Your Piece of the Puzzle #5 - Juggling Bubbles
If you’ve ever planned a Thanksgiving dinner, you know the challenges of juggling multiple considerations. The seasoned Thanksgiving host plans well in advance with lists of groceries, timings, and dietary needs. In the process of planning for your wildlife feast, you’ve already accomplished outlining your needs, making an inventory, and noting existing conditions in your base plan.
Let’s now evaluate the plan to see how effective it is as wildlife habitat. An easy way to do this is using the “bubble diagram”. The image below provides an example of how you might draw circles around areas that have potential for improvement.
Use photocopies or tracing paper over your base map. There is no one best answer—everyone’s habitat will be different, and you may come up with more than one plan. Bubbles are possibilities. When drawing your ideas, keep these principles in mind:
• Lay out zones with different height ranges: Canopy of trees, understory trees, mid-story shrubs, and ground layers.
• Connect those puzzle pieces: Planting along property edges not only provides balance to your landscaping but provides wildlife corridors. Imagine if everyone in a neighborhood provided edge plantings ---what was once fragmented would become a lush highway teeming with life.
• Zone it out: Determine which areas of your yard are sunny or shady, wet or dry. A sunny area might be the best placement for that butterfly garden you have on your list.
• Consider sightlines: What views do you imagine from a window or a patio? Think about how you’d like to experience your living landscape when you are out for a morning stroll.
• Let the natural world be your teacher: When you take a walk, observe the arrangement of plants along a meadow, in the woods, or along a stream. Notice how natural areas tend toward curves. Let Mother Nature inspire you!
You can plan for a spectacular feast, welcoming your wildlife guests not for a day, but every day-- for many years to come.
Author: Pam Ford
Your Piece of the Puzzle #4: It’s Not Easy Being Green
Many of us have fond memories of our lawns, and our associations can be as unique as individuals. Does the word “lawn” bring back memories of walking barefoot in the grass, playing croquet, and family picnics—or does the word conjure up endless hours of mowing and steep water bills? Do you think of the place where the puppy would play, or do you remember the struggle to get grass to grow under your trees?
Whatever your reason to love (or not love) your lawn, its purpose does seem to change, as your needs and desires evolve over time. If we reimagine our puzzle piece, we gain the opportunity to develop a diverse, three-dimensional, varied landscape with year-long interest. To achieve the “layered landscape” referred to in the previous post, you may need to consider repurposing some of the lawn. Take a good look at your base plan; most landscapes have areas that are infrequently used, or not needed at all.
Doug Tallamy (Bringing Nature Home), suggests that we reverse “normal” landscaping so that turf is only in place where we walk or use the lawn for recreation. Often, children, as well as adults, are more attracted to the layers beyond the lawn, where there are countless opportunities for observation and activities that stir the imagination.
Lawn can also serve as a design element, a visual resting space that defines the shape of outdoor rooms between textured plantings. A grassy path can invite and guide the garden visitor to explore the wonders of the natural world in your landscape.
Over time, removing turf in favor of new plantings will bring more life to your yard, and immeasurable joy for yourself.
Author: Pam Ford
Your Piece of the Puzzle #3: Think Layers
Before you start putting pencil to paper to test layouts on your base plan or choose plants, we’ll start by getting familiar with thinking in layers.
Naturally-occurring plants grow in many layers. These include tall and understory trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, and the ground layer. Each level provides a home for varying wildlife species. Missing plant layers means that there are wildlife species unable to select the layer to which they are best adapted for survival.
A layered landscape provides food throughout all seasons. Bees benefit from early spring- blooming flowers --especially trees and shrubs, which provide an early food source just when the bees are emerging from a long winter’s fast.
You say you want a butterfly garden? Many of the showy butterflies that we enjoy lay their eggs in our native trees and shrubs. Small groves of native trees planted by Dr. Snetsinger in the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden were planted specifically to support the caterpillars of various species of lepidoptera. Large yellow tiger swallowtails are frequently spotted gliding down from the treetops to nectar on their favorite flowers. Other butterflies, like fritillaries, depend on plants in the ground layer.
Layered landscapes support fellow creatures, but also create yards that are interesting and attractive. Trees and shrubs provide seasonal interest - aromatic spring flowers, gorgeous fall colors, and stunning architecture in the winter. The joy of discovery awaits in every layer- a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar on a spicebush, a bird flitting from branch to branch or a bumble bee emerging from beneath the leaf litter –it never gets old.
Whether you are working around existing plantings or are starting from the ground up, you can make your yard into a living layered landscape. And you can choose whether to spend a weekend, a year, or a lifetime doing it!
Just like a puzzle, the journey is half the fun. The rest is watching your garden come to life.
Author: Pam Ford
Your Piece of the Puzzle #2: All About That Base
Many visitors to the SBG tell us that they gain ideas and inspiration from our demonstration gardens, but feel overwhelmed when they think about applying their new knowledge to their own property. As tempting as it is to start by chatting about plants, we’ll start by planning for plants.
There is no ‘one -size –fits- all' for planning your landscape. Much will depend on the property you are working with, the site conditions, and your family’s needs.
Begin by making a base plan. A base plan is basically a bird’s- eye- view map of your present landscape that includes property lines, buildings and existing landscape features. This need not be complicated. A simple image can go a long way to helping you visualize your needs, and help outline your goals and priorities. Testing ideas on paper is much easier than rearranging plants in a yard.
Keep a notebook on hand for your family ‘wish list'. Do you want to create a secret garden for the kids, a cozy shaded reading corner, or an area for a fire pit? Have you always wanted a rock garden, butterfly garden or small pond? Your wish list can include something as simple as wanting to observe more birds from your kitchen window, or having a peaceful area for a quiet stroll. Your yard can be a great site for performing ecosystem services AND provide an area unique to you.
There’s no time like the dead of winter for making a wish list!
Author: Pam Ford