Here’s how you can certify your garden as wildlife-friendly

garden wildlife-friendly Photo by Mark Herreid/Shutterstock.

You might be tempted to uproot the milkweed scattered on your property in favour of a more colorful, foreign specimen, but this could spell disaster for native species such as Monarch butterflies.

How you shape the landscape at your cottage can have serious ramifications on wildlife, including erosion and displacement of native species says Melissa Lefebvre, education program manager with the Canadian Wildlife Federation. 

This is why the CWF has created the Garden Habitat Certification program, which recognizes Canadians who are making their gardens wildlife-friendly in an effort to reduce local wildlife habitat loss.

“You want to start thinking about what your property line may look like, if you’re living right on a body of water,” she explained.

“Consider adding vegetation between the grass and the water. This can really help to improve the water quality and also provide spaces for wildlife to breed, live, eat, and have shelter.”

Before you get discouraged that it will require a lot of money to get your garden up to snuff, all you need to do is meet simple criteria.

In order to apply for certification, you must have one or more sources of water, food, and shelter in your garden, and use earth-friendly gardening practices to maintain it.

An easy way to achieve this is by planting native plants that support local species.

“The gold standard would be to have regionally native plants—these are plants that have co-evolved with wildlife,” she said.

For example, adding flowering plants provides nectar and pollen to pollinators and other useful insects.

“If you want to help butterflies out during the larval stage, milkweed is a really popular choice right now in order to help Monarch butterflies,” she says.

Below is a map of the gardens certified by CWF across Canada.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider before planting to make your garden as wildlife-friendly as possible.


  • Using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers
  • Choosing invasive plants that displace natural ecosystems such as Yellow flag Iris, Purple Flowering Rush, Butterfly Bush, and Japanese Honeysuckle. (For more information on which plant species to avoid and what to grow instead, CWF advises you to consult your provincial invasive plant species council).
  • Heavily-cultivated plants (such as roses or columbines with double/triple blooms) that do not provide access to nectar and pollen for pollinators.


  • Choose native plants that best meet the needs of local wildlife. If you’re unsure of what native plants to choose, the CWF has an online native plant encyclopedia to get you started.
  • As native plants are often difficult to find at garden centres, you can find a list of native plant suppliers from across Canada on their website by clicking here.

Here are some examples of native plants that are suitable for a cottage located near water.

Trees and shrubs:

  • Cedars
  • Maples
  • Willows
  • White Pine
  • White Spruce
  • Balsam Poplar
  • Black Cottonwood
  • Narrow-leaved Meadowsweet
  • Pacific Ninebark
  • Red Osier Dogwood
  • Serviceberries
  • Speckled Alder
  • Steeplebush
  • Sweet Gale

Herbaceous plants:

  • Cardinal flower
  • Asters
  • Inland Sedge
  • Lady Fern
  • Sensitive Fern
  • Marsh Marigold
  • Spotted Joe-Pye Weed
  • Wild Columbine

Aquatic plants:

  • Blue Flag Iris
  • Common Cattail
  • Floating Arrowhead
  • Flat-leaved Bladderwort
  • Pickerelweed
  • Pondweeds
  • Water Horsetail
  • Swamp Candle
  • Yellow Pond Lily

5 scenarios that could happen at the cottage and what to do about them

Feature Video