Last month marked a year that I’ve been writing for Beautifulwildlifegarden.com, and most of my blogpost contributions have been about wildlife gardening projects I’ve done for other people on their properties. Until three months ago, my husband and I were renting and my activity in wildlife gardening was limited to my landscape design clients. But in September we purchased a house that’s situated on 1+ acres; it’s surrounded by miles of forest and wetlands in every direction and backs out into a state protected nature preserve. We call this new home, “Rivendell,” because to us it’s just as stunning and perfect and safe-haven like as the Lord of the Ring’s fantasy Elven outpost.
I view the whole space as a gorgeous blank canvas and I hope to properly photodocument and photojournalize the transformation into a wildlife gardening biome and native plant Shangri-la. Relatively small inroads have been made this year so far, and all projects started are in the hope and wait phase rather than anything visually spectacular, and there’s a foot of snow on the ground right now, but given that I write this on New Year’s Day it seems okay to just show the beginnings.
We started a lasagna gardening project in the front yard, layered newspapers with soil, mulch, leaves and native plant seeds. The seed species included Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), NY Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculata), Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Little Joe (Eupatorium dubium), New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and Scullcap (Scutellaria incana). A lot of seeds were spread; if the germination rate is high then we’ll have to transplant a lot of seedlings. Since these plants have high habitat value, I’ll be eager to see how they fill in.
Another area in front of our house was planted densely with weedy Daylilies that we dug out and replaced with strong native species that can outcompete any remaining Daylily tubers that will inevitably pop back up. From a design perspective, we wanted this bed to be filled with mostly bold, tall yellow species to mark the entrance to our driveway. We planted a lot of Jerusalem Artichoke tubers (Helianthus tuberosa), Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum), False Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana) and Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). Adjacent to this bed some Vernonia noveboracensis (NY Ironweed), Scutellaria incana (Scullcap), Verbena hastata (Hoary Verbena) and Zizea aurea (Golden Alexander) were planted. These native plant species will support a lot of butterfly life (Zizea aurea is a classic native species host plant for Black Swallowtail butterflies) and other insects, which in turn increases the carrying capacity for the birds who live in my neighborhood, because most birds eat insects at some point in their lives.
There is a telephone pole at the front of our property and a Hops vine (Humulus lupulus) was planted alongside it. Hops are amazing- given the right conditions they can reach the apex of a telephone pole in a season, once they’re established. Hops vines are a larval host for many Leipodoptera species, including Red Admiral and Question Mark butterflies. Our telephone pole supported Hops vine makes a great front and central statement piece for the Wildlife Gardening in Rivendell setting, it’s wild and sets the right tone at the front edge of our property: this is a place for butterflies.
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