So, you say you want to attract wildlife to your yard. Let me start by stating, be careful what you wish for because it might just happen. Having said that, let me inform you of the easy steps you need to take to ensure a plethora of wildlife for every season of the year, for every yard, for every garden.
When we bought our four acre plot of land we were told by Bill, the person who owned it, that we would be displacing tons of rabbits once we built our house which in turn would drive the foxes out and we would disturb the deer migration. We didn’t like the sound of that but we needed a home for our growing family and the spot on top of that ridge was breath-taking. I pledged that I would do all I could to prevent any of this from happening. As it turned out, I needn’t have lifted a finger.
The first thing we did once established in our home was plant twenty or so eight-foot tall Colorado Blue Spruce trees on the perimeter of the property. Fences may make for good neighbors but pine trees make for a great barrier so we don’t see them and they don’t see us. But what they also did was provide plenty of nesting sights for Robins, Wrens, Starlings and a slight little bird which meowed like a cat. I called him the cat-bird. I’m not much of a bird enthusiast but I did like to see our avian friends flittering about collecting twig and grass for their homes. And every time I saw a sky-blue piece of egg shell on the ground I knew there was a new baby Robin flying around the yard.
To make room for the house the builders plowed down a thoroughly hideous clump of briar roses, most of which was dead and this was where the rabbits had their homes. The rabbits weren’t much bothered it seemed because they moved over to the large clump of native Viburnum. We were going to knock that down too but we noticed that the birds really liked the blue-black berries the Viburnum produced in the Autumn. This made me think of other shrubs to plant for the birds. I planted a long row of Tartarian Honeysuckle which produce wonderful smelling pink blooms which turned into juicy red berries the birds can’t get enough of. I planted another long hedge of Rosa Rugosa, a shrub rose which produce huge, cherry-tomato sized Rosehips. You wouldn’t believe how many people, silly people, think it’s a huge tomato plant. The birds love to eat these too and some folks actually make Rosehip jelly with them. Go figure!
After those few concessions to wildlife I planted flowers, trees and shrubs that I wanted. Well, as it turned out me and wildlife have similar taste. The flowers I planted attracted what must have been every bee from the bee keeper a half mile up the road. They were everywhere and they didn’t seem to even notice me when I picked flowers. There I was with a bouquet of lavender in one hand and a pair of clippers in the other and a bee landed on my freshly picked lavender blooms.
“Hey, those are mine now!” I yelled at the little bee. He paid me no mind and continued with his pollinating, collecting and buzzing. Perhaps I kind of look like a flower, I thought. Wasn’t I afraid of it? Heck no! If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you, is my motto.
Butterflies and caterpillars appeared out of nowhere, frogs and toads showed up even before I was finished putting in the pond. How they knew I was going to but water in that big, plastic, oddly shaped thing heaven only knows! One winter a flock of fat grayish-black birds swooped down on my burning bushes and stripped them of their berries. It was quite a sight to see! Dragonflies, moths, wasps and even the elusive Praying Mantis showed up without formal invitation. But weren’t all those flowers the invitation? Yeah, I guess so.
What did I plant? An easier question to answer would be what didn’t I plant. Iris, Daylily, Rose, Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susans, Daisy, Clematis, Honeysuckle vines, Trumpet Vines, Asiatic Lily, Scabiosa, Lady’s Mantle, Hosta, Columbine, Balloon Flower, Sedums, Ajuga, Hibiscus, Daffodils, Grape Hyacynth, Viginia Bluebell... I could keep going but I think you get the message. Plant what you like and it makes everyone happy.
Even that which I didn’t plant, aka weeds, made creatures appear as if by magic. The common Thistle, though the bane of my existence, is loved by the Golden finch for its yummy seeds. Butterflies use Queen Anne’s Lace and Milkweed Vulgaris for laying eggs. Even my dead apple tree was useful for the giant Woodpecker who liked to bore wholes in the trunk to get at the bugs. I still recall awakening to Rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-tat. They can surely be loud.
Too bad he didn’t like the Japanese Beetles I had in abundance, though. Yes, my garden attracted bad things too. The fox liked it here just fine despite what Bill told us and would often leave bits of rabbit in the yard. These bits of rabbit in turn attracted hawks and crows, noisy crows. If you want to sleep in crows are not your friends. The skunk, the opossum, the porcupine and even a tenacious woodchuck made their presence known. We had an on-going battle of wills with Mr. Groundhog, as my youngest son called him. And don’t get me started on the deer! Yes, they are a pretty sight but only in someone else’s yard. They completely devoured my long line of Hosta one night. Good thing Hosta are tenacious growers.
So, do you have all that? Plant diversely, making certain you have trees, shrubs and flowers which in some way are useful to wildlife. Provide them food, water, shelter, a place to raise their young and they may never leave. In the winter time bird feeders are always welcome because even here in the Pocono mountains birds from further north pass through on their way south. They need energy and Black oil sunflower seeds attract a multitude of birds. Cardinals, Finches, Bluebirds, Robins, Starlings, Chickadees will all appreciate your tender offering. Of course, so will chipmunks and squirrels. Gotta take the good with the bad, don’t we?
I can’t complain though. I love the hopping, flying, buzzing and croaking creatures around me. I’ll never be lonely now, will I?