Shoreline Wildlife Habitat Tour
The 2nd annual backyard habitat tour in Shoreline, an area just north of Seattle, was dubbed ‘Where Our Wild Things Are’ and presented six, certified yards. Shoreline is a Certified Community Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. The gardens ranged from just begun to established and featured highlights such as urban farming, accessibility and integrated family space. The tour was set up very nicely with not only the homeowner at each location, but a ‘habitat steward’ ready to welcome you and answer any questions. In addition, at each stop was an educational opportunity, individuals or groups who were available to talk about a variety of topics including habitat, plants, composting and even bats.
Habitat 1, the first habitat garden on the tour was a 23 year-old garden full of beautiful trees and wildflowers. The owner had a long interest in native plants enhanced by hiking and wildflower books. Over time, the owners removed a garage and many noxious plants such as holly trees and English ivy. Today, the garden includes a multitude of flowers, a vegetable garden, wildlife pond with waterfall, nest boxes, stone pathways and a permeable driveway. The owners are now rewarded with regular wildlife visitors such as raccoons, birds, bees and other insects. Indeed, during the tour the garden was full of pollinators and bird song.
Habitat 2 features a bird watchers dream station. The owners have carefully configured a system of feeders and water features to bring birds close to a viewpoint from indoors. There is a variety of feeder types such as tube, platform and ground feeding trays. The water feature starts at a faucet where the water flows up through a small tube along the gutters, out to a platform where it drips steadily down into a system of tiered levels creating a constant movement of water which attracts the birds. The rest of the yard is full of flowers which provide further habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects.
Habitat 3 features a unique approach which unfortunately should be more common, and that is accessibility. The entire garden was created using the idea of universal design and aging in place so that the yard can be used by anyone with limited visibility or mobility including the use of a wheelchair. The beds are raised, particularly the vegetable beds alongside the house to be easily accessible for wheelchair users. This incredible design is brand new, the hardscaping in the backyard had just been finished and plants were just starting to go in. The front and side yard already included a variety of newly added native plants. In just over two years, the owners transformed a grassy backyard into an accessible garden with paths, raised beds, rain barrels and a water feature. Future plans include fruit trees which species are chosen to cross-pollinate with neighbors trees.
Habitat 4 was another garden just in the beginning stages. The owners had a plan laid out which visitors could draw on to add their contributions to the design of the yard. Previously, the yard had consisted of a poorly maintained lawn, lilac trees and yucca plants. Fortunately for the new owners, the yard also contained several large conifer trees, Douglas fir and western hemlock, which were perfect for wildlife. The new owners have two young boys who receive Ranger Rick magazine and got the idea to create habitat from the magazine. The goal is to integrate habitat with a play area for the kids as well as a vegetable garden. Within only a year of moving in, the family has already removed the yucca and added native shrubs and bird houses and feeders.
Habitat 5 is an example of how a garden can change a person. The owner started out by simply adding a few plants to their new yard which contained a lawn, hot tub, lilacs, junipers, dead cherry tree and a chain linked fence. Pretty soon as more and more lawn disappeared, the owner became more involved, becoming a Master Recycler Composter, taking horticulture classes, starting a gardening maintenance business and eventually ending up working at Seattle Tilth. The garden reflects this commitment with a beautiful front yard full of plants in bloom, the wonderful scent of Mock Orange and not a patch of lawn to be seen. The side and backyard contains a vegetable garden with fruit trees and behind the house is a chicken coop which replaced the old hot tub. The dead cherry tree was left in place as a wildlife tree and the chain link fence has been covered in native plants and is now hidden. The owner’s advice to creating a habitat garden is just to start, “the more you plant, the more you learn, and the more the birds will come”.
Habitat 6, the final garden on the tour is the product of another motivated owner faced with a yard full of lawn they didn’t want to mow. They started to add variety to the landscape by creating terraces and adding fruit trees and perennials. Soon a vegetable garden, bird feeders and bird bath followed. The owners also have an interest in bamboo and the yard contains nine different varieties which they like to harvest and use around the yard. The harvested bamboo can be found as a trellis holding up peas, as art placed in a large container and as habitat providing houses for mason bees.
This is the third community habitat tour I’ve been to in the Puget Sound region and I’m still amazed at how unique and individual each garden has been. It’s such a treat to visit such a personal space to see how each family makes the yard work for them. It’s fascinating to see what is important to each family as well whether it’s integrating habitat with play or creating an accessible space, they all have great ideas to draw from. I also liked the education stations at each stop along the way and I greatly appreciated the stewards at each yard also. It’s evident that Shoreline has a great community of eager individuals who are all passionate about their habitat program.
Also read about the other backyard habitat tours
Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.