Cultivating the Wild Suburbia

Using the word “cultivating” and “wild” in the same sentence seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? Yet that is what I have been doing here in my little slice of suburbia. Again, you might say, that seems odd – why would you want wildness?  We have spent the better part of the last several hundred years taming the wildness and conquering nature so that we could live in domesticated splendor.

Baby Anole lizard

Baby Anolis caroliniensis

If I wanted wild, why not just go camping every now and then?

Well, for one reason, I don’t like camping. [I’ll stay outside all day, but I want to sleep inside at night.]

In addition, there is not enough space in all of our parks and camping spots to support the critters whose habitat we keep mowing down for development.

Finally, I like to see nature every day.


After several years of “cultivation”, I am happy to say that I do get to see nature every day. Beautiful, vibrant and diverse nature! This year in particular I have examined bees more closely, discovered flies that look like bees, and found bees that I’ve never noticed.

This is a fly, not a bee (Meromacrus acutus).

This is a fly, not a bee (Meromacrus acutus).


Contrary to what you might think, suburbia is a place where we can create habitat. That is my goal in our yard. I create habitat by making conscious decisions such as: plant a diverse mix of regionally native plants; minimize the use of chemicals; create places of habitat by leaving some dead trees, some bare ground, some brush piles; research what I plant to have bloom times throughout the year for pollinator support.

American painted lady

American painted lady butterfly


What are the rewards? Butterflies that grow from eggs in my own yard, dragonflies and damselflies looking for a meal pass through on delicate wings, and an adventure happens every day. Do you want your kids and grandkids to clamor for some outdoor time? Make sure there is plenty of nature!

Hypericum bee 129c

A bee approaches St. John’s wort for pollen and nectar





When I walk out my door, birds flush from the shrubs, and dragonflies take flight. How magical is that?


Look at that face plant!

Look at that face plant!


I planted certain flowers close to my office window just so I could watch the hummingbirds while I worked. Caterpillars moved in and the show changed – now I could watch wrens and cardinals hunt for their lunch while I ate mine.

This approach is not expensive, it’s not ugly and it’s certainly not hard work. It is a conscious effort though. I enjoy the challenge of the research and the hunt for the plants I want to add. The reward is the amazing parade of wildlife that stops by to nibble and refresh.

Turtle laying eggs

Turtle laying eggs in my front yard!


As if that were not reason enough – that you’ve just created a little wonderland for yourself and all your visitors to explore and enjoy – realize that you have just helped replace a bit of the habitat that was lost to development.

You have created places where insects, birds and reptiles can be born, and live and thrive! YOU made it happen.

So remember when I said that suburbia is a place where we can create habitat? If we all make a piece of habitat, we can eventually have some big spaces. I recently heard Doug Tallamy speak and he mentioned “stitching” properties together to create habitat. I can’t sew worth a darn, but I can do this! And you can too.


Turkey looking for acorns and insects.

Turkey looking for acorns and insects.

So let’s cultivate a little wildness in our lives. Let’s make OUR home a home for more than just us. Make it a home for wildlife.

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  1. says

    What a lovely way to describe how each of us plays a crucial role for creating welcoming habitat for wildlife in our gardens! If each of us did just one thing to help wildlife in our gardens, the cumulative benefits for wildlife would be astronomical. And once we do that one thing and see that some form of wildlife will immediately take up residence in our gardens, it’s so easy to do one more thing until our garden is full of birds, bees, butterflies, and so much more.
    Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..Container Gardening for Wildlife Habitat

  2. says

    Thank you I needed this post! I love your outlook and need to make it my own. I was just clamoring that I would like some order please but now realize that I really do not! I have created my own little slice of wild. It is rewarding and fulfilling and fun. Also this morning I was taking a spin through Piet Oudolf’s “Designing with Plants” and came upon the page SUBLIME. This is what my garden is now, sublime! Two big nudges within the span of an hour. It is amazing how life teaches you, us. I should rewrite my latest post!

  3. says

    What a wonderful post Ellen! I don’t like camping either, lol. But it sure is rewarding to see nature and its inhabitants in your yard and at local parks. There’s always something new to discover and it gets me out of the house every day.


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