Saturday, October 2, 2010

Florida Natives

I've been wrestling lately with the idea of actually planning a garden. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a planner. But with the garden, it's been different. Up to now, I'm just kind of placing plants where I have an empty space, keeping in mind the Florida-Friendly principal of right plant, right place. I'm not sure if I find it daunting, or if it's a matter of letting my creativity come out, but I'm resisting drawing up a formal plan for the backyard. It's kind of fun just seeing what happens with each new installation.

I found this information on the NSiS website and found that I'm basically following these guidelines already. In the next year, I hope to acquire some taller trees to add some privacy and a nesting place for more birds. The one thing I really missed after our move up here to Central Florida, was the birds singing in the backyard. I'm working on providing a safe haven for these wonderous creatures to take up residence. When I go walking in the mornings, one of the things I like best is hearing their beautiful trilling from way up yonder. It would be lovely to have these critters serenading us all day long, not to mention the lessons that could be learned from observing them in their natural habitat. It's a give-and-take relationship, I guess. I want to provide a safe place for them, as they add so much to the quality of our lives. I'm so grateful for my connection to the Natural World.

Wildlife Garden Design
First of all, don't panic! If you have no trees, you're not going to be able to create a forest canopy tomorrow. Look at the big picture and concentrate on your personal slice in it. Consider the design as your ultimate goal and focus on steps toward that goal.

Basic habitat design includes groupings of tall trees, evergreen and deciduous, to provide a forest canopy. Smaller trees planted near them provide an understory. Plant large groupings of shrubs of various heights and ground covers around the smaller trees. A variety of plant heights and densities will meet the shelter requirements of many different species.

Examine the natural areas nearby and use them as models. Also, look closely at your neighborhood and the property that adjoins yours. If your neighbor has trees along the property line, you can incorporate them in your design. If there are hedges through the neighborhood, adding on to them on your property will provide a line of continous cover for wildlife. Continuous cover to a water source is especially important.

Select a variety of native plants to provide food year-round. It's tempting to pick plants that bear fruit for most of the year, but shorter season plants, such as blackberries, may also provide excellent cover.

Arrange plants in beds with irregular, rather than straight, edges. Not only will they look more natural, but they will be more attractive and useful to wildlife.

If your outdoor area is confined to a balcony or patio, container gardening will provide a small habitat. Select blooming plants that are particularly attractive to birds and/or butterflies. Perhaps you have room for a trellis to support a vine or two. A water source will add substantially to your habitat's value.

When exotic plants die, consider replacing them with native plants.