Do you plan for wildlife in your garden?

lavender_lass(4b)October 25, 2010

First of all, I want to say, if you're the kind of person, who lives in a difficult climate, grows plants that aren't really best in your zone...and spray your gardens...I'm not here to judge anyone. I know this topic sometimes gets controversial, so I don't want to start any arguments :)

This is for those of us, who are fortunate enough to live in areas where nature seems to work with us (most of the time) and not against us. Of course, if you have close neighbors, there's only so much you can control in your own garden.

That being said, who plans for wildlife in their gardens? Do you plant anything to bring in certain insects, birds or animals? Do you plan your garden areas with a space especially for birds to nest or butterflies to feed? I'd love to know what you do in your gardens and if you have a picture you'd like to share...that's wonderful!

I concentrate on planting things specifically for bumblebees and butterflies. I also have a few frogs that migrate up from the creek and lots of birds...although most of them nest down by the water. With all my barn kitties, who can blame them? LOL However, I do plant lots of perennials and shrubs that will provide the birds with food in the fall and winter, so those that don't leave will have a little extra treat.

And of course, there's my little deer buddies...what do you do with them? They're so cute and so far, not too destructive, so I'm still trying to outsmart them (although it's a battle of the wits I don't always seem to be winning) :)

It's so much fun to go out in the garden...and not only see the flowers and other plants, but to enjoy all the wildlife out in the garden. How about you?

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aimeekitty(9-10, SW 18)

I do specifically like to choose plants that are friendly to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

I would like to add in a small shrub with berries though for more general bird-friendly-ness,...

and eventually, when I find the perfect item, I'd like to have one of those big japanese stone urns for some water.

Right now the hummingbirds are all over my yard. It's hilarious, and I love them.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 3:20PM
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Yes I do. Birds, bees, butterflies and this is the latest addition - a chipmunk.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 3:53PM
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Our gardens are for wildlife - herbs are grown primarily for the different butterfly caterpillars - seeds heads are left on zinnias, coneflowers, ect for the birds to feed on, pond is for the frogs, dragon flies, and any other critter that may come along. I am not that fond of snakes but know they are a part of nature and tolerate them. We have berry producing bushes and leave dead trees standing for birds until they actually become a hazard. We try very hard to garden with nature first and foremost in mind - beauty is secondary. We need to send the info in to get certified for wildlife Habitat and also Monarch Habitat. This year was the first time we actually had monarch cryslists and watched them hatch. We have had swallowtails hatch for several years now ......


    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 3:57PM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

We feed the birds year round so I try to stay as organic as I possibly can. I should have sprayed for black spot on the roses this year but didn't, needless to say my roses looked dreadful. If I have the same problem next year I'll try the baking soda horticultural oil remedy.

We had a few more honey bees in the garden than past years and they came in numbers to the michaelmas daisies when they were in bloom. We didn't see any butterflies at all this year but with the amount of paper wasps around here I'm not surprised. Thank goodness they aren't aggressive like those nasty yellow jackets which by the way I didn't see many of this year, that's a plus :).

In the last couple of years we've had the Anna's hummingbirds wintering in our garden so we make sure we have fresh sugar water always available. Right now our garden with the trees, shrubs and numerous vines we have it looks and sounds like a bird sanctuary. A steller's jay almost collided with DH when he went out the back door yesterday, this side of our house seems to be a flight path all the birds use to get from our back garden to the park across the street.
Soon it will be time to empty the bird baths for the winter but the birds still have the spillways in the two pools to drink from and bath in, we also have a metal plant pole with 6 arms in our little courtyard where I hang some fuchsia baskets, if it snows we attach a big umbrella to the top of it and hang bird feeders from it. This is right outside our diningroom window so we have a good view of the birds that visit it. In the garden I leave all seed heads on for the birds so that means not much cleanup until spring :).


