“Gardening often provides the closest encounters we ever have with wild creatures. It is a solace and a distraction in bad times, and a shared joy in good ones.”
When you establish a wildlife garden, it is important to be aware that at some point in the spring, summer or fall you will have a wildlife nursery in your garden; birds, frogs, toads, bees, butterflies, dragonflies, mice, voles and rabbits…well you get the idea!
And there must be an acceptance of these critters nesting in your garden. Watching the babies grow and adults nurturing their young, is such a rare treat, that we are thankful for each garden season. We welcome the native critters, and the summer visitors, providing what they need to make a home.
Things like: cover for shelter or camouflage; plant debris for nesting, and to harbor insects for the birds; seedheads left standing for food; native plants with nectar, pollen, berries; water feature like our pond to create a habitat for frogs, toads and some insects; and not using chemicals are some of the things to consider as a wildlife gardener. We do not rake leaves out of beds or cut back many many plants in winter. It is a balance we have learned about what must be cut and what should be left standing.
What has been most amazing in past year’s, in the wildlife garden, has been the ongoing bird nursery. We have wrens, finches, sparrows, bluebirds (young bluebird picture below) and robins nesting in trees, bushes and boxes in both the front and back gardens. And nearby are a plethora of many other birds nesting…blackbirds, catbirds, cedar waxwings, cardinals, orioles, hummingbirds and many more.
Lots of expectant fathers can be spotted hanging out in the waiting room of the garden as mommas lay the eggs and keep them warm.
And before long there is a flurry of activity as parents are flying to and fro with insects and worms all day long. It is amazing to watch these birds continuing the feeding even in torrential rains. Because we do not use chemicals in the garden, we have an almost unending supply of insects available for the baby birds.
And throughout the garden season, many baby birds can be found seeking shelter in the garden just after fledging (top of the post). The babes take refuge in dense bushes or vegetation waiting for their parents to feed them. I can recognize a new fledgling, not only by their baby feathers and almost no tail, but by their little chipping plea as they cry for parents to feed them. Baby birds are so sweet and it is such a delight to watch them grow.
And it is not just birds who seem to have overtaken the garden for nesting. This year we have had 4 different nests of rabbits in both the front and back garden.
Baby bunnies will eat anything and everything as they have not established a taste for specific plants yet. But once they are a bit older, they move out into the garden or surrounding wild area. They come back to visit, and to eat the clover we keep in our lawn. When we stopped using chemicals on the lawn, the clover took over and has kept the rabbits happy and away from the veg garden. Well most of them. We still have to cover our veg garden from those few naughty rabbits who sneak in and eat the veggies.
There also are young foxes out hunting, that were born nearby, and some will jump the fence looking for voles, mice, squirrels and rabbits (watch out baby bunny). We also found another predator in our garden this year, a long-tailed weasel. I have yet to get a picture of it as it is so fast. He has been seen on the patio among the grow bags, and out in the garden near the veg gardens as that is where lots of voles can be found.
We do welcome all in our garden, even predators, as they keep nature in balance. We had less of a vole problem this year due to the weasel….and I hope to learn more about the weasels as they continue to live in our garden.
We used to be overrun by deer, but after 2 very harsh winters many did not survive. This year fawns were once again seen in the meadow. And there are a few orphan fawns out and about finding food in our winter garden.
We do worry about the critters during harsh winters, like we are experiencing this year. But we know there is plenty of food for them throughout the wild areas and woods. And it is illegal to feed wild deer here in New York State due to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. Whether we like it or not, nature has its way of selecting the fittest to survive, and controlling populations.
If I have learned anything from nature, it is that before planting a wildlife garden we must realize there will be joys, sorrows and responsibilities that come with the wildlife. And for me as I embrace the wildlife, I am seeing the lessons they bring, and learning how to coexist with them in harmony.
Do you garden for wildlife? Do you find critters making a home in your garden? What do you do to welcome them and make them feel at home?
A Thanksgiving Vase
As promised, I placed the dried hydrangeas, from another vase, into a special basket. I bought this for my parents in Arizona, and I got it back when my mom downsized and moved into an apartment.
I cut some dried grass foliage and seedheads to add to the hydrangeas.
And I added some pomegranates and mini pumpkins to the arrangement. Another simple vase for our table, lasting from fall through winter.
I am joining [email protected]Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful In A Vase on Monday meme. The pictures shared here were created with my iPod Touch camera and two free apps, Pixlr and Prisma.
I am posting poetry, almost weekly on Sundays, on my other blog, Living From Happiness. You can read my latest poem here.
All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2018. Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.
