how to create wildlife habitats

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A wildflower garden is a beautiful sight for the eyes. Not only does it share its variety and texture with us, but itís also a perfect draw for wildlife. An established garden can attract a range of insect and bird species that you might not see otherwise. Butterfies are especially drawn to the milkweed plants, while birds dine on the seeds of grasses in fall. Art and Lindaís also creates lovely birdbath features for your wildflower garden.


A landscaping idea that's both attractive and good for the environment:

The National Wildlife Federation asks: Are you ready to join the tens of thousands of property owners around the country who have put out the welcome mat for wildlife in their backyards, schools, workplaces and elsewhere? It's not difficult. Just follow these basic steps!

1. Assess your yard or garden space.
The first thing you need to do is identify the habitat elements that already exist in your yard or garden space. You may already be providing some habitat for wildlife!

2. Provide the four basic elements for survival:

Food: Select plants that provide natural foods such as fruits, seeds, nuts, and nectar throughout the year. Native perennials and annuals provide nectar for both butterflies and hummingbirds. Hummingbirds tend to visit tube-shaped, red flowers such as bee balm, wild columbine, and our native honeysuckles. Butterflies prefer flat or clustered flowers, such as purple coneflower, phlox, and zinnias. Supplemental feeders can provide nectar for hummingbirds in the summer months and a variety of seed (sunflower, niger, safflower, and millet) for other birds throughout the year. Keep in mind that bird feeders should only be used as a supplement to natural food provided by native plants.

Water: Wildlife needs water, for drinking, bathing, and in some cases, breeding. Water can be supplied in a birdbath, a small pond, a recirculating waterfall, or a shallow dish. However you decide to provide water, make sure you do so year round. This can easily be done with a thermostatically controlled bird bath heater to provide water during subfreezing weather when the need for water is critical.

Cover: When choosing your plants, make sure to include at least one good clump of evergreen trees and shrubs to provide year-round protective cover from weather and predators. Good choices are juniper, hollies, and live oaks, as they provide food as well as cover. You should also plant deciduous shrubs to offer effective summer cover for nesting and escape from predators. Rock, log, and mulch piles also offer good cover.

Places to Raise Young: Evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs provide nesting areas for birds. Dead and dying trees (called "snags") provide nesting sites for many species such as owls, flying squirrels, and other cavity-nesters. Rabbits, shrews, mice, snakes, and salamanders lay their eggs or raise young under boughs of plants as well as in the rock, log, or mulch piles. Nest boxes for bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, and purple martins can be placed in your backyard. Aquatic animals, such as frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies, and other insects, deposit their eggs in ponds, vernal pools, and other wetlands. Butterflies require "host" plants that serve as food sources for butterflies during their larval (caterpillar) stage. Butterflies almost invariably lay their eggs on the host plant preferred by the caterpillar, so make sure to include some of the host plants in your habitat.

3. Practice resource conservation in your own backyard. Conserving resources will not only help the wildlife in your own yard but will help improve your community's environment.

4. Certify your backyard. Details on how and why you should become certified in the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. Visit the National Wildlife Federation's Site for more information

Art and Linda's Wildflowers can also certify gardens we plant through the Conservation Foundation, a land trust in Naperville, Illinois, as part of the Conservation @ Home Program. Visit their site at The Conservation Foundation for more information.


Art's Garden
Art's garden in Cicero.

Located dead center in this photo is the top railing of a four foot chain link fence. Can you see it?

In the heart of Cicero, Art has a pair of hawks and about 50 goldfinches as well as many other birds and animals constantly visiting his yard.


This 60-foot diameter semi-circle was overgrown with weedy goldenrod. See how we transformed it into a beautiful habitat for wildlife and people.
Art's Garden

Serna Planted on the border of the forest preserve this large wildflower garden attracts many of the woodland dwellers.

The owner burns his gardens every spring.


Mixed sun/shade backyard in Wilmette. . .not a blade of grass remains.

The rich, full, busy presentation of this garden mirrors accurately the fullness of the owners' lives.


An avid gardener in Riverwoods, Olive loves all the critters that her native garden attracts -- even the deer.

She has birdbaths and bird feeders all over her gardens, especially in her shady back yard. She even has a nice vegetable garden in a sunny spot there. The entire property was naturalized in stages starting in 2004. The Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum, in back of her must be at least twelve feet tall here now in July 2010.


The magnificent view of the Fox River from the second story porch, which completely encircles the residence.

All the living quarters are on the second floor to keep the residents dry even in case of a severe flood.


April is showing off a magnificent stretch of native flowers and grasses. On the right is a large clump of Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum.


This naturalized front yard lies just south of a buckthorn-filled, uninviting nature center in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. This yard is probably home to more wildlife than lives in the area next door. This photo, taken from early September of 2009, displays why the native grasses are so striking in the Fall. The warm weather, clump-forming grasses such as Little Bluestem, Andropogon scoperius, are desirable in a wildlife habitat around the home.






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