If you've been reading my blog for even the smallest amount of time, you know I like to garden.
I love flowers -- and I like creating peaceful, beautiful spaces in my yard. My gardening, though, is about more than just nice flowers! I like . . . the ALL of gardening. The plants. The dirt. The compost.
The bugs and the worms and the slugs. The birds and the bees and even the chipmunks!
I collect rainwater. I compost. I feed the birds and watch them splash around and drink from the bird bath when its hot. I like finding toads, and I don't even mind the occasional garter snake. I put up with weeds and black spot and pest bugs -- because I won't use chemicals in my garden.
So, yeah. It's more than just flowers. It's also the wildlife, the environment; it's about creating a habitat!
So this year, I decided to "certify" my garden as a Wildlife Habitat.
It's really pretty easy! You just need to show that your habitat provides the four basic elements needed for wildlife to thrive: Food (native plants, seeds, berries, etc); Water (birdbath, pond, water feature, etc.); Cover (thicket, birdhouse, rocks, etc.); and Places to Raise Young (heavy shrubs, nesting boxes, pond, etc.).
There are no space requirements -- your habitat can be tiny. . . or huge. You just need to be able to attract wildlife by providing the four elements. The National Wildlife Federation currently has a campaign going. They are trying to certify 150,000 wildlife habitats this year (there are about 140,000 right now). Maybe you'd like to certify your habitat! (Click here for more information.) It's easy. It's free (although you do have to buy your own sign). And it's good for the wild things out there, too.
Each year, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the US and Canada to overwinter in the warmth of Mexico. It's getting tougher for the monarchs , though, because they are threatened by habitat loss in North America. Monarchs, you see, have only one food source: milkweed plants! As the plants disappear, the monarchs disappear.
Monarch Waystations provide milkweed plants -- to help insure future generations of monarchs.
My butterfly garden features butterfly weed, common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and Joe Pye weed (all milkweed variants) -- along with other butterfly-friendly plants. The butterflies (and the bees) have been entertaining me all summer!
I've had black swallowtails. . .
and tiger swallowtails. . .
and red admirals. . .
and plenty of monarchs! (Sadly, no photos of monarchs this year. Seems I never have my camera AND the monarchs together at the same time.)
I like gardening for lots of reasons -- color, design, beauty, peacefulness, stewardship. But mostly, I like it because. . . that's where the wild things are!
* I have taken much good-natured ribbing all summer about my "Monarch Waystation" from Tom and Brian. No end of jokes about the monarchs calling ahead for "reservations." While they might think I'm silly (nerdy, actually), they are really supportive and get nearly (emphasis on nearly) as excited as I do when the butterflies come for a call.