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Back to News Updates – January 25, 2017

Updates

Gardening for wildlife

Your Yard is Their Home – Landscape with Wildlife in Mind

winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is attractive in the winter garden and provides food for songbirds and other winter wildlife.

When it comes to feeding wildlife, native plants are the home gardener’s best bet. In winter, wildlife travels far and wide in search of food which increases the chance for homeowners to spot animal activity in their yards.

“Watching winter wildlife in your backyard has everything to do with whether you’re providing food,” said Derek Stoner of the Delaware Nature Society in an interview to Mt. Cuba Center for the Wilmington News Journal. “If you have a good diversity of native plants in your landscape,” he said, “you’re more likely to attract a diversity of wildlife and be a sanctuary for native wildlife.”

white false indigo (Baptisia alba) in the Meadow

Resist the urge to cut back perennials in the fall – leaving seedheads and stalks up will provide habitat for winter wildlife. (Baptisia alba)

Creating an oasis for winter wildlife is simple: Plant native species that bear lots of fruits, like winterberry and juniper, and keep their seed heads through the winter, like goldenrod and asters. These plants are a double-whammy for the home gardener: they look beautiful and provide ecological value throughout the year. When it comes to winter gardening with wildlife in mind, less is more – less work for you, and more habitat and food for wildlife. By leaving the seed heads of grasses and flowers standing, the garden can provide winter interest and food for wildlife until spring.

The garden goes to work every day of the year, providing food and shelter for insects and animals, but that doesn’t mean that the gardener has to.

Mohr's rosinweed (Silphium mohrii) in the Meadow

Mohr’s rosinweed (Silphium mohrii) seedheads in the Meadow provide winter forage for birds. Leaving seedheads on perennials provides essential forage and thermal cover for winter wildlife.

“The messier you can keep things, the better,” said George Schurter, Mt. Cuba Center’s Natural Lands Steward. “We recommend you leave as much as possible standing until the end of March or beginning of April.”

Consider adding some evergreens as foundation plantings that feed songbirds and protect them from harsh wind and freezing temperatures. “I can’t overemphasize the importance of evergreens for wildlife,” said Schurter. “They provide shelter for all kinds of animals, and food in the cold, dark days of January and February. Juniper and pine are great examples of evergreens to plant for wildlife.”

With a native plant garden, winter is a time for sitting back and watching wildlife from the comfort of the home.

Juniperus virginiana in the natural lands

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) in Mt. Cuba Center’s natural lands provide winter forage for native songbirds.

A longer version of this article appeared in the Delaware News Journal on January 27, 2016. Read it here.