By Mary Taylor Young
WHAT IF YOU could put a few seeds in the ground, tend them carefully and come up with a garden full of birds and animals?
By gearing your landscaping with careful plantings, you can draw wildlife to your home. Shrubs like plum, currant, chokecherry and serviceberry offer succulent fruit for birds and some mammals; shrub thickets offer nest sites and year-round shelter.
If you live in the foothills or mountains, you can attract hummingbirds with a variety of flowering plants like evening primrose, honeysuckle and penstemon. Junipers provide berries for Colorado’s wintering birds from fall through spring. Fruit trees–cherry, apple, crabapple, plum–offer sweet fruits for wildlife, and a vegetable garden, if you’re willing to share it, is a natural magnet for rabbits, deer, frogs and other animals.
Pines provide good cover and nesting sites. The shoots and seeds feed squirrels, chipmunks, grosbeaks and other birds. Colorado blue spruce, the state tree, hosts many insect species that attract chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers.
Attracting animals to your home offers the chance to observe the rhythms of their life cycle–breeding, nesting and rearing their young. Large trees like oaks and cottonwoods make good homes for many songbirds and tree-dwelling mammals like squirrels. Clusters of shrubs and small trees offer better concealment and nest sites than widely spaced plantings.
Backyard ponds and water features not only provide drinking water for wildlife but if lined with vegetation can attract frogs and toads, salamanders and reptiles. Remember that a sterile cement pond provides neither food nor shelter for aquatic species.
Or how about a garden filled with colorful, gently fanning wings? With the right flowers, your garden can blossom with butterflies. Most bright flowering plants attract butterflies, but coneflowers, rabbitbrush and butterfly bush are especially appealing to them.
Of course you may attract some animals that aren’t so welcome. Resourceful Raccoons attracted to your home may also disturb your trash. Skunks might not be your ideal neighbor, especially if you have dogs. And encouraging wildlife visitors carries responsibility.
If you want butterflies in the garden, don’t use chemical pesticides. Consider protective fencing or other means of discouraging domestic predators–dogs and cats. Don’t place food sources where birds and small mammals have too great a chance of being “nabbed” by pets.
There are many books and pamphlets on landscaping for wildlife. Consult the nature and landscaping sections of your bookstore or library for more information.–Rocky Mountain News