Wildlife Garden Trends

Native Pollinators in the Wildlife Garden

It seems that January is the time of year for making predictions about what this year’s trends will be in the gardening world. I am so thrilled that at least for some, creating welcoming habitat for wildlife in our gardens has made an appearance on these lists (Notice that this list also includes designing with native plants, and more use of edible native plants).

Instead of making the usual list, I’m going to make my wish list for trends I’d like to see a whole lot more of when it comes to wildlife gardens and making the world a better place for us all to live in.

Energy-Wise Landscape Design

Author Sue Reed says:

What is the point of gardening in support of pollinators, birds and wildlife habitat, when the natural world is on the verge of becoming strange and unfamiliar, if not unlivable, to so many species? We should intentionally design all gardens and grounds so that they – and we who create, maintain and inhabit them – consume less energy.

Learning to manage our landscapes so that we are conserving energy may be the biggest gift we can give to wildlife, and to ourselves, and a healthy planet.

I interviewed Sue Reed about her principles of saving energy in our landscape:

Adding More Native Plants

Native Plants provide food and shelter for wildlife

Why go native? You may be wondering what all the fuss about native plants is.

Native plants support local food webs and over the millennia have developed crucial interactions with local wildlife.

Our typical landscaping models have over 80% lawn, 16% non-native ornamental plants, and less than 4% (if any at all) native plants. Since our goal is to create welcoming habitat for wildlife, we need to turn this model on its head and start adding more native plants to our gardens.

Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants

Invasive plants do not support local food webs, outcompete existing native plants, and provide very little food and other resources for wildlife.

My team at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens has been compiling a great resource guide to discovering the best native alternatives to invasive plants, and we’ll be continuing to add to that growing list this year.

Garden writer Stephanie Cohen is hopeful that the landscaping industry will learn to police itself when it comes to the continued sale of invasive plants.

Pollinator Protection Becomes a Priority

While much attention has been paid to the decline of the honey bee (an introduced species used in agriculture) our native pollinators are also in deep trouble due to habitat destruction and the continued application of pesticides.

Even our garden clean up efforts may be harmful to native pollinators in our quest to have a tidy, neat, and “beautiful” garden.

But we can learn to care for native pollinators and protect them even through the coldest winter months in our wildlife gardens.

Native plants and native pollinators are intricately tied to the food on your dinner table, so now is the time to start protecting them in our wildlife gardens.

More Attention to Ecosystem Gardening Essentials

1. Provide Food for Wildlife

An Ecosystem Garden will provide food for all stages of life. Feeding wild animals meansgoing beyond bird feeders and learning about the native plants that support all the wildlife of your area. Your wildlife garden is an ecosystem that contributes to the inter-related food webs on which your local critters are dependent. Pollinators, butterflies, birds, mammals will find a welcoming home in your garden when you plan your garden to include the plants that will best provide for their needs.

2. Provide Water for Wildlife

Access to clean water is one of the most important elements in caring for wildlife in your Ecosystem Garden, especially in winter. Providing water in your wildlife garden is not limited to birdbaths, but can include rain gardens, wildlife ponds, saucers, fountains and more. Ecosystem Gardening also  uses water sustainably and manages rainwater in a responsible way to protect our streams and watersheds.

3. Provide Shelter for Wildlife

Your Ecosystem Garden will provide safe places for wildlife to get out of the heat and cold and find respite from predators. Urban neighborhoods provide particular challenges as some species of wildlife have adapted very well to living near humans, for example raccoons, opossums, and introduced species such as starlings, house sparrows and domestic cats.

4. Provide Safe Places for Wildlife to Raise Young

Your Ecosystem Garden will include many places for wildlife to raise their young, including your garden pond for frogs, toads, dragonflies, and salamanders, tree snags with cavities for birds and crevices for butterflies, wood piles, brush piles, and rock piles. The more of these elements you add to your wildlife garden, the more wildlife will choose to raise their next generation in your habitat. You need to make sure that these places to raise their young are safe from predators.

Your Wildlife Garden Trends

These are my wishes for wildlife garden trends for the coming years, but this is just scratching the surface. What would you add to this list? What trends are you setting in YOUR wildlife garden?

Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.

© 2012, Carole Sevilla Brown. 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. says

    These are very comprehensive Carole. The energy-wise is one I need to explore more. I am definitely removing more invasives and replacing them with natives this year., I am also adding more trees and shrubs for food and shelter for wildlife. One of the big trends this year is the use of flowering shrubs. there are some nice native shrubs that flower that I hope to highlight when I post on Workhorse Native shrubs in February. You have given us lots to think about!

  2. says

    As usual, Carole, you sum it up all so well. “Your wildlife garden is an ecosystem that contributes to the inter-related food webs on which your local critters are dependent. ” This really important to help folks get into their heads. Everything IS inter-dependent, that’s why native plants matter. And why pesticides do not belong.
    Kathy Vilim recently posted..Stand Up and Be Counted

  3. says

    Carole, I don’t know how you do it. This is a spectacular post and a very important one. Not only have you gotten me fired up about doing more for wildlife, but you’ve provided links to the resources needed to do so! I love that I can follow a trail of breadcrumbs from one post to another as I learn more about specific elements in designing for wildlife.
    Genevieve recently posted..2012 Garden Trends: What the Cool Kids are Planting This Year

    • says

      Thank you, Gen for being the inspiration for this post! And for including wildlife gardening and native plants in your “What the Cool Kids are Planting the Year” post :)

      Yes, I like to leave breadcrumbs so that each reader can click on those things that interest them most and potentially have a completely different reading experience than another reader. For myself, I can spend hours following links in posts that grab my attention gobbling up fascinating information.
      Carole Brown recently posted..4 Steps to a Beautiful Wildlife Garden

  4. says

    Carole, thank you for this clear and comprehensive post.

    I am thrilled to see you highlight the opportunities we have to make our landscapes more energy-wise; growing some of our own food (and eating local food) is a big piece of this, but so is planting more trees and shrubs that shield our living spaces from sun and wind, decreasing our heating and cooling demand.

    Also I’m very glad that Donna mentioned shrubs, as they are essential pieces of a living community. We tend to remove/avoid having vegetation at eye-level, but that vertical layer is key for songbird nesting. And if we choose native shrubs, we can attract leaf-eating bugs (food for baby birds), supply nectar for pollinators, and maybe even berries for wildlife. All while adding a bit of mystery and privacy to entice ourselves outdoors more.

    Finally, I’ll just point out that all these trends that you hope for will require less lawn, which as you know is an idea near and dear to my heart. :)

    And thank you for your valuable work! What a contribution you are making at this critical time when we are reimagining our national landscape and our role with respect to the rest of nature.

  5. says

    High summer and our neighbours are frantically weeding, it’s green, it’s nasty, take it AWAY.

    I’d like a trend towards – it grows, it lives, it is part of the web of life. To see nature with the eye of wonder, instead of ‘clean and tidy’ to the eye of ‘civilised city’ people.


  1. […] You know how I love to read the garden trend reports at the start of each year, and this year I’m seeing a lot of trends that I like. Over at Beautiful Wildlife Gardens, Carole Brown posted a list of the gardening trends she’s hoping will take off this year. The post is filled with links to other articles for more in-depth reading, so head on over and check out her predictions. […]

  2. […] Designing a well diversified garden is easier than you might think, and costs less in the long run than large swaths of green grass. Most importantly, a diversity of plants is much better for you, your neighborhood and the planet. Having many different plants does not just mean throwing a bunch of them together and calling it a garden. Gardens like these are packed with perennials, groundcovers and herbs, so no room for weeds. […]

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