybe he hadn’t seen me? It was after 9 in the morning, no fog, no snow, so this seemed unlikely. Or maybe he was driving at me. (This blog post sums that up perfectly: Stop Fucking Driving your Car at People).

As I reached the other side, I heard him roll down his window and got that sinking feeling I often get when I’m out on my bike or on foot. He yelled at me, “Stop wasting my time, you fucking cunt. Some of us have to get to work.” I did not turn around, I did not stop, I just kept walking. He drove south. I walked home. I started shaking and crying. I was frightened and upset and hurt and outraged. Nobody has ever called me that before. I called the spouse at work, still weeping. Poor man. I scared him terribly, and he thought for a moment that some dreadful thing had happened to the children.

Indeed, the same dreadful thing had happened to one of the children the week before. Middle, walking home from the park one Sunday afternoon, had been crossing North River Road and had been called a fucking asshole for walking too slowly. He does walk slowly. He has a physical disability that is not readily visible, but it affects both fine and gross motor activities. That is not even the first time he’s been called that on our street. Last year he was crossing the road after getting off the schoolbus. The schoolbus lights were flashing and all traffic was stopped in both directions. A driver, waiting for him to cross, called him a fucking asshole then too. At the time he was eleven years old.

Let me be clear. On all three occasions, we were crossing the road legally and in possession of the right of way. It was daylight. The drivers yielded, obviously unwillingly, and then screamed their outrage at us. All three of these abusive drivers were men. I can tell you the effect of this. It made me afraid to leave my house during the day. I’m already afraid to leave the house at night, because the night is not a safe place for women. I can generally choose not to go out at night on my own, but to be kept indoors by fear of abuse during the day would be paralysis.

A few years ago, I was propositioned (that would be the polite word for it), in both official languages, mind, in the Beer Store parking lot nearby and so I don’t go to the Beer Store anymore. The spouse does that. Avoiding the Beer Store is one thing. I know few women who feel comfortable there, but if the breweries want to pursue a business model based mainly on purchases by men, that’s their own decision. It is a private enterprise. The public roadway is another matter altogether. No one owns that. It belongs to all of us together, and I’m damned if I’m going to be scared out of walking around my own neighbourhood by aggressive men in cars.

A few days later, I called the City of Ottawa about something else and was greeted by the following statement: “Please be advised that the City of Ottawa promotes an environment that is inclusive and supports dignity and respect for all its customers and employees, Inappropriate language will not be tolerated.” In other words: don’t call us up and swear at us. I’m sympathetic. I don’t want to be sworn at in the course of my day either.

I find the word customers rather transactional; I would prefer residents. But it did remind me that we are daily engaged in a transaction with our city, our province and our country. That transaction is known as the social contract. Under that contract, put most baldly, we surrender our freedom to the state, and the state provides us with protection of person and property in return. If I can’t walk around my neighbourhood without the fear that my children or I will be abused, the state is not living up to its part of that contract. By creating a physical environment that favours the power of the person in a motorized vehicle over the person without one, the city is failing to honour the social contract. The state needs to address the implicit imbalance of power between the hegemonic car, which has the power of life and death, and the powerless pedestrian or cyclist, which does not. It also needs to address the imbalance of power between the hegemonic male and the vulnerable female. Under the law, which is the articulation of the social contract, my child and I have the right to the same dignity and consideration as anyone else, even a man in a car. I would like my experience on the street to match the rights I have under the law.

Barred owls

Barred owls

I’ve been married now for over 21 years and last spring I fell in love. My marriage is safe, however; the objects of my devotion live in Indiana and I’ve never seen them in real life. One day into my Twitter feed came a tweet about a barred owl camera, I clicked on it, and that was the end for me. This year I was delighted to discover that the same owl parents were using the same nesting box. The three eggs have not yet hatched.

Last spring the nesting box was inhabited by a mother owl, her three owlets and the shadowy figure of the dad, who made occasional appearances with crayfish and worms in the dead of night. When I first met this family, two owlets had hatched and the third egg was still sitting there. When the mother owl left briefly to hunt, the tiny white owlets snuggled up to the sibling egg and slept. Then, on April 10, very early in the morning, the smallest owlet was born.

In those early days, the mother owl stayed with her young almost all the time, leaving only briefly to hunt. I left the owl cam open on the computer, with the volume up, so that I could hear if anything were happening. As I went about the house, I could occasionally hear the “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” hoot of the owl, in response to her mate. They would chat briefly, with the female puffing up her feathers every time she called, and then she would settle her wings carefully around her owlets and resume her rest. 

