Healthy and Beautiful Gardens - Nature in the garden
Friday, September 27th, 2013
Issue 39, Volume 17.
Wildlife is a term that comes to mind, but personally, I tend to think bobcats and coyotes more as "wildlife" than butterflies and toads.
So, what do we need to do to bring nature/wildlife into our gardens? There are a few things that are required for them to thrive in your garden, the same things that you require, actually, and those are food, shelter and water.
Each species has specific requirements, but to bring in lots of beneficial wildlife, try to cover a broad spectrum by providing those items that they need.
Letís look at butterflies to begin with. Butterflies donít really serve much purpose besides looking beautiful, but thatís enough in this case. What you need to provide is food, in this case nectar, which many flowering plants provide for them. Several that pop to mind include lantanas, milkweed, Agastache, viburnum, butterfly bush (Buddleia), asters, yarrow, and many more.
Butterflies need to lay their eggs and you must allow the larvae to grow and pupate. These larvae/caterpillars will eat some of your plants, so donít pick them off or spray them or you have just killed your beautiful butterflies!
Note: Never, ever use any toxic pesticides in the garden – they are decimating the honeybee population now, and we donít even know what they may be doing to other insects as well. I will cover organic pesticides in another article, but for now, if you have a major issue, ask the nursery for an organic pesticide only.
Birds in the garden require the same thing – food, water, shelter. They will build their nests if you have large shrubs, or trees, or you can put up a few birdhouses and hope they will move in. You can provide birdseed for them and also shrubs that both birds and butterflies love are viburnums, callistemon (also a favorite of hummingbirds), Pineapple guava, and penstemons.
Many plants provide food and nectar for birds, bees, and butterflies, so they are doubly valuable in the garden. Salvia is one of those and one of my favorites – a very large group encompassing many styles, shapes and colors to choosefrom. These plants will also attract bees into the garden.
Citrus trees are great, not only for their beauty, fragrance, and fruit, but also beloved by wildlife in bloom. Many varieties of herbs are favorites for butterflies, bees, etc. such as chamomile, rosemary, lavender, sage and thyme. There are many native plants that are fantastic for attracting wildlife to the garden also – dogwoods, manzanitas, mahonia, pyracantha (firethorn), Toyon, and hollies (Ilex) come to mind, as well as elderberry (sambucus), ribes (currant or gooseberry) and honeysuckle.
Hummingbirds will fight over a feeder if you hang one up, but you can also provide those plants (typically tubular and bright colored) that they love, also. Salvias, petunias, and coral bells are a few.
Fill saucers and birdbaths with clean water, or even better, install a fountain with running water – you will also attract dragonflies this way and I always love to see them in a garden myself. Whether you realize it or not, lizards and toads are a very valuable asset in your "wildlife garden" and they will help eat snails, slugs, and other bad bugs if you provide them the basics.
They cannot thrive or survive with pesticides in the environment and also something we often do not even think about is having our cats roaming the garden. Put a bell on your kittyís collar if they go outside like mine, and if they arenít hungry, hopefully they will not go after the birds that we are trying to bring into the garden!
This summer I was digging up a garden bed when I accidentally unearthed a "cache" of small eggs – I couldnít figure out what they were from so I did some research online and discovered they were lizard eggs! I had never seen any before. They were not hard shelled but slightly pliant. I took them (about 12 total) and moved them to a pot filled with soil, which I left then ignored. Two months later I started noticing the cutest tiny baby lizards here and there throughout the garden – I was so glad I didnít accidentally destroy those tiny eggs. Now they are eating bugs every day out there for me.
Once you start gardening with nature, you will find itís so much easier and more pleasurable than fighting it – and the wildlife you encourage to reside there will help remove the "bad bugs" from your landscape so you wonít need to use pesticides. Now, doesnít that sound wonderful?
As always, please feel free to contact me with your gardening questions or for a professional consultation. Happy gardening!
Country Gardens Landscape Design
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