Urban wildlife gardens

Lately urban wildlife gardening has been on my mind a lot. Maybe it’s because of a book I’m reading that fellow garden writer Ursala Vernon suggested called Crow Planet, by author Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Though I’m not finished reading Crow Planet, it has already moved me a great deal. Ms. Haupt has a lot to say about the nature of wildness, that many (most?) of us are locked up in our heads believing that nature is somewhere “out there,” somewhere specifically separate from the day to day.

But when we become noticers of nature from moment to moment no matter where we are, and become intimately acquainted with the nuances of the ecosystem cards we’ve been dealt, a transformative process can occur in us.

One of my garden design clients crystallizes this concept for me. Rachel owns, operates and lives next door to the best pizza place downtown in the small city that’s our county seat. Her vision for her garden is a beautiful and quiet oasis to escape a) the pizza shop and b) the urban setting.

We added many native plants to increase the garden’s wildlife carrying capacity and decrease time Rachel has to spend on maintenance. We co-created a living fence garden for privacy, designed using native prairie species tall enough to block the view into her property from the street.

20130620-130103.jpgEupatorium maculata, Joe Pye Weed just about to bloom. I’ve seen an influx in species and numbers of creatures in my visits to the property recently. Many more butterflies are here, and birds too. I saw a Cedar Waxwing this morning.

20130620-131046.jpg If the other pizza places in town used homegrown, fresh, organic Oregano in their sauces, maybe they’d give Rachel a little competition. Butterflies and other pollinators love flowering herbs like Oregano, Dill, Parsley, Cilantro and Fennel as well.

Ox-Eye Sunflower Heliopsis helianthoides, Ox-Eye Sunflower makes a cheerful gatekeeper.

Mexican Blanket flower
The hops quietly growing on the trellis in the background can be used as a butterfly host plant. Many varied nectar flowers like this Mexican Blanket flower are scattered around. Some Asclepias tuberosa is growing elsewhere.


By creating this urban wildlife garden, a light is really just being shed on what species or beings already exist in this fragmented ecosystem. These creatures now have that much more safe space to procreate, feed and hide. The East End Pizza Eatery in Glens Falls, NY does stand out in our community as being aesthically pleasing, naturally beautiful, colorful and full of life motion.

For this urban wildlife garden habitat oasis model, I am delighted and grateful. But it is good for me to remember that all of the wildlife species that feel comfortable roosting and nesting around the property (summer of 2012 this included a small den of baby skunks) were already close enough geographically to find what we built.

That means that a) I can and should be attentive in my city comings and goings because there’s life motion everywhere and b) though not with Rachel’s exact lovely style and flair, this experiment can be replicated in other, future urban wildlife gardens. If we build it, they will come.

© 2013, Jesse Elwert. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. Kathy Vilim says

    If you build it, they will come.. certainly fits the urban wildlife. Nowhere are native plants more needed than in the cities! It is painful to think how far birds & pollinators have to travel to find food & nesting. You look & look to find even a tiny haven for wildlife sometimes in the big City. So if you live in an urban environment, don’t think your efforts at native gardening are wasted. They are more important than ever!

    Kathy recently posted “outside my bedroom window” on http://nativegardener.blogspot.com


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