Barred owls are mainly nocturnal, so much of her hunting took place at night. Tiny owlets need frequent feeding, so she and her mate would stock the larder overnight and then she would feed them about every 3 hours all day with the rabbit, or frog, or fish that lay in a corner of the nesting box. She snoozed much of the time, but occasionally would have her gorgeous huge dark brown eyes open. She changed position from time to time, allowing me to admire the lovely fluffy white feathers that are usually hidden under the stiff striped feathers of her tail.C9ovjVXXoAMsR95.jpg

It turns out it’s actually pretty loud inside a nesting box 30 feet up a tree in Indianapolis. The day shift is busy outside, with the jays calling, the woodpeckers hammering and the male cardinals singing enthusiastically to their modest brown mates. I already hated loud landscaping equipment, and when I heard the sound of a two-stroke engine as it is experienced in a nesting box,  my rejection of such machines was confirmed. That this poor dedicated mother, trying to snatch a nap in between feeding sessions of her young, should be so disturbed!

I was much taken by the beauty of the birds: the striped softness of the mother, the white down and tiny winglets of the infant owls, and now their brown and white fluffiness. The facial disk so characteristic of many owls, in which the feathers are arranged circularly around the large eyes, were evident even when the owlets were tiny. It has been a pleasure to see the daily activity of animals so close up.

But it’s not just a question of beauty and biological observation for me. I realized as I watched this mother that I was experiencing profound fellow-feeling with her.  I was remembering my experience with my babies as a physical experience, as a creature. After she fed her tiny owlets and preened them carefully, she settled her wings around them to provide warmth and shelter, and closed her eyes. (Click on the link for an adorable video). I remembered sitting in the nursing chair, nursing my infant, both our eyes closed and peace all around and between us. We were warm and dry and fed, and nestling together was all there was to do.

I saw the owlets, usually huddled together when the mother is off hunting, hear her approach. They stretched their wings, often almost toppling over, shot out their necks and generally got terribly excited. I was reminded of walking up the stairs to get the baby out of bed, after a nap, and hearing a sudden rustling in the bed clothes and shaking of the crib against the wall as the child wriggled in joy at my impending arrival.

I saw the frenetic motions of the owls as they eat, and the stillness of their bodies as their mother preens their tiny feathers, and I remember one day when my youngest was one or two. She was profoundly upset, her body shaking and hot, and I opened my arms to her. She came into them, pressed her trembling body against mine, and was suddenly quiet and still. I thought, “Only I can do this. Only I can be her mum.”

I saw how busy this mother owl was. When the owlets are about three weeks old, they are much more active in the nest. They eat much more, and she and her mate spend a lot of time hunting, leaving the owlets alone. As they have done from the beginning, they snuggle up to each other to keep warm. The smallest owlet is often jammed between the elder two. As they sleep, they sway on their feet trying to keep their balance. Often they lose the battle, flop over and then right themselves. This swaying motion reminds me of nothing more than graduate students trying to stay awake during an afternoon seminar. The mother is so careful with them, and takes such good care. This reminds me of the incredible amount of energy it took for me to care for my human babies. Sometimes it was hard to put their needs above my own. The mother owl spent a long time feeding her young one rainy day with the feathers on her own head wet and bedraggled. Once they were settled, she preened herself.stretched out

I admire this barred owl mother so much. She shows me that I am an animal mother too, and that my focus on the children to the virtual exclusion of all else when they were very young is natural. It makes me feel better about my extreme discomfort at leaving my babies for longer than a few hours when they were very small, and my reluctance now to have them away from me now for much longer than the length of a school day. When they come home, although they are all so much older now, they each want a hug and a cuddle and some quiet time. We all like to be near each other.

It makes me feel better about my initially astonishing lack of desire to pick up my intellectually-based ambitious busy life after the children were born. The physical reality of motherhood is more profound than I had ever dreamed. Thank you, barred owls.

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Elgin Street: after millions of dollars spent, it will still be awful


Crap. Another day, another furious letter to the city about its wilful inability to achieve balance for road users. This one is about a recent report on the proposed reconstruction of Elgin Street. As it is now, (see above), it’s quite unattractive and uninviting. The proposed improvements will do little to change this, I fear.

Dear Transportation Committee members,

I recently read the Elgin Street and Hawthorne Avenue Functional Design Study. It made me sick at heart. The report tells a tale of a project based on the false premise that the city of Ottawa will balance the needs of all modes of traffic in the given corridor. It tells a tale of repeated consultations, resulting in numerous requests for improved cycling infrastructure. One’s hopes are raised, only to read: “The study team received a significant amount of feedback requesting bike lanes on Elgin Street. After thorough analysis, the study team concluded that there is insufficient space within the 18.2m right-of-way to safely accommodate bike lanes while meeting the primary requirement for wider sidewalks and other competing policy directions for the street.” It thus also tells a tale of opportunity squandered and the goodwill of citizens cast to the four winds.
 
