Support The Wildlife! Throw A Party!
I am often asked which of our species will attract wildlife. The answer is simple—all of them. Although a particular native plant may not conspicuously attract wildlife, its value should not be underestimated. Not all plants draw the critters we enjoy seeing, but indirectly they play an essential supporting role. Collectively, the native flora are a fundamental part of the web of life that supports all critters, large and small.
Sometimes the species we plant in our landscape to attract wildlife do not live up to our expectations. This is because attracting wildlife and supporting it are two different things. When we try to attract wildlife, we assume that the critters already live in the area. Supporting wildlife means creating habitat for them to live.
So support the wildlife and throw a party! A good party is more than some chips, beer and loud music—it is a gathering of friends and family brought together by food, drink and cause for celebration. Plan your landscape like you would a party and watch as more than just a few familiar friends drop by.
The location of your gathering has a great influence on the kind of party you plan and the friends you invite. If you live on several acres, you will have no problem laying out an impressive spread. If you live in the city or suburbs, you may not have the room to throw an inaugural ball, but there is still enough space for a delicious landscape buffet. Even small landscapes can provide habitat for wildlife while providing year-round beauty. Start by making a list of who you want to invite and who is likely to come. Here are a few more simple tips for throwing a wild party:
Start with a theme—Choose a matrix of a few species and plant them in masses and drifts. Plant more than one or two individuals of any one species. Use specimen plants like garnish, for accent, diversity and interest.
Soup to nuts—Plan a scrumptious and diverse menu by including plants that offer dry seeds, nuts, fleshy fruits and succulent leaves to eat. For butterflies, be sure to choose species that support not only nectaring adults but also munchies for the kids (the caterpillars)—find out which butterfly species are likely to be in the area and plant accordingly.
Ambience—Create a variety of environments by combining wildflowers, grasses, shrubs and trees to provide open and protected areas.
Don't run out of food—Select a combination of plants that provide food all year round. If you have limited space, choose plants that provide food and cover when resources are most limited, which is usually winter through late spring.
Don't do the dishes until morning—Avoid cutting perennials back in the fall. Not only do these dead stems and leaves furnish homes, food, and nesting material for critters, but you will appreciate their subtle colors and textures, particularly after a fresh snowfall.
Always offer your guests something to drink—Entice your wild friends by supplying water year round. This will help the party last all season. Cheers!