    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 6:16PM
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After installing our koi pond I read in a ponding magazine how easy it is to add the rest of the components needed to certify one's yard with the National Wildlife Federation as a Backyard Habitat. Well, I already had the rest of the components (food, shelter, nesting places and sustainable gardening practices, in addition to water) so got certified and posted the sign out front - Great for educational purposes as well as meeting neighbors out for a walk.

My gardens are not exclusively native plants, but there are a lot of natives mixed in, and I do see a lot of birds, butterflies, bees and other beneficials taking advantage of what we have to offer on our little 50'x150' lot.

We are lucky in our area that we don't have deer problems ... yet.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 6:55PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

LL, watch those deer. They start out being such gracious guests, nibbling a little here and there, and before you know it they become greedy little buggers eating everything in sight! LOL! I have tried various and sundry deer repellents that work to a certain extent. I just started using Plant-Skydd this year and it has worked like a charm. I haven't had ANY deer nibbling on anything. It's basically a blood product and deer really don't like that.

I really enjoy watching the whole circle of life unfold in my yard. I'll come across a snake laying across the path with a big bulge in his belly, and I'm happy another vole is taken care of. I usually spare the frogs if the snakes catch them, and help them get away. I still can't figure out how a little garter snake thinks he can actually eat a 6" frog! I'm sure if they worked at it they could, but I always take pity on the frog. There are enough voles to keep the snakes happy after all.

We were sitting in the backyard yesterday and a red tailed hawk flew in and perched not far from us. He tucked in his foot and started to nap. It was so great to be so close to it and see how comfortable he is in our yard. The mourning doves are tasty for him too. It's always a little sad when I see feathers in the yard, but then I know a hawk is well fed.

We are overrun with chipmunks and just can't seem to get them under control. That bothers me a bit since they carry ticks that harbor lyme disease. I thought I only had to worry about deer in that category. I wish the snakes, hawks, owls and coyotes would get that population under control.

We had a bobcat wander through the backyard once. He killed a red squirrel and sat on a nice, warm rock (it was late-winter/early-spring) while he ate his meal. Then he cleaned himself and took a snooze. Great fun to watch!

All sorts of insects inhabit our yard and we have also seen an influx of honeybees this year after years of them being nearly absent. Now I wish the monarchs would come back. Our yard used to be a rest area during their migration but in the past years we've only had a few.

The birds are unbelievable, and I also leave all the seedheads up through the winter so not much fall cleanup for me. We feed the birds year round. The turkeys are always scratching around in the yard although they don't really trash the gardens which is good. Such respectful guests!

I have planted many trees and shrubs for both food and shelter for the birds and animals and it is nice to see them enjoy the yard so much. We have had birdbaths out and only this fall have the birds finally started using them. I actually had a little plant saucer on wheels on the deck with no pot on it. I had it turned upside down, and in the middle there was a little indent filled with a tiny bit of water. A chickadee was trying to take a bath in it! I turned the saucer over and filled it with water. I would have never thought of it if I hadn't seen the bird. Now we have all sorts of birds, big and small coming up on the deck for a drink or bath, and the gray and red squirrels and chipmunks enjoy the water too.

Our yard would not be the same without all of the wildlife we have coming through (although I could do without coyotes waking me up at 3am!). Yes, we definitely plan for wildlife. Through our gardens we provide supplemental food, water and shelter and then we can watch the circle of life unfold before our eyes. It's amazing to watch.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 8:40PM
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I didn't start out planning for wildlife and am very happily surprised at what I get in our very dense urban area. The flowers bring in the bees and butterflies, they especially like the Turks Cap. We have blue jays, cardinals, and the mockingbirds love to give the cat grief in the summer, but what I love best are the doves - they hide in the forage left during the winter, stay year round. And rabbits, it's amazing how they manage, but they do.

