Sustaining Wildlife

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Stephanie Hudak

Stephanie Hudak

By Stephanie Hudak, Columnist

Okay, usually I end my story recommending a book. This time I am going to start the story with a book title. Douglas W. Tallamy has written a great book about sustaining wildlife entitled ‘Bringing Nature Home’.

It is filled with wonderful ideas about plants that will entice the good critters to live and thrive in your yard. I know that I have written about native plants before, but by now you must know they are a passion for me.

And as we plan our spring gardens it seemed a good time to bring up that subject again and to remind you all about which plants those critters really like and need in order to breed.

Yes, I realize that inviting them into your yard often means that you will have no parsley left or no asclepias (butterfly weed) – two great host plants for butterfly babies.

But if you haven’t watched the evolution of a caterpillar on a parsley leaf you have missed a neat event — and one that should be shared with a young person.

So what should you be planting….the list is long….which is why you should buy this great book. In the meantime I’ll suggest a few great things.

One of my all-time favorites is the spicebush (Lindera benzoin). It has yellow aromatic flowers and red berries and is a favorite of the swallowtail butterfly and the silkmoth.

Viburnums are great plants for the yard first of all, then they attract birds, butterflies, and bees. Let’s not get anxious about that bee thing – we need them – no pollination — no food. I’ve told you about plants – now to trees.

Yes, trees are a huge supporter of critter life. Did you know that a single oak tree can support 400 to 500 kinds of insects. Besides that trees play a major role in the life cycle of birds – who in turn eat a lot of those insects.

BTW, did you know that hummingbirds feed their babies spiders, which is why they hang out in conifers. So, plant a conifer even if it isn’t a native….but back to the story.

Other trees that you can consider are: elm, hickory, hawthorn, or ash. Remember that rule of thumb though – keep those trees at least ten feet or more away from the house. Which brings us to where do you start a native garden. Start small.

Find a spot in your yard/garden that you feel you can get comfortable with growing new plants. It has been said that native plants are “messy”.

It is all about how you put them together. Imagine a sweep of native coneflowers backed by butterfly bushes – birds and butterflies would be very happy. Put in a row of violas for the winter and you got down right pretty.

Color in the front (which the butterflies will come for in spring), food for the birds from the coneflowers, and shelter in the bushes for them.

Think about swapping out a small section of grass with native trees, bushes, or plants and see what you like. Trust me, when you see the wildlife that comes you will become a friend of the natives.

Lots more I could have shared but the best thing to do is get this book. It will inspire you to invite friendly critters to your yard. My best to you and group hugs to all.

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