44 Replies to “The Wildlife Nursery”
I am using the holiday leftovers for my vase today. But our little bit of snow is about to disappear this week as the temps swing wildly warmer. Though I can’t imagine I will find anything to cut in the garden. Always a bit of a problem to decide what to put in a vase in winter in a cold climate. No hydrangeas here but I do have some pomegranates out, too.
Amazing what we can create even when our outside garden is hibernating!
Donna, that’s a lovely basket and I like the way you’ve filled it will hydrangeas. I stopped feeing the birds in summer and hadn’t picked back up until this past week when we had snow and such cold weather. There presence has been a gift, like seeing old friends.
I found that basket when we moved my mom into senior housing…..it was a special gift I gave to my parents, and meant so much to use this holiday time. When we had the below zero temps for so long here many birds didn’t even come to feeders, even the suet feeders. I am glad to see mine back too! I am sure your birds are thrilled to see you too Susie!
Pomegranates and pumpkins always make wonderful props for a vase, and isn’t it wonderful to have such a long lived vase, one that is all but crossing the seasons. Great photos, as always, and you are so observant with your wildlife
Glad you enjoyed the vase and photos and don’t mind the delay with showing these vases weeks later for your meme, Cathy!
And I am loving the long lived vases this winter….I cut many dried garden plants, seedheads etc for later use in vases this winter as I knew this winter was going to be harsh. So I look forward to creating new vases with dried and indoor blooms. I need to keep remembering props though as they do make for an even better vase/display.
I like to have creatures in the garden – in theory; but in practice . . . on my new allotment badgers have dug up the bulbs and slugs all seedlings. I’m hoping trying to grow things in spring will be more successful.
There don’t seem to be many birds here near my new home in West Yorkshire. While that tempts me to make things pleasant for them at my allotment I don’t want to add to the competition for food. I want to eat it!
So . . . I like wild things in wild places and think I would have to have a very big garden before I’d want to attract wild creatures. (Which is not to say I don’t want wild plants. I welcome them – in moderation.)
I couldn’t agree more Lucy. We have lots of room and wild spaces around us so we welcome them but not in the veg garden. That is off limits as it is our food. Good luck with your veg garden!
Wildlife gardens will include the occasional snake, too. I knew to watch for our resident garter snake. During spring cleanup I found it one last time. Laying on the warm stones of the water garden it had died.
Yes I did not mention our snakes…..they are all over our garden especially around the pond. I love happening upon them and am careful not to disturb them too much. Sorry to hear yours died.
Just the circle of life.
Indeed although it still makes me sad.
No chemicals or sprays here. There are certainly areas in the garden to shelter/hide. And nectar. And berries. Supplemented with seed and fruit. We welcome wildlife, despite its sometimes destructive nature. And revel in the beauty and lessons.
You are an inspiration Soosie….a true wildlife gardener…heart and soul!
You’ve collected a great series of wildlife photos, Donna. (I’m sure you’ll get one of that weasel one day.) I cater to the birds but don’t actively support other wildlife in the garden, although that doesn’t mean the raccoons, squirrels and skunks aren’t present and happy here. I wish the coyotes would stay away but I’ve had sightings of those too and we don’t have fences to keep them out.
Your frothy basket is delightful!
Yes your wildlife finds your garden no matter what it seems. Glad you enjoyed the vase.
What beautiful fluffy grass seedheads. You are lucky to see so much wildlife so close. I do enjoy watching it all happen but I’m not sure if I’d want rabbits. I don’t think they’d behave. Yours must be well trained.
Some rabbits are well behaved here but I would prefer they didn’t build so many nests in the garden. This year we had 4 nests and 8 young ones survived and ate all my young marigolds. Little devils.
You have used your dry materials for the basket so well and it is such a colourful arrangement for winter! Yes, I garden for the wildlife. We have a huge ‘compost’ heap which is never turned and has larger branches and twigs added to it, sothere are lots of nice cosy little caverns for creatures to spend the winter!
Love it Cathy. We do the same with our compost.
Other than feeding the birds, I don’t make any special effort to feed wildlife, other than growing hollies and winterberry. I live in an area abundant with wild food. I’ve noticed an increase in deer the past few years, so I wonder what effect this prolonged cold will have on them. Today I saw fox, coyote and deer tracks on our walk and LOTS of mice!
Wow that is a lot of wildlife and their surrounding habitat must be wonderful. We don’t feed wildlife either since we are surrounded by wild areas throughout the development…but I do provide a habitat in the garden so they can thrive a bit more and so I can attract pollinators, butterflies and birds especially. Here people have lots of lawn, shrubs, a few containers…and then spray their lawns to kill insects and weed which then kills the habitat for the pollinators, birds and butterflies.