I work in a large corporate campus-like area; our company has about 5 acres out back with 6 or 7 longhorn cattle (agricultural tax break), plus I guess it impresses the customers from the east coast and Europe. One got out last year, wandered down the frontage road of the parkway and ended up in the Kroger parking lot. We also see skunks and some of the hugest spiders I've ever seen. Right outside my office is a large pond with a fountain; every year huge Canadian Geese come in to nest and have their babies. This is all lovely but after them incessantly pecking on the window, pooping on the window sill, and chasing us in the parking lot, we've had enough of them and are so ready for them to pack the kids up and leave. Also an egret lives there; so it's amazing how wildlife manages in spite of our encroaching ways.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 8:55PM
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aimeekitty(9-10, SW 18)

I'm just really grateful that the plants that I like are mostly low-water usage (important in my area), some native, and almost all of them hummingbirds and/or bees like. It's like, wow, catmint is really pretty, and it doesn't die in my yard and I don't have to water it that much... and bees love it! I love penstemon, agapanthus and guara,... and the hummingbirds love those, too. I know if I lived in another climate, perhaps it would be harder.

I haven't had to spray my roses yet, because of our climate, too. so, that's lucky. I occasionally get a few aphids, but I don't use pesticides for it, I use that neem stuff or just pinch them off. I can't say what I would do if I lived in a different climate, but it's nice to be able to easily do.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 10:19PM
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Lilyfinch z7 mid tn

I do plan for wildlife! I love having as much bumbling and fluttering around as i can, so i plant lots of things to attract bees butterflies and birds. I dont have a deer problem , my only enemy is the japanese bettle and blackspot. I try to live with it or use remedies that are safe as i possibly can but do the job. I really love all the animals that visit, even the mouse that ive seen. He was cute!
I am however, petrified of snakes, If i saw one in my garden i might not return, ever! i know they could be there, but i dont ever want to see one. I am a barefoot gardener and im usually not too careful, id surely have a heart attack! belhhh!! just got the heebie jeebies thinking of it.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 10:29PM
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I have the Texas wildlife certification after meeting certain criteria.

It was easy to meet the requirements, but some people think that my required brushpile is ugly even after I explain its benefit to wildlife.

After the racoons stole all my pears I had some second thoughts about some wildlife.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 11:40PM
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Wildlife are one of the advantages for me of living in a rural area. We feed and water the birds and, apparently, plant expensive perennials and shrubs for the deer to nibble on. We also tolerate the occasional bear that wonders thru and prefers to eat my compost altho I'm foiling him by burying it and, since he dug into it probably to eat the earthworms, I'm now covering it with grass clippings. I love watching and taking pics of the wildlife here so there's a price to pay for that.

Thyme2dig, that must have been amazing to see a bobcat! We have them here, as well as cougar, but don't see them, only their tracks in the snow.

If a plant is one that will draw more beneficial insects or birds in I am happy but I don't deliberately seek out those plants. This year I planted a Liatris spicata 'Kobold' which is supposed to attract butterflies altho I'd have bot it anyhow for it's other characteristics. I have many plants that attract bees (Walker's Low catmint, delphinium, and Lamb's Ears are some). We have a lot of birds visiting and since I try to be organic depend on them to eat the harmful insects. Because of our cold climate we don't have as many insects as in warmer climates altho I had aphids on some of my new roses this year and used insecticidal soap. I found it surprising that only one variety of rose had aphids and the others didn't so if those don't make it thru the winter I won't be overly upset.

I don't deadhead everything altho it seems most birds prefer black oil sunflower seeds over most flower seeds on plants. I occasionally don't fill the feeder and even tho there are lots of seeds on plants there are many fewer birds. I've had difficulty growing sunflowers as the chipmunks dug up the seeds before they sprouted. I planted a second time but they then ate most of the small plants!

One wild animal I could happily live without are the marmots who decimated my potted hens and chicks. I actually hope the bear enjoys them since he has to eat something.

We also have a lot of toads and I have to be careful where I step at night. Have only ever seen one garter snake in decades here, not sure why.

