Lately urban wildlife gardens have been on my mind a lot. Maybe its because of a book I read recently called Crow Planet, by author Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Ms. Haupt has a lot to say about the nature of wildness, that many of us are locked up in our heads believing that nature is out there, somewhere specifically separate from ourselves and the day to day. Urban wildlife gardens are an easy way to remember that nature lives in the city with us.
But when we become noticers of nature from moment to moment no matter where we are, and become intimately acquainted with the nuances of the ecosystem cards weve been dealt, a transformative process can occur.
One of my garden design clients crystallizes this concept for me. Rachel owns, operates and lives next door to the best pizza place downtown in Glens Falls, NY. Her vision for her urban wildlife garden is a beautiful and quiet oasis to escape a) the pizza shop and b) the urban setting.
We added many native plants to increase the garden’s wildlife carrying capacity and decrease time Rachel has to spend on maintenance. We co-created a living fence as a part of the urban wildlife garden for privacy, designed using native prairie species tall enough to block the view into her property from the street.
Eupatorium maculata, Joe Pye Weed just about to bloom. I’ve seen an influx in species and numbers of pollinating creatures in my visits to the urban wildlife garden recently. Butterflies and birds too. There was even a Cedar Waxwing this morning.
If the other pizza places in town used homegrown, fresh, organic Oregano in their sauces, maybe they’d give Rachel a little competition. Butterflies and other pollinators love flowering herbs like Oregano, Dill, Parsley, Cilantro and Fennel as well.
Heliopsis helianthoides, Ox-Eye Sunflower makes a cheerful gatekeeper.
The hops quietly growing on the trellis in the background can be used as a butterfly host plant. Many varied nectar flowers like this Mexican Blanket flower are scattered around. Some Asclepias tuberosa is growing elsewhere.
By creating this urban wildlife garden, a light is really just being shed on what species or beings already exist in this fragmented ecosystem. These creatures now have that much more safe space to procreate, feed and hide. The East End Pizza Eatery in Glens Falls, NY does stand out in our community as being aesthically pleasing, naturally beautiful, colorful and full of life motion.
For this urban wildlife garden habitat oasis model, I am delighted and grateful. But it is good for me to remember that all of the wildlife species that feel comfortable roosting and nesting around the property (summer of 2012 this included a small den of baby skunks) were already close enough geographically to find what we built.
To me that means that a) I should be attentive in my city because there’s life motion everywhere and b) though not with Rachel’s exact style and flair, this experiment can be replicated in other, future urban wildlife gardens.