Garden Designers Roundtable: Inviting Nature In!

Garden Designers Roundtable: Inviting Nature In!

This month on the Roundtable we consider habitat gardening and inviting nature into our outdoor spaces.

Certification for a job well done!

Photo courtesy Carole Brown and the Ecosystem Gardening Blog

It would seem that we have come full circle in this country. Early settlers forced nature back into the wilds as they staked their claim to the land and forged out a homestead. Forests were clear cut, and later the grasses and vegetation that sprouted were cut low allowing predators to be spotted before getting too close. Homesteading would lead to communities, then small towns and eventually the larger cities of today.Urban sprawl has created vast deserts of “concrete jungles” where the only wild life is rodents and weekend party goers. In the suburbs, things are a bit greener, but the heavy price of maintaining tailored landscapes with chemicals and pesticides, has cost us more than we may know. Fast forward to 2010, and we find ourselves in a natural renaissance, designing gardens that not only allow the local flora and fauna in, but actually are designed to attract it. Gardening techniques that were once reserved for kooks and hippies (both terms used affectionately here), have been adopted by mainstream America, and I for one could not be happier!

Plants like Goldenrod attract many pollentors

So what does it mean to actually invite nature in? In short, it means designing and implementing habitat that will support native flora and fauna, and then (here’s the best part) go forth and be among them!

Here are five simple things you can do to invite nature in:

1  First, do no harm! Yes this great tenet from the AMA, also applies to gardening with nature. Stop using pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Insects, especially native species, are a vulnerable lot, and usage of these products is causing drops in their populations. So what, you say? Insects are near the bottom of the food chain, and when you remove a building block from such a foundation, you affect the whole food chain.

Organic products are becoming easier to find and are effective!

2 Provide food for all stages of fauna. For a long time, plant growers have been touting the pest free nature of certain plants. Such plants are pest free because our native insect populations cannot feed on them. It’s not enough to simply provide a pollen source for adult species of bees, butterflies and moths, it is also necessary to provide the plants on which they lay eggs and on which their young can feed. This alone will bring in greater numbers of pollenators, which will in turn bring in more species of birds to feast on the pollenators, and so on, and so on…

Oak trees support over 200 butterfly and moth species!

3 Provide shelter. Birds, bats, mason bees, and butterflies are all examples of species that will inhabit homes built especially for them. Alternately conifers can be planted to provide year round shelter from cold and predators.

Mason Bee House

Photo Courtesy Gardener’s Supply Company

4 Provide water. All life needs water, yet this is something often overlooked when gardening for nature. You will spend countless enjoyable hours watching your new friends come to the fountain (so to speak) to drink and bathe.

Cardinal bathing

Photo courtesy of Bird Bath

5  Get children involved!!! Kids love nature, getting our future generations involved is a great way to keep the natural movement going.

Make changes not only in the way you look at nature, but in the way you garden for it, the rewards are truly delightful. And who knows, you might one day come across a Black Racer out searching for a meal right in your own backyard. Yeah!

Northern Black Racer

Photo courtesy Animal Pictures

For more on Inviting nature in, please follow the links below and visit my fellow Roundtable bloggers, and see what they have to say on the topic.

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA
Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

22 thoughts on “Garden Designers Roundtable: Inviting Nature In!

  1. Scott, ‘natural renaissance’ is a perfect analogy to the trend of gardening to embrace wildlife. Thanks for the recap of all the ways to lay out the welcome mat, especially the reminder about how important a water source can be.

  2. Great post on the positives of a “natural renaissance” with great examples and pictures . . . although you lost me at the Black Racer Snake – yuck.

    Love you

  3. Scott, fantastic tips here and what gorgeous photos you’ve turned up! I love that mason bee house!

    I think my favorite part of your post is the way you’ve characterized organic and wildlife-supporting gardening as “first, do no harm”. That is so true and such a simple, memorable way to state it to people.

    1. Thanks Gen,

      Maybe that phrase will catch on! I have been thinking about building or buying a Mason Bee House recently, as Masons are great pollenators.

  4. Scott, how movingly you have describedwhat mankind has done and how clearly you have delineated what we now have to do.
    Wise guy!
    Best Wishes

  5. I agree with Genevieve – “First, do no harm” will be part of my gardening “phraseology” from here on out. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the big environmental movement of the late 1960s and early 70s and how much was accomplished at that time. I’m hoping that (your)”natural renaissance” is going to have an even bigger impact on our everyday lives. Good job, Scott!

    1. Jocelyn,

      So much of happened during the 60’s and 70’s was on the fringe of accepted society, I’m just glad there are those that stuck with the principles long enough for everyone else to catch up!

  6. Great description, Scott, of the way our philosophy of gardening has come full-circle since this country was founded. Well, almost full-circle. But we’re getting there!

    And I’m glad you thought to mention getting kids involved. My kids are keenly interested in any wildlife that shows up in our garden–much more than in the plants that attract them. Inviting nature in is a way to interest kids in gardening.

    1. Pam,

      I wish I had a picture to post of children and nature, for that might be the most important tool in sustaining the movement, and your right, kids love nature! Thanks for the comments!

  7. Great post, Scott. Smiled when I read “Get children involved!” Find wildlife gardening/backyard exploring is a great way to nurture a sense of wonder in kids (and grown-ups). Cheers to connecting with nature! ~Kelly

  8. You and I must be close in age to each other. I remember being one of those “kooks”. In my twenties, I got a job at a local garden center, thinking it would be my dream job. Not so! I was made to dust using a spray chemical, that I complained about, and used as minimally as I could. Plus, they wanted me to learn what chemicals to recommend to the customers. I didn’t stay there long. Oh, I remember being proud of myself for putting a spreader together.

    I enjoyed your post and photos.

    1. I came into my kookiness later than I would have chosen Sue. I cut my teeth in the same atmosphere, but bought into so much of the (**insert adjective here**). It wasn’t until I grew up a little and began my most recent path that I realized the consequences of my chemical actions. Kudos to you for getting while the getting was good! 🙂

  9. Well written and point taken. I also love your phrase, “First, do no harm” It’s the first of my list of top ten tips on my own blog as well! (Great, or at least loving minds think alike) And thanks for mentioning the black racer, who should be a welcome addition to any healthy landscape. It does my heart good to see just how many people all over this country are embracing a naturalistic landscape mindset, and are willing to invite nature in. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your comments Sue! Yes, more and more of my clients are interested in a naturalistic landscape, but inviting the Black Racer in, is generally not on their list. It’s too bad though, I agree with you they are a welcome addition.

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