Whether you have a large property, an average backyard or no more room than a patio or balcony, you can transform your space into a peaceful and attractive garden for you and a sanctuary for a variety of local wildlife. Your wildlife habitat can be as simple as choosing a few large potted plants to attract butterflies or hummingbirds, or hanging bird-feeders supplying an assortment of foods for your favorite birds. Or it can be as elaborate as your space will allow.
You can create a pond for fish, turtles, frogs, toads and other wetland creatures; surround it with Typha (cat-tails/bulrushes), Irises, Saggitaria (arrowhead), and who could forget water-lilies? This scenery could attract some very interesting and unique wetland wildlife, such as beautiful dragonflies whose larvae are aquatic. Depending on your locale, ducks could even be drawn to your garden pond.
You may also want bee attracting plants, because bees are often a garden's best friend. Plants and flowers which are high in nectar and pollen are great for attracting bees, also make sure to plant them so they are accessible and obvious. It is an especially good idea for a back yard where children play, because bees will be more attracted to those plants rather than small flowers on the ground that children may step on.
If you're particularly interested in butterflies, it's a good idea not to concentrate only on plants that will attract adult butterflies. Instead, choose plants that may also give them a place to hibernate and lay eggs, and plants that caterpillars like to eat. Some of them are not very attractive and generally are not included in most gardens, such as nettles and thistles, dogbane, or milkweed.
Birds may enjoy flowering shrubs, you could choose a species of Viburnum, and with over 150 different kinds it should be easy to choose one that will be a perfect addition to your garden. Viburnums are relatives of honeysuckle, but not often victimized by pets, another reason for their great popularity. The foliage of Viburnums vary greatly from one kind to another, there are evergreen, semi-evergreen, as well as many deciduous varieties which are especially attractive in autumn.
It's also important to have a water source in your garden, an old tub or basin would be fine, otherwise you could install a birdbath or fountain. You could also place a broken clay pot in your garden to house a toad, or a woodpile to welcome all sorts of insects or a frog if it's wet enough. If your woodpile is big enough, you may even find a rabbit living in your garden!
You may want to leave part of your garden wild (or plant wildflowers there), near a fence line or an isolated corner, and do not tend it often. This can also attract a variety of your local bugs, and entice butterflies and birds to linger longer in your garden sanctuary.
If the goal of your garden is to attract and shelter wildlife, you may also be interested in organic gardening and pest control. After all, you would not want to harm all of the creatures you've successfully lured to your garden, would you? There are lots of organic gardening tips and tricks available, especially since so many people are now starting to “wise up" and go green!
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