Greetings From Marshview, Again

Since I have not posted here in quite some time, let me reintroduce my 2.5-acre garden, Marshview, which is located in southeast Michigan, garden zone 6A. The nearest big city is Detroit, which is about 40 miles away. I am sure many people think of Michigan, and especially the Detroit area, as industrial. The people here may work for a large, industrial auto company but we live and play in the water for there is water, water everywhere, whether it be a Great Lake, an inland lake, a river, or a wetland. My home and garden are surrounded on three sides by wetland, thus the name Marshview.

Snapping turtle comes out each spring to lay eggs

Snapping turtle comes out each spring to lay eggs

In the recent past, wetlands were often filled in and referred to as ‘swamp’, a feature landowners did not want on their properties. However, research has shown the benefits of wetlands to the larger ecosystem and also to the quality of life for people in the surrounding area.

Sandhill crane passes through Marshview each spring

Sandhill crane passes through Marshview each spring

Since I am attracted to and interested in the aesthetics of life, I hope describe the goings-on at Marshview in words and pictures so you can experience life in and around wetlands. I will sprinkle in some facts and figures along with my observations and approach to wildlife gardening.

An egret adds color to the Marshview wetland

An egret adds color to the Marshview wetland

At a quick glance, wetlands are not stunningly beautiful. They look like a wet, weedy mess. But with long, quiet observation; I discovered that wetlands are full of life and have a rather understated beauty. It took me a while to recognize this beauty in a rather unconventional landscape.
From afar, the vegetation in the Marshview wetlands is brown and not very attractive. But take look at the wildlife that lives in and around the wetlands. Red-winged blackbirds are the first birds to arrive in the early spring and the first to leave at the end of summer. When they leave, it gets much quieter. Geese and ducks nest in the wetlands in the spring. Sandhill cranes and egrets pass through in the early summer. A snapping turtle comes out of the wetland to lay eggs once a year, the only time I see her. And then there are frogs. When it starts to warm in the late spring, the peepers start to sing, and what a lovely song it is. At times, we need to close the windows because they are so loud. Not a bad problem to have. I use frogs in the garden as a barometer of ecosystem health. If I have healthy frogs, I have clean water and soil. Other residents and visitors to Marshview include deer, raccoons, snakes, groundhogs, hawks, owls, coyotes, squirrels, rabbits, fox, chipmunks, and many different songbirds. Bumblebees, hummingbirds, dragonflies, and monarch butterflies are also welcome residents.

A birdseed stealer.

A birdseed stealer.

With all that being said, I have a few challenges at Marshview. First, it is very difficult to grow a vegetable garden. I am working with a landscape designer to create a barrier around the vegetable garden that is effective and attractive. Second, mosquitoes make sitting outside on a summer evening impossible so we built a screened porch. Not quite the same as sitting around a fire, but not a bad compromise. And third, the wildlife here does not follow the rules I set up. I put out food for the songbirds and it seems that every other critter considers it their breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner as well. It gets expensive to fill up a feeder or two every day. We put up bluebird houses, and we get sparrows. After few weeks of constantly cleaning out the sparrow nests, we gave up. We put up a purple martin house and again the sparrows took it over. We are not giving up and hopefully next year we can better manage our aggressive squatters.
I hope I gave you a little flavor of life here at Marshview. As a wildlife gardener my focus is more on supporting local wildlife rather than collecting and growing lovely new cultivars. I spend my time observing and studying insects rather than trying to figure out how to eliminate them from my garden. And I am working at a no mow landscape so we can spend more time enjoying the garden and less time maintaining it. I look forward to my monthly visit here and I look forward to sharing the ups and downs, challenges and successes, and ins and outs of my wildlife garden.

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  1. says

    Mary! Nice to hear from you and get a description of what you are doing, and where you are. How true about the attitude of wetlands/swamps. As a child, I certainly remember swamps being a very negative place. Now I know better. They are a rich place full of good things! As for the bird feeders, I cannot put one up at all. I’m in central Va., in the mtns and if I feed the birds, the bears come and tear the feeders down – partly I think out of curiosity, but also because they love the seed as well. Looking forward to hearing from Marshview again in 4 wks!

  2. Susan says

    Since I live in SE Michigan also (near Chelsea), I am happy to read your posts about what is going on in your wildlife garden.

  3. says

    Welcome back Mary and good to hear your continuing experiences living on a marsh! Thank goodness for screened-in porches or else you’d probably be locked indoors on summer evenings. We live surrounded by water too but it’s all moving water so the mosquitoes are not a problem…and the dragonflies take care of any that might find their way close to the porch. The nesting box issue sounds very familiar – after years of stress watching tree sparrow nests getting raided by the English/house sparrows, we opted to take the boxes down altogether rather than contribute to the carnage. As we don’t hang feeders, I have not seen a house sparrow since then…


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