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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our Certified Wildlife Habitat

When we moved in here three years ago, we knew that the wooded lots either side would be cleared for homes, which they were this past summer.  My plan for the garden was to create a habitat that would be pleasant for us to enjoy working and relaxing in, which would also provide the necessities for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

It's still a work in progress, but we've made a start and I'm proud to announce that our garden just received it's official recognition as a Certified Wildlife Habitat from the World Wildlife Federation.

In order to be certified, a property has to provide food, water, cover and places for wildlife to raise their young.

Even though, in my opinion, our garden has a long way to go, it does provide these basics already.

We have lots of nectar producing plants for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. In addition, I keep the bird feeders filled and the birdbaths filled with clean, fresh water daily.

The border we put in along the back wall provides cover, with a variety of shrubs. I love sitting on the patio watching birds scratching around in the mulch underneath the wax myrtle, or under the feeders by the holly bushes.

Two years in a row, Mockingbirds have chosen to build their nests in the small live oak trees we have in the front garden.  We've also hosted a Carolina wren on the back patio for two years in a row. 

Our garden and feeders are regularly visited by Northern Cardinals, who I think nest in the hedgerow on the other side of the street behind our house.  To encourage them to nest in our garden, I recently purchased a Cardinal bird house from Duncraft. We need to decide where to put it and get it up and ready for the cardinals to inspect before nesting season rolls around.

As I mentioned before, our wildlife habitat is still a work in progress. There's lots more to be done yet, but our neighbors don't need to worry that we'll be turning our garden into a jungle. We'll keep it neighbor-friendly too.  

The National Wildlife Federation have lots of tips for creating a beautiful wildlife garden:

Neighbor Friendly Wildlife Gardening -- how to keep your neighbors AND the wildlife happy :-) 

Cut Your Lawn in Half -- we'll be using some of the tips in this article and creating some island beds which will give me more room to plant colorful flowers etc., while at the same time getting rid of the vast sea of lawn which currently surrounds our house.

So, with this certification, and also the Monarch Waystation certification that I mentioned last week, my dream of having a wildlife habitat is coming true.  All we have to do now is continue what we have started!  

(Poor Eric is having nightmares of having to haul tons of rock home from the store to create the island bed for the butterfly garden!) 

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Benefits of Gardening

Janie at Loch Ness Water Gardens invited me to post this intriguing infographic on my blog this week.

I have always known that gardening and being out in nature was good for my soul. Now here's proof that it's good for the body too, not to mention the benefits to the enironment.

If you click on the graphic below, you can see it full size, and read the text. (You may have to click a couple of times, depending on how Blogger is feeling today)

Source by Loch Ness Water Gardens

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall Colors in the Garden

The Houston area typically doesn't get the spectacular displays of fall color that New England is famous for.

Many of our trees stay green year round and those that do lose their leaves seem to just drop them without fanfare. It seems to me that one of the most colorful "fall color" trees we see at this time of year is the invasive chinese tallow tree.

Other than the Chinese Tallow, much of the "fall color" we're seeing is actually the rusty brown of dead trees that succumbed to the drought and/or pine bark beetle damage. So sad - acres and acres of dead trees.

On a more cheerful note, last weekend I was able to capture some photos of  fall colors in our garden, seen in both the flora and the fauna.

First is the front border, which is absolutely overflowing with tropical milkweed.  Incidentally, last week I applied to have our property certified as a Monarch Waystation.  I'm excited to make this commitment to providing habitat for migrating monarch butterflies and can't wait for the plaque to arrive.

Here's a Monarch, enjoying our hospitality :-)

And here's our insurance that we'll have plenty of tropical milkweed for next year's generation of Monarch butterflies.

Monarch butterflies aren't the only "fall color" in our garden at this time of year.  The Gulf Fritillaries are quite abundant right now, seemingly unfazed by the summer drought.

This one is enjoying the Buddleia in the back garden.

This one is enjoying the lantana in the front garden.

I was very happy to see this Buckeye too, dressed in his own fall colors, with the striking eye pattern on his wings. 

Last year Buckeyes were very common in the garden, but this is the first I have seen this year. As I get out in the garden this weekend, I hope I see more of them.

In addition to having our garden certified as a Monarch Waystation, it also became a Certified Wildlife Habitat, something I'll tell you more about in a future blog post.

Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Gardening!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.