Last year when I wrote about the Northwest Flower and Garden Show I talked a lot about how the gardens didn’t feature wildlife habitat, but could have easily done so and I featured specific examples. I also expressed hope that a nature organization would partner on a display garden. This year, my hope was realized with the Birdsong Garden, which was a partnership between the Washington Park Arboretum Foundation and Seattle Audubon. The garden aimed to illustrate the variety of bird habitat which can be found in the Washington Park Arboretum and featured many native plants including Indian Plum, Kinnikinnick, Evergreen Huckleberry, Red-flowering Currant, Salal, Salmonberry, Vine Maple and others. The corner of the garden replicated the habitat of Marsh Island, which was featured in Marsh Madness (Brackishology):: Marsh & Foster Islands and ‘the Fill’. There was also a woodland edge and towards the back of the garden was a forested area. Perhaps the centerpiece of the garden was the bird blind which drew visitors in to view the garden through it. Carved replicas of some of the most common bird species were placed in appropriate locations throughout the garden for visitors to discover including species such as American Goldfinch, Anna’s Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Steller’s Jay and Cedar Waxwing, 20 in all. Also in the garden were actual bird nests and a snag.
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.
Today marks the beginning of National Pollinator Week, a good time to think about pollinators. Many posts from The Metropolitan Field Guide have focused on pollinators, so to begin Pollinator Week, here is a roundup of the posts. Once you learn about pollinators, visit Pollinator Design and Butterfly and Moth Design for many resources to learn how to design for pollinators.
The 11th annual Tukwila Backyard Wildlife Festival took place last weekend in Tukwila, Washington. Tukwila has the distinction of being the first community in the state of Washington, and only the fourth in the nation, to become certified by the National Wildlife Federation as Community Wildlife Habitat. In addition to yards, all of Tukwila’s schools were certified along with several businesses. The festival included a series of talks including topics on hummingbirds, pollinators and backyard habitat as well as booths set up by local organizations, an art show, kids activities and a garden tour.
Tukwila is located just south of Seattle at the intersection of two major highways, Interstates 5 and 405, and along the Duwamish River which flows to the north and empties into Elliott Bay. Toxic runoff from industrial sites, the airport and other sources have tainted the Duwamish River to the point that over 42 chemicals are above the state safety levels. Today there is a great, coordinated effort to clean up the river. The homeowners on the backyard tour all recognize their potential impact on the river by living in close proximity, some right on the river, and have taken great strides in making their yards not only great habitat, but also river-friendly.
There were six yards on the tour, and like the Edmonds Backyard Habitat tour, all very unique. Each homeowner had taken different approaches to habitat, many merging their personal interests into the gardens. All of the gardens had put forth tremendous efforts and each was a ‘work in progress’. Some were fairly new while others were established. Like with the Edmonds tour, each had it’s own personality and again, I was amazed by how creatively each had solved their own challenges. Above all, I was inspired by the efforts taken by these individuals to be responsible and share their yards simply because they wanted to or felt it was the right thing to do.
Last weekend was the large Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. Running for four days, the show’s theme this year was Once Upon A Time…spectacular gardens with stories to tell. The show consisted of a large show garden area with over 20 individual gardens, a container garden display with over a dozen displays and funky junk gardens which are created by high school classes using reused materials. This year a high school senior had a full show garden display featuring reused materials called Paradise (to be) Regained, which was very impressive. While wildlife habitat is not often prominent in these shows, this year there was at least one seminar about backyard wildlife habitat and another about designing for pollinators. There was also a large marketplace which included many educational booths, two being the National Wildlife Federation and Bats Northwest, both of which I volunteered at. It was great fun to hear visitors’ stories and answer questions about wildlife habitat. It would have been nice to see other groups like the Washington Butterfly Association, Seattle Audubon and other local organizations. Hopefully more wildlife-related groups will participate in the future and even teach some seminars and design or partner on a show or container garden!
Not surprisingly, none of the show gardens really designed specifically for wildlife habitat, but I noticed elements of most of the gardens that could easily have been modified for use as habitat. I found many of the gardens overall design to be wildlife-friendly. Many of them had natural-style landscaping with dense plantings, water and art. The plantings were lush and if some of the plants were exchanged with similar species that provide wildlife benefits, I think many of the gardens could have been wildlife friendly quite easily. Following is a photo essay that describes some of the elements of the gardens I observed and how they could have been improved upon for wildlife.
- Extreme Insects by Richard Jones:: Featured on the Guardian website, this slideshow highlights a few images from a new book of extreme insects.
- School of the Year Awards:: From the Big Wildlife Garden in the U.K. is a list of regional winners of the first Big Wildlife Garden School of the Year competition.
- Gardens of Delight:: From the Deccan Herald is an article about corporate landscaping in Bangalore for wildlife habitat. Design theory is discussed and it is interesting to see that much of the principles of habitat design are the same in Bangalore as they are here in North America.
- Biophilia: “An Innate Emotional Affiliation with Nature”:: From The Dirt blog discusses how people experience biophilia and how to use that in landscape design.
- Creating wetlands in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor:: A video from the NBC Nightly News discusses a project that is trying to bring wetland habitat to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in the form of floating islands that serve the purpose of cleaning the water as well as education and awareness.
- ScienceShot: Streetlights Make Male Birds Macho:: An article from Science that highlights a new study that looked into the affects of artificial list on male birds.
- L.A. County tests plan for bird-friendly plant maintenance at parks:: From the LA Times comes an article about a new program for parks maintenance to adopt strategies to disturb birds less. Part of the strategy involves changing the season pruning and trimming and to avoid an area if there’s a bird nest nearby.
- Curating the Urban Cemetery as Bird Habitat:: This is a very interesting article from the local ecologist blog that discusses the potential of cemeteries for urban wildlife habitat
- List of world bumblebees:: A database from the Natural History Museum that features a bumblebee ID, and a directory of bumblebees by region, group or color. Each family has information including habitat, food-plants, nesting and distribution
- Butterflies and Moths of North America:: This is a great resource to find out about specific species as well as find out what can be found in your county.
- Pollinator Pathway in Seattle:: If you’re in the Seattle area, the Pollinator Pathway, which was featured on the blog (Pollinator Pathway: bringing pollinators to a Seattle neighborhood), is installing another batch of new gardens and will be holding a work party October 16th – 17th from 11am-4pm both days.
- Here is an excellent video produced by SW Neighborhoods, Inc. and the SW Watershed Resource Center in Portland Oregon about backyard wildlife habitat.