These competing policy directions seem, from the rest of the report, to involve parking. The current state of transportation research has shown repeatedly that parking is not a public good. It does not add to the life of a street, its esthetic level, its safety or its financial viability. Those requesting that parking be retained are basing their requests on lore rather than data. I would prefer that the city spend my money on evidence-based plans. Moreover, those defending the parking monolith were in the minority during consultations, unlike those advocating for active transportation.
 
I therefore have two complaints about this new plan for Elgin.
 
First, it makes the road not one bit safer for my teenager at Lisgar CI, or my two younger children. Their safety on the street is apparently going to be safeguarded by a 30 km/h speed limit on a truck route, as they are supposed to take the lane on sharrows. It is not only my children who might want to cycle here; Elgin Street Public School is smack in the middle of the neighbourhood. The only safe way to protect a child from a truck is with segregated lanes, preferably cycle track. The children rightly deride sharrows and know that they do not make the cyclist safer. We live in Overbrook, and have a safe route to downtown via Adawe, Somerset and Corktown. That safety stops at Elgin.
 
The report brings out the old saw that it is fine for cyclists to use another route, and lists several possibilities. Current transportation scholarship holds that balance of modes only occurs when motorized vehicles are encouraged to go around, and that cyclists and pedestrians should have the most direct and most protected routes. If I am actually intending to go to a destination on Elgin Street, should it not be possible for my bicycle to travel safely along Elgin? Are the writers of this report actually ignorant of this scholarship, or are they wilfully ignoring it? Apparently cycling lanes cannot be improved because Elgin is not part of the pre-approved networks and plans. This is a circular argument that justifies an appalling lack of action. The consultation showed above all else that users of this road would like to see the networks extended and the plans improved.
 
My second complaint arises out of my sense that the city has ignored the feedback of its own citizens. Citizens engaged in good faith with the series of consultations laid out by the city. I sat down with my own children and asked for their input on the street. They had been stung by a recent experience in trying to get from the dentist to Daddy’s office for lunch. They could not safely bike on the road, and could not easily push their bikes on the congested sidewalk. They told me afterwards they were never going there again. I included their ideas, namely the cycle tracks they love so much on Main St.,  in my response. (The first time my son rode on those tracks, he laughed and sang with joy the whole way; the sense of simultaneous freedom and safety was that wonderful to him.) The whole family spent time on this project, and many other people similarly spent their time. This report makes a mockery of their contribution.
 
The report shows clearly that the input of citizens was cast aside. Please tell me how we will find a way forward. What is the point of our taking time to engage in future projects? What are the actual reasons that this farrago of a plan is being presented? It certainly is not intended to reflect the will of the people.
 
As you can tell, I am very cross indeed. If you are trying to keep my carfree family out of the downtown, you are doing a very good job.
 
I urge you to reject this report and to implement the cycling infrastructure that your citizens have requested.
 

I have no sword, so I’m fighting with my pen

I have no sword, so I’m fighting with my pen

 

I wrote this letter to the Ontario Minister of Education today:

Dear Minister Hunter,

I am writing in response to recent statements you have made about school boards consulting with municipalities in their decisions to close local schools. These statements have particular relevance to us here in eastern Ontario, as many rural schools are slated to be closed. In addition, the Ottawa District School Board has recently decided to close Rideau High School and to move the boundaries for French Immersion high school students. All students in the areas of Overbrook and Vanier are now expected to take the bus to a suburban school. I have written in more detail on this matter in a recent blog post. https://bigorangebike.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/screaming-bloody-murder-about-the-ottawa-carleton-district-school-board/

I am writing to ask you to reverse the decision made by the OCDSB. The board did not heed any of the input made by the local community and as far as I can tell has made no formal effort to consult with the City of Ottawa. Its actions, however, will hollow out a central neighbourhood, put an at-risk population at further risk, and makes a mockery of all efforts to raise our children in a healthy and environmentally responsible manner.

I don’t know how familiar you are with Ottawa, but Overbrook and Vanier are very close to downtown. Most of the children affected by this decision live within five kilometres of Parliament Hill. The Peace Tower is visible from many parts of the area. I am staggered that it seems that Ontario is now so poor that it cannot afford to send children living centrally, in the capital of Canada, to a walkable, bikeable school. Of course I know that Ontario is not that poor, but the OCDSB is making a short-sighted decision and the children are suffering for it.

