5 Wildlife Gardening Resources for the Pacific Northwest

This was originally was published on Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens.

Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest

It seems that any time I talk with somebody about landscaping for wildlife or make a book recommendation, this is the first one I mention. There is simply no better book for this region, and in fact this book contains information useful for nearly every region when it comes to wildlife landscaping. There is not a single wasted page in this book and it’s packed full of valuable information including everything from making a pond, choosing the right plants and building bat houses. One aspect of this book which puts it a head above the others is explaining why these design elements are important by explaining plant succession, wildlife populations and structural diversity. It covers all species including insects, mammals, birds, herps and describes not only how to attract and design for them, but basic overviews of their life cycles. Just as important is a discussion on maintenance as well as basic design techniques. The appendices make this book worth the price of admission alone because they contain a great amount of information about wildlife plants. There are several lists which highlight whether the plants provide food for wildlife, which are hosts plants for butterflies and moths, which grow well in shade and other conditions. There are also lists for deer-resistant plants, hummingbird plants and butterfly plants. Many of the top plants are listed in greater detail and discuss what benefits they provide for wildlife in addition to growing information. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, a key partner in the creation of this book,  has a great amount of information from the book on their website:Landscape Design for Wildlife. I have a longer review of this book on my blog: Book Review:: Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest.

Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest

The perfect companion to Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest is this book by the same author on how to live with wildlife. They should be sold together as a bundle because everyone who buys one should also have the other. I admit, dealing with nuisance wildlife isn’t my favorite subject, I’d much rather talk about how to attract them. However, wildlife problems are a fact of life and this book provides an excellent reference on how to deal with them.  I have volunteered at garden shows in booths about wildlife gardens and I referenced or recommended this book just as often as Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. It’s an even heftier book than its companion and just as full of valuable information. It covers a huge array of species from bats to squirrels to deer, crows and woodpeckers. Unlike a typical pest control book however, this one doesn’t simply advise killing things. Instead it discusses how and why a species can become a problem and ways to prevent it before it happens. It also gives valuable information on why certain species which may be considered pests, such as moles, are really more beneficial than most people realize and should be left alone. However it recognizes that even with beneficial species many gardeners have a level of tolerance that may be crossed and then advises the best ways to discourage those species. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also has a great companion website to this book: Preventing Conflicts with Wildlife.

Plants of the Pacific Northest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska 

This is a fantastic plant book to accompany Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a hefty field guide, with nearly 800 plants listed, both native and introduced plants which have become naturalized in the region. It covers the coast from southern Alaska, down through southern Oregon. The book is packed with valuable information about plants with both photos and drawings along with keys for many families to help identify plants. The information includes what you’d expect such as leaf shape, color, flower type, seed or fruit descriptions and so on. What takes this book above and beyond a typical plant guide however, is all the other information included about each plant. These extra notes can include ethnobotany, how the plants were used by the native people in medicines, as food or for craft. Other notes describe lore about the plant, who ‘discovered’ it, what parts are edible and if any parts are toxic. My one complaint about this book is that it lacks any wildlife information. There is little or no mention of use by wildlife as a host plant, shelter or food plant which is why I say it’s a good companion book to Landscaping for wildlife. I’ve written a full review of this book on my blog: Book Review:: Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast.




Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest

By this point, you’ve learned how to attract wildlife, how to live with it and what plants grow here. This book continues the journey by giving good information about how to garden with those plants. The introduction includes great information about vegetation and plant hardiness zones on a regional scale along with descriptions of those zones and what makes them unique. Also of value is a description of the ways native plants are used in gardens and landscapes such as home gardens, parks, estates, wildlife sanctuaries, highway plantings and ecological restoration. The important discussion of the right plant in the right place is addressed, discussing topics including temperature, moisture, topography and so on. The bulk of the book of course is information about the plants dived into native ornamental trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and finally grasses. The level of information varies from plant to plant, but most include information about their distinguishing features, garden uses and how to propagate. There are many species which don’t have their own entry, along with varieties, but are listed under a similar species or as groups. What this book lacks are photos or illustrations for all plants, so it’s not suitable for trying to identify plants. It also doesn’t include a great deal of information about wildlife interactions. Instead its strength works best when partnered with the books listed above. It’s real strength is telling the gardener how to plant and care for native plants.

Selecting Plants for Pollinators

The final resource are free plant guides from the Pollinator Partnership. For the Pacific Northwest there is Pacific Lowland(PDF) and Cascade Mixed Forest (PDF). Each guide contains information about the region, pollinators that reside there and plant traits which describe what plant characteristics attract which types of pollinators. In addition to plants, the guide contains basic information about other pollinator habitat such as shelter and water. Different landscapes are looked at in some detail discussing how each can be managed best for pollinators including farms, public lands and private gardens. There is a handy bloom time chart to help in planning a constant bloom for your landscape. The guide lists plants in tables that describe the plant’s color, height, flower season, growing conditions, what types of pollinators are attracted and finally if it’s a host plant. It lists both families and species so it is more general than specific for native species. For example it lists the family Lupinus but no species, so if you want to provide a host plant for a specific species of butterfly such as the Fender’s Blue Butterfly, you’ll have to dig a little deeper than this guide. In addition to the plant guides, the Pollinator Partnership has recently released an app for Android and Apple called BeeSmart, which provides a database of plant information, sortable by pollinator type, region, flower type, soil, and more.

For more resources about designing for wildlife, I’ve compiled a huge list of pages and documents on my blog. Try Landscape for Wildlife, Plant Lists for Wildlife or Landscape for Wildlife by Species.

Are there other must-have resources for the Pacific Northwest that I didn’t mention? Be sure to share your recommendations in the comments!

Kelly Brenner
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  1. The following observation from your review is a very convincing reason to read this book!

    “One aspect of this book which puts it a head above the others is explaining why these design elements are important by explaining plant succession, wildlife populations and structural diversity.”

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