Wildlife Gardening in Rivendell

Designing a new wildlife garden in upstate New York

20140101-155313.jpg Last month marked a year that I’ve been writing for Beautifulwildlifegarden, 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.

20140101-162326.jpg 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 in our new wildlife garden 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.

20140101-164715.jpg We started a lasagna gardening project in the front yard of our new wildlife garden, 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.

20140101-180923.jpg Another area in front of our house in the new wildlife garden 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.

20140101-184150.jpg 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 Lepidoptera species, including Red Admiral and Question Mark butterflies. Our telephone pole in our new wildlife garden 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.

© 2014, 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. Marilyn says

    Congratulations on your new home! Sounds like you made your selection with great care, and found the spot that is just right for you. Watching the project come together will be inspirational and educational.

    • says

      Thank you so much Marilyn. We were looking for a house for two and a half years and finally the right property came on the market. Thanks for reading and the interest.

  2. says

    Wow you have landed yourself in paradise and I am sure you will make it your own (and a butterfly) paradise! I love what you have accomplished so far and I am excited for you. I love the making of a garden! It is magic. And you have such a lovely, wild backdrop! Makes the time renting worthwhile to finally find your perfect place. I never knew Hops was a host plant and just planted a vine last year given to me by a friend. I hope we build a planned trellis over our garage/workshop in time for it to sprawl over as I have heard they grow so fast. Red Admirals and Question Marks welcome!

  3. Bob Vaiden says

    Great… Pretty much the same dream I had 30 years ago, either in Wisconsin or Illinois. Ended up in East Central Illinois (Urbana) with a 1-acre yard. I started slow, but got going more after a few years… now have 130/140 species of wildflowers, as well as other native shrubs and trees, and most of the lawn (evil alien weedgrass :) is gone. Still working on it! https://www.facebook.com/robert.vaiden/media_set?set=a.100954069926800.2037.100000366236872&type=3

    Bob Vaiden


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