Make Your Yard Attractive To The Wildlife You Want
We gardeners have a choice. We can fill our landscapes with plants based purely on their looks alone, or we can deliberately select those that bring in an added dimension – wildlife.
Take a walk around your neighborhood and you’ll soon spot the difference. Most gardens are gorgeous but some seem more alive. Take – for example – one with clipped evergreen hedges, avenues of matched trees and massed plantings in the garden beds. Stylish, green and well maintained, this lovely landscape wraps itself becomingly around the home. It offers welcoming places to spend time outdoors, sitting around a fire pit on a chilly evening or under the cooling shade of a pergola on a warm day. However, from a biodiversity viewpoint, this landscape is less welcoming to non-human visitors. From the perspective of pollen or nectar-seeking insects or birds, there’s not much offered, so they’ll go looking for it elsewhere.
Next look for a garden that seems more alive. It may also have clipped hedges, avenues of trees and masses of plantings in the garden beds, but there will be subtle but significant differences. In this type of garden there will be a lot more going on – birds swooping, butterflies dancing about, bees flitting here and there. This garden landscape is full of life because it supports it. It’s full of the right plants arranged in a wildlife-accommodating way. It’s also a garden that’s just as easy to create and maintain.
- The framework. A garden’s bones – the walls, paths and fences – play an important role in providing habitat for insects, reptiles and birds. Skinks, lizards and frogs will colonize a dry stone wall, skipping quickly out of the sun when you need somewhere to sit. Plant a honeysuckle up and over a fence and you’ll not only provide a source for nectar feeders but some safe nesting sites.
This framework is also important to humans because it helps give our landscapes some visual structure. A well-designed landscape is also easier to maintain. Paved paths border lawns to stop the grass creeping into the garden beds and trees are positioned far enough from creeper-clad fences so the vines don’t climb into the canopies. And hopefully the design includes layered plantings – ground covers, knee-high plantings and an over-storey of trees. This mimics Mother Nature and helps create habitats for a huge range of critters to live, eat and be eaten.
- The plants. This is the critical factor and the key to success. There are any number of lists of bird and butterfly-attracting plants available on the web, including National Wildlife Federation’s site. All you need do is refer to one of these when you’re selecting plants for your new garden (or hunting down some interesting additions to your existing landscape). It’s not hard to do; it’s just one more thing to think about when you’re making your selections.
For example, if you’re thinking about a massed planting alongside the drive to make maintenance a breeze, consider something like Flower Carpet roses because they provide what you need from a landscape perspective and as a wildlife bonus, they’ll bring in the bees and give foraging cover to the birds. So, whenever you’re considering your plant options, pause and think about which of them would work harder to attract wildlife.
And remember to use little, if any, pesticides if you’re looking to attract bees and butterflies; those that kill the “bad bugs” also can kill those we want to encourage in the garden.
So, whenever you’re considering your plant options, pause and think about which of them would work harder to attract and create habitats for wildlife.
- The little extras. This is where it gets fun. Add water and you add Life! It doesn’t matter whether the water is just a small birdbath or a pond planted with some iris or Tropicanna cannas. The watery landscape plantings will bring in the insects and the birds will follow. And if you’ve room for a larger pond, fish are a brilliant addition. You can also place nesting boxes in your trees or hang up a few bird feeders to encourage the avian visitors to hang around longer.
These are incredibly simple steps that will make a profound difference to any garden and to those enjoying it. Sharing your outdoor space with other living things adds a dimension that will have you hooked before you realize it!
- Add layers to your garden planting to create safe habitats.
- Choose plants that birds and insects enjoy
- Add water; all life depends on it.
- Create a landscape plan with a style that’s easy to maintain.
Creating Bird and Butterfly-friendly Landscapes