I have followed, and participated in, the fight for Rideau HS and access to Lisgar CI, and I have seen no evidence that the school board consulted with the municipality. All the local community associations are against this decision; the previous police chief of Ottawa, Vern White, spoke out against it; the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre, which is on the front lines helping the needy in our neighbourhood is against it; the Wabano Centre, serving our local indigenous population is against it; scores of parents are against it. At the meeting in which the final vote was cost, a delegation of refugee parents came, with an Arabic translator, to tell the board that Rideau High School provided schooling for their teenagers, a preschool for their little ones, and language classes for them. The chair of the board welcomed them to Canada and then presided over a decision that places those services in three different places, making them much more inaccessible.

The local councillors of Rideau-Rockcliffe and Rideau-Vanier wards have been trying in the last years to make our neighbourhoods more vibrant and adapted to active transportation. Consultations have begun on making two local main streets into “complete streets” so that the biking, walking and shopping experience is better suited to the needs of the local population. Indeed, those streets lead directly to Rideau High School and would have made the walk or bike ride there that much more appealing. Our area has the third-lowest car ownership rate in the city, and the third-highest population density (figures taken from the 2011 Origin-Destination Survey: http://www.ncr-trans-rcn.ca/surveys/o-d-survey/o-d-survey-2011/); sending its teenagers to a high school that is easily accessible by car and difficult to access by public transit or bicycle does not seem to be an obvious decision.

The problems I have outlined in my discussion of our local situation are part of a larger issue. In my view, there needs to be much greater coordination between the ministries of health, environment and education to ensure that the children of Ontario grow up in a healthy and safe manner. So many preventive measures can be taken with and for the children when they are young: walking and biking to school improves mental and physical health, resulting in reduced risk of depression, diabetes and cardiac disease; ensures that future adults are not wedded to the car; reduces greenhouse gas emissions from traffic; reduces traffic noise and pollution. There needs to be better coordination on the ground, involving local councillors, Public Health and initiatives from the Ministry of the Environment.

I do most fervently hope that you will intervene to help the children of Overbrook and Vanier.

cc. Glen R. Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change

Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

 

Canada 150 in the garden: celebrate!

Canada 150 in the garden: celebrate!

My latest gardening column (slightly modified) in Nouvelles d’Overbrook News, our community newspaper.

This year’s bulb and seed catalogues are pushing the idea of planting lots of red and white flowers to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.  I like red and white. I like it in Nordic knitting and I like it in the Canadian flag. Unrelieved red and white in the garden seems rather harsh, however. I have an alternative idea for celebratory plantings this year: plant native plants. Indeed, plant native plants that have the word canadensis (from Canada) in their botanical name. Here are some ideas.

Amelanchier canadensis: The serviceberry is in my opinion the best small tree for Ottawa. In Spring it is covered in a mist of white bloom and by early summer the berries are ripening and the birds are feasting. It can reach a height of 5 m and likes sun to part shade. It can be grown as a specimen with a single trunk or as a multistemmed shrub. Both are gorgeous. This plant is native all across Canada and for centuries the people who live here have been enjoying it. Enjoy a pie made from your very own berries on Canada Day.

saskatoon berries
Amelanchier canadensis berries in my garden

Anemone canadensis:  The Canada anemone grows in every province and territory of Canada and will thrive in an Ottawa garden. Starry white flowers come in late spring and it likes sun to part shade. It will reach a height of 30 to 60 cm and provide years of pleasure.

Anemone-canadensis-cuddy-frm-1
Anemone canadensis, http://www.canadaplants.ca

Aquilegia canadensis: the native columbine is a smaller version of the garden columbine and it’s another native that will thrive in the sun. Blossoms resembling red and yellow butterflies rise above a  basal rosette of leaves  in May  and June; the plant has a height of 15-90 cm.

Aquilegia-canadensis-flw-1
Aquilegia canadensis, http://www.canadaplants.ca

Asarum canadense: The wild ginger is not grown for its blooms but rather for its broad and rounded leaves. It makes a lush groundcover in shade and its downy leaves give it a greyish cast, particularly later in the summer. It reaches a height of 10-15 cm and a spread of 15-30 cm. Divide it in the spring after it has established itself for a few years. It grows well but is not invasive.

Asarum-canadense-frm-3
Asarum canadense, http://www.canadaplants.ca

Cornus canadensis: Make a beautiful carpet in a shady corner of your garden with the bunchberry, the smallest dogwood at 5-15 cm. Leaves in the classic dogwood shape form a rosette that supports simple white flowers in spring and clusters of red berries in the fall. This plant is red and white all on its own. It possesses a quiet cheerfulness which never fails to charm. Bunchberry is sometimes difficult to establish; water well and mulch with shredded leaves in the autumn.

Cornus canadensis wk2
Cornus canadensis, http://www.canadaplants.ca

I highly recommend the plant sale at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden in the spring if you are interested in planting more native vegetation in your garden. The sale this year is on Saturday June 3. The garden itself is always worth a visit; various beds are planted with specimens from designated habitats, and birds love the place. So do I.