“It’s a lovely way to empower citizens to think about native plants” - Irwin Oostindie

Parks staff hold up a sample of seed blend

June 10, 2022 – In advance of Surrey Parks’ busy programming season, staff were brainstorming meaningful giveaways for program participants. Seed packs were at the top of their list, and this year, they decided to collaborate with the Coast Salish Plant Nursery to develop a custom blend for Surrey. The result of this collaboration is the ‘Skelkelosen Pollinator Seed Blend’ packs, 4,000 of which are being given away this spring to volunteers, school programs and park program participants, while supplies last.

Created in collaboration with Coast Salish Plant Nursery, the initiative aims to increase biodiversity, attract pollinators, and raise awareness of the important cultural uses of these native-to-B.C. wildflowers.

“We love the idea of helping folks have a seed packet that’s as much about reconciliation as it is about growing pollinating plants,” said Irwin Oostindie, President of the Wild Bird Trust of BC, which operates the Coast Salish Plant Nursery. “It’s an entry point to think about our relationship to Surrey land, the history of Surrey, how we can rewild or think about plant material in our yards and public boulevards that really welcome back the ecological diversity that has been in Surrey for millennia. It’s a lovely way to empower citizens to think about native plants.”

The nursery is receiving many inquiries about purchasing this made-for-Surrey blend, however, for now, it’s exclusive to the Surrey Parks division.

“It’s fun for Surrey Parks to be able to have such a unique special gift for volunteers and people who engage in parks programs,” he commented.  “It really speaks to reciprocity—which is a very strong way of Coast Salish Peoples. Sort of like paying forward. Giving the gift of seeds really embodies that spirit.”

Bree Greve, Community Services Coordinator for the Urban Forestry section, described the initiative as “another way that our community can help steward our urban forest.”

“Planting these seeds may seem like a small action but collectively these small actions can have a big impact,” said Greve. “I think it's important to remember that our front and backyards and even the planters on our patios are all part of our urban forest.”

While the project began as a small token of appreciation for program participants, Greve explained it’s evolved into so much more than that.

“It's an opportunity to showcase local Semiahmoo artists and help raise the profile of the Coast Salish Plant Nursery's work,” she said. “They developed a great educational program around the plants, and I hope that by sharing this with our community, it inspires people to learn a little more about these important plants and appreciate all their benefits.”

The City of Surrey’s Biodiversity Conservation Planner Pamela Zevit echoed that.

“I’m always trying to reinforce the connections to nature in the work we do. It’s not just a Parks thing, it’s a City-wide objective to look at the choices we’re making around the plants we select for various sites and projects,” said Zevit. “Are we selecting plants that are going to provide more universal, easy-to-grow benefits for anyone growing them, factoring in how well the plants will do in long-term, can they survive the uncertainty we experience year to year when it comes to weather and climate?”

While Zevit doesn’t consider herself an expert in regards to traditional ecological knowledge and traditional wisdom, when it comes to food and medicinal plants she said these aspects are “inherently very important to me as part of ethical responsibility in the work I do and have meaning to me personally.”

“When we discussed the project, there was the Western science part of it, the traditional training that’s an aspect of my work, but also understanding the meaning of using the various seeds that we were going to include and trying to complement the work that was happening with the Coast Salish Nursery,” she noted. “For me, this was a beautiful way to link and bridge the traditional wisdom and ecological aspect of things into our efforts about biodiversity conservation.”

The City is getting down to the last handful of programs/events for the seed pack giveaways. In addition to being handed out at upcoming volunteer programs, the seed packs will be handed out at two upcoming Environmental Extravaganza events; Owls in the Park (June 11) and Celebrate World Oceans Day (June 12). Find more details about the Environmental Extravaganza

Seed packs will also be given away at Surrey Art Gallery's Summer Exhibition Opening & Artist Talk on June 19. See event and registration details.

Learn more about the Skelkelosen Pollinator Seed Blend and watch a video featuring Coast Salish Ethnobotanist Cease Wyss T’uy’t’tanat.