That’s a great winter vase, Donna. I loved your stories about all the wildlife at home in your garden–that is definitely a cause for joy!
Thanks Beth. A garden with flowers and wildlife does bring so much joy!
Love the textures of your vase this week Donna – the frothy grass, rounded hydrangeas and wicker go well together. Reminds me to plant more grasses this year for similar softness next winter.
Thank you…the basket just seemed to fit beautifully with the dried hydrangeas. And I have been enjoying this combo for weeks. I love having a few grasses nearby for winter interest…definitely worth planting a few.
Beautiful wildlife photographs, Donna. As you know, I garden for the critters and welcome them into my space. It would seem, however, that the sparrows are taking over the bird houses and feeder. I’m not seeing bluebirds this winter; that makes me sad. It will be interesting to see what survives this very harsh winter. Every year is different in the wildlife garden. P. x
That is sad Pam, and I know you do so much for critters on your land. To help the bluebirds, I have stopped up the houses over winter so the house sparrows don’t lay claim already. Then I open a few to help bluebirds although they are easily beaten back by the sparrows. I do not let them nest in my houses and it has helped keep many away from my garden and let bluebirds attempt to nest. It was a hard decision but I wanted to try and give our state bird a chance to thrive here. Of course those spraying chemicals around me have kept them away too, but thy seem to be coming back to my garden. I have not seen them this winter yet since it has been so very harsh. Deer, woodpeckers, juncos, cardinals, bluejays and bunnies are all that seem to be braving this cold and snow.
Such sweet wildlife images! While I don’t specifically garden for wildlife, there are many sources of food, shelter and water in my garden and the birds and other critters are present daily.
Your thanksgiving arrangement is beautiful!
Thanks so much Peter….It sounds like the wildlife have found a home in your garden too!
I remember when I first started gardening, I left most plants standing in the fall, just because I didn’t have time for cleaning up the garden then. But once I learned the benefit of seedheads and plant debris for the wildlife, I’ve continued this practice. We had a family of foxes living in our cornfield last year, and I so enjoyed watching them when they would venture into the yard in the evening. If anything, I enjoy the wildlife as much as the flowers in my garden. Voles are another story, however–maybe I need a weasel:)
I agree Rose…the wildlife are as precious to me as the flowers….yes let’s hope for a weasel in your garden….I look for ours to return in spring as I know the voles will have created a mess.
Oh Donna, I am especially glad that I am not experiencing this harsh winter – I would be beside myself worrying for the critters – and I still worry from afar!!! We experienced some rather cold days here – the first in the five years we have been coming here and I worry for the geckos who have not come out, and the little skinks who I actually set up with a heating pad one night in our outdoor laundry room, and well the worrying for the (invasive) cuban tree frog was over and he is now buried in this new garden. I am looking forward to some warmer days to work outside as I’m sure you are!!! I hope all fairs well – lucky to have you as a land lord.
It has been a very weird winter so far and now we are warming for a short while….I cannot get over the resilience of the critters especially the rabbits who are out nightly in -20 temps….they nibble on bushes and plants and I don’t mind at all. Stay warm yourself!
as you may remember Donna I too garden for wildlife, I personally think that it is a better way to garden, natures little helpers, as you say there are the ups and downs but I would think that would happen in the near sterile chemical garden as well, I am glad the weasels are helping keep the vole population down to a more managable level, Frances
I do remember Frances, and I couldn’t agree more. It is a better way to garden as you take in the whole of nature to work with you to enhance the entire habitat/garden.
I’m always very happy when I find a bird’s nest in the garden.
It is the highest compliment.
I absolutely garden for wildlife! I leave much of the garden standing over the winter as cover and the birds seem to really appreciate that. I also try to stretch the blooming season as long as possible for the sake of the pollinators.
I do put up motion detection sprinklers to keep the deer from eating all of my daylilies and phlox though. lol
How wonderful. And I think the deer have plenty to eat without getting to our phlox and daylilies.
Enjoyed the stroll through your private zoo, Donna 🙂 We garden with wildlife in mind but sometimes we get visitors that are less appreciated like the bunch of wild boars recently but that’s the price for living in the wilderness and I guess it’s a small prize to pay when thinking of all the advantages we have. Deer often eat our roses but I’ve found a way of putting them off. 😉
I too find it a small price to pay. Glad you enjoyed our critters.
The wildlife was so important in our Aberdeen garden. Here in Fife, its going to take a little time, well the birds have started visiting.
That is good news….I am sure the critters will be visiting in droves soon enough!
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