After wandering around my garden, a visitor once turned to me and exclaimed, "The birds are so happy!"
That made me very happy, too. I get great joy watching the many birds, squirrels, rabbits, and even occasional foxes who visit my garden. I love lizards, butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and bees. I feel good that so many creatures choose to live in my garden. A healthy garden is one that is full of life.
If we create an environment that is good for wildlife, often that garden will be a place that is pleasing to us as well. There are a number of things a gardener can do to make a habitat that is friendly to wildlife.
If you are serious about attracting wildlife to your garden, be sure to use only organic products, rather than artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides that can harm wildlife. I cringe at those products that have a nuke-em approach, promising to get rid of every bug. Many insects are good guys who eat other bugs that damage our gardens, and insects are an important food source for many birds and other forms of wildlife.
Also, plant a variety of both evergreen and deciduous plants in your garden. This is the best way to insure that your garden will become a wildlife habitat.A diversity of plantings will provide shelter throughout the year, as well as places for birds to nest and raise their young. Trees and shrubs that produce berries - for example: hollies, dogwood, viburnum, hawthorn, and serviceberries - as well as flowering plants that are allowed to go to seed, will provide sustenance.
Many of us enjoy watching the aerial acrobatics of hummingbirds. If you want to attract these amazing creatures, plant brightly colored, nectar-rich flowers that have funnel-shaped blooms as well as those that have distinct “landing zones”. Trumpet creeper, Campsis radicans; Trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens; Bee Balm, Monarda didyma; Indian Pink, Spigelia marilandica; and Red buckeye, Aesculus pavia, are some of our native plants that attract hummingbirds. Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus; Pineapple sage, Salvia elegans; Shrub verbena, Lantana camera; Giant blue sage, Salvia guaranitca; and Butterfly bush, Buddleja davidii are a few of the non-natives that attract hummingbirds. Spearleaf swampmallow, Pavonia hastata, which is in the hibiscus family, is a favorite in my own garden. Often hummingbirds will ignore the nearby hummingbird feeder and fight over this!
Butterflies are also welcome inhabitants of our gardens. They are attracted to colorful perennials and annuals such as Zinnia: Pentas:Cosmos:Below, clockwise from top left, are more butterfly magnets: Coneflower, Echinacea; Blue mist shrub, Caryopteris; Butterfly weed, Asclepsias; and of course, Butterfly bush, Buddleja.
Butterflies are also drawn to asters, salvia, and to many flowering shrubs, such as azaleas.
Remember that a water source is important to wildlife, even through the winter. I dream of a pond or a stream, but for now I maintain a couple of birdbaths.Many natural wildlife habitats are perishing as modern society expands. We gardeners should do more than just make our yards pretty for ourselves. We can help preserve the local ecology by providing safe and healthy environments for garden creatures. Ultimately, we are benefitting our own lives, as well.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care." Matthew 10:29