Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
September, 2001
Regional Report

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A premier shrub for wildscapes, beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) attracts butterflies in spring and birds in autumn when the purple berries ripen.

Growing a Wildscape

As I watch green hummingbirds sip nectar from my nodding abelia blossoms in the side yard and see goldfinches plucking seeds from spent zinnias out back, it dawns on me that I have become a wildscaper. Wildscaping is a term Texas gardeners have coined to describe gardeners who grow plants in their landscape that are useful to birds, butterflies, squirrels, and other animals. It's not only helps wildlife, it creates a garden that's more interesting and entertaining.

Wildscaping Basics

Wildscapes are defined as small habitats that provide the essential ingredients for a variety of wildlife. These essentials include food, water, shelter and space. A bird feeder located in an open area is a good place to start. The next step is to choose plants that provide food and habitat, such as shrubs, trees, and flowers that bear berries, nuts, or nectar-rich flowers. Native plants are particularly valuable because they produce foods that wild critters love.

Plant in the Wildscape

Now is a good time to observe the interest level of wild things for beautiful plants. Some of their favorites in my yard are beautyberry, dogwood, and viburnum. Non-natives also make good seasonal stand-ins. For over a month, I've been watching wildlife harvest my sunflower heads in the back yard. It started with the goldfinches and now the squirrels are finishing off the seeds by harvesting whole sunflower heads and carrying them off into the trees.

Add Water and Rocks

Some source of water is important to a wildscape. It can be a small pocket pond or simply a birdbath. A stacked rock wall or other stone feature is also useful since it provides a home for insects, reptiles, and small mammals such as chipmunks. And minimize the use of pesticides in your garden so all creatures have a chance to live a long, healthy life.

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