The Enjoyment of a Wildlife Garden

Carolyn Black
Adams County Master Gardener

A wildlife garden can be described as an environment that is attractive to various forms of wildlife such as birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and mammals. Wildlife gardens may contain a range of habitats, including a pond to attract frogs, dragonflies, and birds; nest boxes for birds, log piles to provide shelter for insects, lizards, and worms; plants that attract beneficial insects; and a diverse supply of food (year round) to attract and keep wildlife in the garden.

There are four requirements to provide a habitat for wildlife, and these needs can easily be supplied when you begin to create your own wildlife garden. The four essentials are food, water, protection, and a place to raise a family.

Plant perennials and annuals that offer nectar, seeds, and fruits to provide nourishment for the wildlife in your garden. Shrubs that produce fruits and berries can be selected to provide food sources for wildlife.

A pond, water garden, or bird bath filled with fresh water provides a water source. Water is an essential component for any size and variety of garden.

Native plantings are best for the wildlife and the habitat. Some of the native species that we have are Eastern Hemlock (tsuga canadensis); Red Oak (quercus coccinea); Black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia hirta); Coneflower (rudbeckia laciniata); Pagoda Dogwood (cornus alternifolia); Lanceleaf Coreopsis (coreopsis lanceolata); Bluebell Bellfower(campanula rotundifolia); and Yarrow (achilea millefolium).

Trees provide the backbone of your wildlife habitat. Trees add protection, a place to raise a family, and provide roosting places along migratory routes. Low growing plants and ground covers are critical. They play an important role for ground-hunting creatures and provide vital shelter and protection for fledging birds and other wildlife escaping predation.

We have attracted a wide variety of birds to our gardens, along with frogs, dragon flies, butterflies, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and an occasional hawk.

It is not hard to create a wildlife sanctuary even if you do not live in a wooded and secluded area. We live in the outskirts of a borough in Adams County, and in the summer of 2012 we had the honor and privilege of attracting a Bobwhite Quail to our garden sanctuary. The Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus) is a ground-dwelling bird. "Bob", as we affectionately called him, enjoyed eating the sunflower seeds that fell on the ground from our bird feeders. He also delighted in the water that flowed from our stream into the water garden. At night, we would hear his whistling "bobwhite" call for hours. It was soothing as we sat on the swing in the evening and listened to his melodious song. Bob stayed on our property for a few weeks and then traveled elsewhere. We hope that he comes back this summer for a visit. We will graciously welcome him and provide for his needs as our guest of honor in our garden.

Read other articles on ecological gardening & native plants

Read other articles by Carolyn Black