She won - the milkweed plants stay.

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

July 6th, 2019



It was a short, to the point message.

“We won! City will no longer be removing milkweed from private residences!”

No cropped

The bylaw officer should have realized what he was up against when he saw the sign.

This was a big deal for Doreen Nicoll. The Burlington resident was paid a visit by a bylaw enforcement officer telling her that the milkweed in her front yard garden had to be removed.

The bylaw officer clearly didn’t see the sign in the garden – Nicoll was not someone to trifle with.

We asked for some pictures of her garden – she explained that some wild roses that blew in from another yard years ago that had taken over the garden. The kids moved home. “I had marking, exams, report cards, and then the heat wave hit. So, not every part is beautiful right now. Have a big yellow bag of mulch waiting in the driveway for cooler weather.”

Blue flowers

A very pleasant garden.

It is a very attractive garden that will have milkweed as part of the flowerbed. And Burlington now has a bylaw enforcement officer who knows much more about milkweed now than he did a week ago.

This whole mess was the result of a phone call someone made to the bylaw enforcement office complaining about the milkweed.

Nicoll explains that “milkweed started to grow, probably a throwback to when this land I live on was farmed. I’ve also purchased milkweed and over the past decade or so and all of it has done quite well. This is a particularly good year.”

Ward 2 Councillor and candidate for Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said: “You did it everyone! Based on your advocacy, research, information, city staff listened and will be bringing a bylaw forward in September to remove milkweed from “weed” list to allow it to be grown.

“Well done to all!! In the meantime, the bylaw on milkweed will not be enforced. Tweet from city of Burlington: “City staff have drafted a new lot maintenance bylaw affecting tall grass and weeds. The draft bylaw goes to Council in September and will align with the provincial Weed Control Act. Until then, the city will not enforce the removal of milkweed.”

In electronic communication with Nicoll we learned more about how she approaches life.  “you should know I’m also active in ending gendered violence, an ally for Indigenous Nations and Peoples, as well as working to end hunger and poverty. All of these issues are intertwined.

Doreen Nicol - Raise the Hammer

Doreen Nicoll – Burlington actionist.

“I also like to be called an actionist — a term I am borrowing from Mike Nagy chair of the Wellington Water Watchers.

As Mike told me in an interview, “All it takes to be defined as an acitvist is to write a letter or contact your MP or simply ask for better health care. But, over the decades the term has too often become associated with negative connotations.”  The difference is I learn about the issue, take action, follow-up, and rarely if ever give up.”

Our kind of woman.

The original news story.

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6 comments to She won – the milkweed plants stay.

  • Stephen White

    It makes you wonder about City Hall’s priorities, not to mention how busy by-law officers are, if their focus includes hassling homeowners over milkweed plants growing in well-maintained residential gardens. Surely to goodness there are more immediate priorities.

    • Eve St, Clair

      By law works on complaints so obviously they received a complaint and personally ,if this lawn belonged to my neighbour I would complain too

      • barb brock

        There are reasons we gave up DDT and all sorts of things that made our gardens easier to manage and more beautiful. Unless we plant more milkweed and things like bee balm and butterfly bush, a large variety of important insects, already endangered, will disappear.

  • Penny

    Doreen great job – Now if residents could have the same success with mobility hubs and over intensification. I think I am going to adopt the term “actionist”

  • Sandra Grad

    The by-law needs updating. Embarrassingly for the city, milkweed is purposefully growing in the perimeter surrounding the community gardens in Central Park.

  • Hans

    Thanks to the Gazette for highlighting this issue. Today’s Spectator had an article about the reduction in Monarch butterflies at the RBG so that the timing was perfect.