After finding a tick (likely from the deer) on my dog who is only out in her fenced yard I strung several rows of heavy twine with flags scented with garlic essential oil. Looks bizarre but I had to do something. I heard noises last night which indicated a deer had jumped the fence and tangled in the twine so I know they've 'found' it. Whether they stay out permanently or not is to be seen. They like the roses altho hadn't done much damage so if it hadn't been for the tick I'd have let them have the odd nibble.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 1:33PM
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The deer get the wild fox grapes when they are ripe. I don't see them the rest of the year. The rabbits are a problem since they eat things right down to the ground but they don't like the cat so we are ok there for the moment. Although shadow just got beaten up by an old tom and now won't leave the deck. We'll see if the rabbits and mice notice. I'm growing mint around the foundation to keep the mice away from the house although they love the wood pile. Butterflies and bees love the zinnia and the ants love the peonies lol. The bees are getting their own hotel as soon as I get a hold of a 2x4 that hasn't been treated. I also plan to add a bat house as soon as I get a circular saw. My jigsaw just isn't the right tool for doing a lot of long straight cuts.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 4:52PM
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thinman(Z5 MI)

Yes, I do plan for wildlife in my garden, especially deer. I plan to keep them out. :-) An electric fence has been doing a good job of discouraging the deer this year. I have it on a timer so it is on from dusk to dawn. That way it doesn't zap the grandkids - or me, so far.

I have a brush pile too, like Soxxxx, where the rabbits can hide, yet I have no real rabbit problems in my gardens. I think the coyotes are keeping them in check, and the voles too, I hope, which is the least those varmints can do, since they ate our cats.

I've always enjoyed wildlife, but being a gardener sometimes makes me view them as competition rather than little darlings.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 5:58PM
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Yes,I plan for wildlife, especially birds and butterflies. Many of the flowers and shrubs I planted with the butterflies in mind are especially enticing to the bees, especially the smaller bumblebees. I love to sit in my garden and enjoy the butterflies especially. They are still passing through on their migration and I have truly enjoyed them. I had bluebirds, mockingbirds and brown thrashers nesting in the yard this year. (There was another nest that I think had wrens in it, but I'm not sure.)

Unfortunately, I have also attracted voles. There are many holes that have been dug in my yard by a dog or dogs digging for the voles, and the voles have now invaded my flower beds. I have tried the fox and wildcat urine method of discouraging them, and it has not worked so far. Stay tuned...I haven't spent all these hours and all of this money for this rapidly increasing tribe of pine voles to move in and destroy. Sorry. I don't want this wildlife.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 7:48PM
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I don't know if it will work for you, but our barn kitties really do get rid of everything, except the deer...and the coyotes, but the horses keep them away. Coyotes don't like horses, at least not mine, so they rarely come into the pasture. They live behind the creek and over the hill, so the barn kitties are safer, if they stay on our side of the creek.

Tk- You have a kitty named Shadow? So does my mom.

Wow, so many great comments and stories. I'm loving this thread. I think it's one of my favorites, so far. Thank you all for sharing and I'm so glad that so many of us do encourage wildlife in our gardens :)

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 8:01PM
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lois(PA Zone 6)

2 Red Jade ornamental crabapples for the bluebirds; coral honeysuckle, cardinal flower, bee balm, maltese cross and penstemon for the hummingbirds;lavender and calamint for the bees (although they visit all the flowers); roses for the gardener, and tomatoes for the gardener's DH, who can both be described as wildlife when things don't go their way, LOL.

Unfortunately, we had some unplanned wildlife visit last night. Something got into the trash we put out and I had a mess to clean up. During the summer, we also had a skunk come by almost every night quite close to the open windows. I guess it's possible the garbage destructator and skunk could be one and the same.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 8:23PM
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I forgot to add that I had visiting frogs, and reptiles this year. That was really cool. They didn't stay long though. I definitely plan on making a hollow on one of my larger rocks for a butterfly water station. I just have to decide on which rock.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 7:57AM
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lily51(OH 5)

We have a variety of birds, favorites being eastern bluebird and goldfinch, and hummers. Also many kinds and numbers of butterflies, which enchant the grandchildren.
One day many monarchs were moving through, which were mesmerizing to the kids and to me.

