This morning I was rewarded with a moment lovely in its simplicity and rich in the beauty of life. I watched for several minutes a Ruby throated hummingbird darting in and out of the pineapple sage. It’s tiny wings flapping at amazing speed, visiting each colorful stalk, drinking in the nectar of the brilliant scarlet flowers. Hummingbirds are some of my favorite garden visitors. These last days of October are a flurry of activity by humans as well as our animal friends in the wild and the not so wild.
That is my garden to me. I call it my sanctuary and it truly is. I share my sanctuary with a few humans but mostly I share it with a cornucopia of lifeforms, from the smallest microbe in the soil to the squirrels and the birds and butterflies. This place is truly alive.
I have spent the better part of a decade planting and shaping this place. I have made my share of mistakes but I have learned from them. It is much easier in the long run to work with nature than against it. Some believe that when a gardener welcomes wildlife into the garden, he or she is asking for troublesome pests as well as pretty butterflies. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Nature exists in balance, Mother Nature provides to all; predator and prey. A garden in balance is in harmony with all. By working with nature we reap many benefits and so do the wild lifeforms that visit our yards. There is much we can do and every little bit helps.
My garden is teeming with life and it is by no accident. My obsession with plants is deep and true. I must have hundreds upon hundreds of types and kinds that spring up throughout the year. Many are native plants to my region which is the Pacific Northwest. Many are flowers that are appealing to bees and insects and nectar rich providing food for hummingbirds and others.
I see it as my mission as a gardener, as a lover of the land and nature to do my small part in helping the flora and fauna of our fantastic planet. In this I feel that my garden is not only a sanctuary to me but to many. Urban gardens can provide a refuge for many species that have been forced out of their natural habitats. Our wild areas are vanishing and we gardeners have a huge role to play. Our urban and not so urban gardens link up making a larger habitat for wildlife.
No space is too small. A potted plant on a back patio or a window box planted with the right plant can provide food all year.
No effort is too small. There are many ways to help. It can be as easy or as complicated as you choose. Typically wildlife have three basic needs, the essentials; shelter, water and food.
Three Essentials For Wildlife
A large Evergreen shrub can provide shelter for many species as can other types of plant life such as climbers. A pile of logs or rocks can serve as shelter to many ground dwelling species. Leave a bit of leaf litter on the ground to protect overwintering insects. Simply leaving a wild corner of the yard can help.
Water is essential for all life but it can become a scarce commodity for wildlife in the city. A pond or bird bath can spell welcome relief for the thirsty. A plastic plant saucer with a few stones on the bottom filled with clean water could be a lifeline for many.
Use plants native to your particular region. Create biodiversity with as many varieties as possible. There are a number of plant species that provide food for wildlife. From nectar to pollen to seeds and berries. Once a flower has bloomed, typically gardeners remove the spent seedhead. This also removes a valuable winter food source for birds. A bit of untidiness in the garden is no crime, in fact a more natural appearance can be quite comely and you will be rewarded time and time again with the wonder of nature beckoning at your back door.
References and suggested reading
Planthropology: The myth, mysteries, and miracles of my garden favorites. Ken Druse ©2008.
Create a wildlife garden. Christine and Michael Lavelle ©2007
Attracting birds, butterflies and other winged wonders to your backyard. Kris Wetherbee ©2004