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Wildlife Friendly Landscapes

by Heather Harris (CallunaGarden)

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Butterfly on Flower
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Gardening for wildlife means you’ll see beautiful butterflies, birds, and humming birds; along with chipmunks, frogs and other important creatures both big and small. They all have an important role to play in our landscapes. So while butterflies are always welcome guests in our gardens, many other less decorative insects have a more important role to play. These include bees, essential for pollination, and hoverflies and ladybeetles whose larvae eat aphids and other similar pests, acting as a natural method of pest control.

Gardening for wildlife means you’ll see beautiful butterflies, birds, and humming birds; along with chipmunks, frogs and other important creatures both big and small.  They all have an important role to play in our landscapes.  So while butterflies are always welcome guests in our gardens, many other less decorative insects have a more important role to play.  These include bees, essential for pollination, and hoverflies and ladybeetles whose larvae eat aphids and other similar pests, acting as a natural method of pest control.

Attracting animals to your garden can be fairly basic and well worth the time and energy. All animals need a food source which can be incorporated into your landscape design by providing plants that supply seeds, fruits, nuts, berries and/or nectar.  The more variety there is in sources of food, the larger a population of animals you will attract. 

Having lots of flowering annuals or perennials such as Asters, Coreopsis, Salvia, or Echinacea will attract butterflies and bees.  While having edibles like Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) bushes will feed birds.  Just remember to cover some of the berries if you want to save any for yourself or the birds won’t leave you enough to make one blueberry pancake!  Consider leaving some flower heads on the plants in your landscape and let them go to seed.  These give birds and chipmunks a food source almost year round and can add a lot of interest to your garden in the winter time.  Yarrow, Miscanthus, Bee balm and Phlox all have decorative winter seed heads.

Providing water is one of the easiest ways to attract wildlife into your garden.  A simple birdbath can attract birds all year long.  Choose one that has a roughened bottom so birds don’t slip and is no more than 3” deep at the center.  The birds are trying to take a bath - not swim.  Set the birdbath near a tree or large shrub so birds have a place to preen before and after and a place to escape easily if they get disturbed.  Also keep it in a fairly open spot to discourage cats from staking the birds and to allow ease of viewing the birds while keeping a good distance away. Putting a few unpolished stones in the bath allows bees to drink from it. With our milder NW winters a sturdy birdbath should be able to be left out all year filled with water. Remember to not move the birdbath once established in your garden as birds get accustomed to its location.

Plant nectar plants into your garden like daises, Fuchsias, honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica cultivars), Lavender (Lavendula agustifolia), sage, and mint.  These not only attract hummingbirds and butterflies, but also beneficial insects that eat aphids and other pest insects.

Encourage insects in your yard.  Most birds are not vegetarians and would like to eat a nice juicy bug.  Plant some native plants like Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), Oregon grape (Mahonia cultivars) or Salal (Gaultheria shallon).  Also reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals in your lawn and garden.  The more pest insects that are allowed, the more beneficial insects and birds will enjoy stopping in your garden for a bite to eat.

Try not to be too tidy while cleaning the garden.  Avoid cutting down seeding plants until they’ve dropped all their seeds. Watch your garden, see what plants the birds are interested in and wait to prune until all the seeds have been eaten or the birds have moved on. 

If you can, let a few areas in your garden decay.  The most visible parts of the yard can be mulched, raked and cared for, if you can, try and leave a few out-of-sight areas for a rotten log, twigs and fallen leaves.  If this area is in the shade, it can stay moist enough to provide a habitat for frogs and salamanders.  A sunnier location will provide for snakes and lizards.  Worried about snakes?  Don’t be, they like to leave us alone, plus they eat snails.

Learning to live with and providing habitat for wildlife is essential.  By following these simple steps you can attract more wildlife into your garden.  All it takes is a little more planning and consideration but attracting wildlife is well worth the effort.

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Tags

natural wildlife landscapes

comments

I love this! In the past I have planted two parsley plants in my garden, one for the caterpillars and one for my family! While I don't have parsley anymore, the swallowtails LOVE the fennel, but the lifecycle is such that the plant can be nibbled and then recover before the next round of caterpillars come. I even had one migrate to another spot in my garden to form it's chrysalis. It was awesome to see it the morning it hatched.
Sprite
gardengirl commented on 07/02/12

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