The New Woodlot acts as a buffer between Prince of Wales Drive and the rest of the garden. The natural succession from the pre-existing grasses to scrubland to woodland takes many years. To speed up the transformation, we planted a mixture of red oak, white pine, white spruce, and black walnut. The rough grasses now present provide year-round cover for small mammals and attract some grass-loving butterflies such as skippers and ringlets. The wildlife will change naturally as the grass is superseded by woods.
The summer of 1997 was very dry in our area, underlining the need for us to plant more “pioneer” species in this woodlot. Poplars, birches, aspens, and sumacs are natural colonizers of open fields, and can be found throughout Ottawa’s Greenbelt. Fast-growing stands of these trees provide the partial shade and shelter that “climax” species need.
In May 1998, “our” Scouts planted approximately 40 green ash in this area. Most seem to have survived the spring’s severe drought. Trees planted in previous years are now tall enough to be visible above the grass and for the first time the site is beginning to look like a new woodlot.
In 1999, we added several groves of trembling aspen and white birch trees. These species should do well in the open, and grow quickly. We’ve learned from experience that time and care during and immediately after planting can make a big difference in long-term survival and health of the trees we plant. Good topsoil was added around the root ball during planting. Each tree was also generously watered, then mulched with wood chips. Corrugated cardboard also works well to suppress weeds in the immediate area of the trunk. Thanks again to the 27th Ottawa Scouts for their valuable help at the first planting session in the spring.
In 2006, even in winter, the New Woodlot looks dense and enclosed. Standing in the spot where the 1992 photo was taken, we can no longer see Prince of Wales Drive, our entrance road, or the baseball diamond.
Starting in mid-summer 2015, two dedicated volunteers – Marlene Soulière and Catherine Shearer – took on most of this habitat as a special project. Putting in many long hours, they removed invasive species and started introducing woodland wildflowers into this now-maturing habitat.
Red Squirrels can be seen busily storing food for winter, building nests of grass, digging in the leaves, and chasing off any unfortunate Grey Squirrel that strays into their territory. The occasional owl can also be found here, sheltering from crows.
Driving north along Prince of Wales Drive, it is hard to believe that the woods that now hide the baseball diamond and the amphibian pond are there because of the hard work of the Fletcher volunteers. Unfortunately, the trees are now being challenged by Dog-strangling Vine and Comfrey two invasive plants that are threatening many parts of the FWG. Starting in 2015 and continuing into 2016, special attention is being given to these invasive species in the New Woodlot.