Always happy to see honey bees and other pollinators.
Also encourage earthworms and toads. In fact, right now there is the largest toad you can imagine in the back garden. It's fun to watch it burrow down into the ground with its back feet and just blend in with everything.
No problems with deer, even though we live in the country where they are abundant.
One mama cat did catch a full grown rabbit for her kittens not too long ago, which is a feat, as the rabbit was bigger than her, and we just don't see rabbits near the house.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 10:44PM
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Well I plan to garden for wildlife. Here is a few things I am going to grow this winter for my butterflies and birds.

Callicarpa American Beautyberry for my butterflies and birds for the winter time.

Lupinus Perennis larvae food for the karner blue butterfly.

Passiflora incarnata, larvae food for the zebra longwing and Gulf Fritillary.

Ruta Graveolens, several Asclepias, several Fennels, Anethum Graveolens, for host food for my monarchs and swallowtails.

Though these are deer attractants, which I do not have deer in my yard but I plan to eat these myself are the Ribes aureum, Vaccinium Deliciosum, Vaccinium myrtillus and the fraises des bois.

I didn't even touch the humming bird list that I am planning but just one quick one is the monarda.

I can't wait to see it all in action!!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 9:52AM
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pfmastin(8 N. Carolina)

As others have written, I have planned my garden for wildlife, too. One of the fun things I did was to have a "bird beach" at one end of my water garden. It's shallow enough with the bottom covered with rocks that they can drink and bathe easily.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 8:03PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

I encourage all types of wildlife as well. I plant flowers for the birds, butterflies, caterpillars and bees. I have a wren that nests in a wren house at the back of the yard. I love sitting on the porch and hearing his song. This year I had a hummer sit in a canna leaf and wait for the sprinkler to return when he would flap his wings. Why didn't I think to get that on video?????We have bird feeders and a bird bath outside the dinning room window in the butterfly garden. The most unusual bird was a pileated woodpecker, but I understand they do live in the wetland at the end of the block. I planted a hedge of arborvitea and the birds love to hide in there.

I have a saucer of water on the ground through the summer for the little critters and my daughter bought me an electric birdbath that sits on the ground. I can't wait to see what comes to take a drink in the dead of winter.

At night the tree frogs come out. I have a flower pot upside down in the garden with a notch broken out - a makeshift toad house - but have never seen a toad actually in the house, just in the vegetable gardens.

The raccoons visit the bird feeders, but can't climb up to them and have to be content with what has fallen to the ground. My son has surprised the deer in the backyard late at night, but I have never seen them and no damage.

We do have fox and possibly coyote in the wetland, but I have never seen them either and I don't do anything to encourage them!!!

I keep a shrub pile but have only noticed the birds that eat insects there. I'm not really interested in seeing any snakes, but if they want to live in the brush pile and stay there it is fine with me.

Countrycarolyn, do you have the karner blue in your area? We have them at the National Dune State Park about 5 miles from me. I've planted some blue lupine for them, but since they do not travel very far and I don't have too many plants, I probably will never see one.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 10:59PM
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backyardgrown(7b-8 NW MS)

I've added quite a few native plants to my property, and plants and trees that are larval/nectar food for butterflies. I must have done a good job, because I see tons of birds, butteflies, bees, insects and mammals. I even have a sweat bee colony nesting in the ground in one part of my yard.

I've been gathering acorns and already have sawtooth oaks in my yard. I've gathered red, willow, white and post oak acorns. I've seriously considered starting an oak tree nursery because I have a nearly unlimited supply of seeds!

Some of the wildlife I could do without. Rabbits, for instance. There's plenty for them to eat in the field behind the house, but apparently the prefer my perennials.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2010 at 10:31AM
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Apparently I'm in good company with my butterfly bed that's stuffed with all their favorites and my oversize collection of bird feeders in the crabapple tree. I designed the butterfly bed specifically to attract them and so far am happy with the end result. There's still lots of space to fill in but it's getting there gradually.

