Whether you have an apartment balcony or a 20-acre farm, you can create a garden that attracts beautiful wildlife and helps restore habitat in commercial and residential areas. By providing food, water, cover and a place for wildlife to raise their young you not only help wildlife, but you also qualify to become an official Certified Wildlife Habitat®.
Natural habitat is disappearing due to human development: clearing land for homes and agriculture, polluting air and water and introducing toxic chemicals into the environment. But that doesn’t mean the threat to our birds, bees, butterflies, frogs and mammals is forever. If we create healthy habitats on our own property, we can counteract this trend. In the process, we make our neighborhoods healthier for humans as well.
By certifying our properties, we make a statement about valuing a healthier community for local residents and wildlife by providing the four basic elements necessary for life: food, water, shelter and places to raise young. We are also reducing or eliminating the chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that damage human health and wildlife. We are conserving water, planting native plants, removing invasive plants and composting.
By certifying your property, you join over 200 Sammamish residents who provide the four basic elements and practice wildlife-friendly gardening practices. You join those who have made a commitment to providing local habitat for wildlife and making their community a healthier, happier place to live.
Linda Hines, A Sammamish Resident, talks about her Wildlife Habitat
Tell us a little about your garden and why you chose to create a wildlife habitat.
Growing up, I learned from my mother a love of planting patches of beautiful flowers no matter where we lived in a variety of rental houses. I have loved animals and being surrounded by them—both domestic and wild. It was natural that when I finally owned a house, its surroundings would be kept as wild as possible—filled with trees, shrubs, flowers, and critters. I spent a lot of time hiking and wanted that feeling of wilderness. I also resolved to plant organic vegetables and fruits to can and freeze, knowing that some would be “shared” by the wildlife.
How does a wildlife habitat differ from a more conventional landscape.
The wildlife habitat puts a priority on choosing and placing plants that entice a wide variety of native birds, bees, butterflies, and animals to enter and feel safe and welcome as they seek food, shelter, and places to raise their young. The density of native plants in my yard makes it possible for the Orchard Mason bees we raise to find enough food. We have destroyed so much wildlife habitat that we need to be deliberate about restoring and preserving whatever we can, wherever we can. I consider my property to be both a wildlife AND a native plant sanctuary.
Why should someone choose to plant native plants in their yard?
Native plants are adapted to our Northwest environment and are essential to the diet of the native wildlife that enriches our lives. They are perennial and, once established, require little maintenance. We have so many native plants to choose from that no two native plant habitats look alike. (I stopped counting after I catalogued over 250 species in my yard.) The landscaping is cost-effective in that using free native wood chips rather than beauty bark for mulch fits right in. My property has about 45 truckloads of wood chips added over the last 14 years. For much of the year, plants are watered from my rain barrels. During the rainy winter, the rain barrel water is directed by hoses into my woods and shrub areas and thus back into the aquifer.
Is there one particular native plant that stands out in your garden as a “must have”?
Each plant has its own special beauty, but I especially look forward to the blooming of the tiger lily (Lilium columbianum) and Western trillium (Trillium ovatum) The fragrance and abundant white blossoms of the Mock-orange (Philadelphus lewisii) put that shrub at the top of the list. The little wild strawberries (Fragaria virginianus) are the best ground cover, providing delicious snacks for many weeks in early summer and a carpet of green year-round.
The habitat garden you created is on an acre of land. What tips can you give to those who want to get started creating habitat but have limited outdoor space?
Native plants can be grown in pots on decks and in small ground spaces, as well as in large areas. The important first step is to investigate which plants will flourish in whatever space you have available—full shade, full sun, arid, etc. In my yard I have mini ecozones, each with very different plants.