June 21, 2022
Blooming Boulevards: An organization helping pollinators and people
A second year garden planting.
By Gail Pope
Journalism Intern, Landscape Ontario

If you’ve visited Mississauga, Ont., lately, you may have noticed the addition of vibrant wildflowers along numerous roads and sidewalks. Many of these beautiful native flower gardens are the work of Blooming Boulevards.

The organization's founder Jeanne McRight developed the idea while studying horticulture at the University of Guelph. During her studies, she conducted an investigation on how boulevard habitat networks in urban areas would make a positive difference on ecosystems.

While supporting declining pollinator populations is Blooming Boulevard's top priority, the organization is also working to bring communities closer together through gardening.

McRight said she is thrilled at the amount of support they’ve experienced since their start in 2019.

“The first year we put in 13 gardens, the second year 39 gardens and the third year 80 gardens. We are now working towards planting 100 gardens this year.”

Bee and butterfly populations have been in a sharp decline over the years, with habitat loss and fragmentation as two of the main contributors.

Blooming Boulevards strives to counteract those trends by providing pollinators with the plants they love.
A boulevard planting: before and after.
Jeanne McRight
Jeanne McRight
“I would much rather be doing something than doing nothing if I have a concern,” McRight said. “A great percentage of our native bees can only go about 100 metres. That small area must provide them with food and nesting places. Lawns do not support this need. Replacing some lawn with native habitat gardens are a way for bees to reach each other, breed, and thrive. It’s a way to support biodiversity and resiliency to the challenges of climate change.”

And the organization is not just for the benefit of pollinators. With over 80 volunteers, McRight said this organization brought gardening to the attention of the community during the dark days of the pandemic.

“This organization gives others and myself a way to participate in a fulfilling and immediately rewarding opportunity to do something positive for the environment that we know is going to have a long lasting impact,” she said.

Blooming Boulevards is a not-for-profit organization, supported by private donors and the City of Mississauga. In 2022, it was a recipient of an Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant.

McRight hopes that one day the organization will be able to fund a greenhouse to take operations even further.

“I’m growing my 3,500 native plants under lights upstairs in my studio and in the basement,” McRight said. “This year we trained 28 volunteer growers who used their basements or spare rooms to bring our plant total to 7,000. Our dream is to get a greenhouse so we can plant even more, allowing larger-scale projects within the city.”

McRight noted that Blooming Boulevards is always on the lookout for more members, donors and volunteers. Planting projects are only conducted in Mississauga, but all are welcome to visit the website and register for the many free webinars that are offered.

“We know what we are doing is important, but it is also a joy,” McRight said. “It’s kind of like throwing a pebble into a pond: the more pebbles you throw in, the bigger the ripple is outwards.”