My folks planted with wildlife in mind before me so there are dogwoods, mock orange, lilacs & others to attract birds. There's a 40 ft. x 30 ft. area of white hydrangea growing on the southern boundary the birds use as a sanctuary. They stop off in the lilac bush on their way to/from the birdfeeders & birdbath. I've counted as many as 25 junkos in the mock orange during snowstorms, all puffed out like little gray tennis balls. Every year wrens nest in each of the three birdhouses hanging in the crabapple tree.

One morning this summer I noticed my motion sensor light had come on. When I peaked through the curtains out the front window, there was a red fox stretching as tall as he could trying to raise his chin over the edge to get a drink from the birdbath. I felt so guilty, I washed out a big bowl & set it on the ground beside the birdbath for him. I kept it filled the rest of the season. No rain fell here from June-October so the critters were thirsty along with all my plants.

The foxes took over a former rabbit & woodchuck burrow, made it bigger & raised 3 pups down behind my 80 ft. row of blueberry bushes. Yes, they ate all the blueberries this year. Like I said, there was a really bad drought here in southern New England. I took a few pictures through the window screen when they came out to play in the early mornings:

A few lucky shots of robins enjoying the ancient plastic birdbath under the crabapple tree:

I think the Cooper's hawks that nest down in the woods at the back help keep the rodent & bunny populations under control but the chipmunks can be a problem. Esme the snake makes her rounds of the flowerbeds and takes care of whatever varmints use the hosta leaves to hide under from the hawks.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 7:10AM
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Absolutely great pics, thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 9:42AM
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newbiehavinfun(7a - Southern NJ)

I have a somewhat strange situation because I live in a small city with a rural donut around it, and also because I have a larger parcel of land (1.5 acres) than most in the city. We have a resident woodchuck (who lives in the woodpile, ironically), ranging skunks that the dogs have thankfully learned to avoid, chipmunks living in the barn, and two redtail hawks nesting in a huge conifer. No snakes so far! I don't do much to encourage them, they're just happy to find a patch of green, I think. I try to encourage butterflies and bees with agastache, milkweed and echinacea. Now that I'm expanding into the sunny backyard, I'll be able to plant even more!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 11:34AM
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Gardenweed- Wonderful pictures! The foxes are so cute (we don't have those around here) and the robins in the birdbath are adorable. The first one reminds me of two little kids in a bathtub :)

Esme the snake...great name!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 1:21PM
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Like many here, I try to attract bees and butterflies, and avoid chemicals, but it isn't the main goal. I'm also trying to figure out how much I need to deal with the deer - the main thing they really like is my swiss chard! Maybe I need to plant onions or garlic near it next year? We also have a ton of squirrels. I'd been nervous about planting tulips, but I decided to try it this year, but interplant them with alliums. We'll see how that works!

I'm ok with sharing some of my harvest with the animals - I just want some left for us!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 2:36PM
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I had forgot I even posted on this thread, how rude of me. LOL

Bev, if I have ever seen a blue karner I wouldn't know. With that said I LOVE LOVE LOVE saving seeds. So my actual thought is grow that lupine (crossing my fingers it will grow) and give out the seeds heavily and freely especially to the ones up north. If I am not mistaken they are in my area and also in surrounding states, I figure it is unlikely I will ever see one in my gardens. Though between the birds eating the seeds and distributing them and me saving them for years to come, I can only cross my fingers.

Actually I had been wanting other lupines then when I found out about the karner then I started thinking I may put the others on hold for several years to let me get my collection up pretty good. Am I thinking to much in advance??

Gardenweed, I have only seen 2 red foxes EVER!! For you to get pictures is AWESOME. I think they are endangered here!! I may be wrong about that, but I think they are.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 10:41AM
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