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T Landscaping a Small Yard For Wildlife For more nature habitat information Visit these helpful websites: A Plant's Home A Bird's Home A Homesteader's Home

rying to attack the whole project at once is a sure way to become discouraged and make expensive mistakes. Take some time to study your property, think about what wildlife you want to attract, and what personal interests you want to nurture. Find out where your property lies on the USDA Hardiness Zone maps printed in most plant catalogues, or available through your county Cooperative Extension Service office. What kind of soil do you have, how much sun reaches your yard, what amount of rain falls in your area, and what structures are alreaady in place. Native Is Best A word about “native" plants. Wildlife evolved with plants through the centuries, so a lot of native vegetation is uniquely suited to meet the needs of specific wildlife. In addition, native plants tend to thrive in their natural habitat, be less prone to disease, and less in need of chemical treatments. WindStar Wildlife Institute emphasizes the merits of native plants, but we realize that there are sometimes other considerations. Although nurseries are beginning to carry more native plants, they can be hard to locate for purchase.

Perhaps you’ve purchased a home which enjoys only a traditional mowed lawn and clipped evergreens. It looks nice enough, but you’re interested in gardening, feeding the birds, and making your yard a welcome spot for a variety of wildlife. Where do you start.

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Those that flower may not be as “flashy" as some of the developed cultivars. They may not bloom for as long a time, or may have an unstructured growth habit. Some “exotics" (plants which originated in other parts of the world) are A Plant's Home

bound to appeal to you, and many will also appeal to wildlife.

color, or the consistency of evergreens.

For example, birds love the berries of Japanese holly, and butterflies can’t resist the nectar of the Oriental butterfly bush. Just be careful not to introduce exotic plants which are invasive and have a tendency to crowd out the natives.

In our 1/4-acre plan, the lower right corner shows a windbreak of Colorado blue spruce. Used properly, an evergreen windbreak can fulfill many functions. It will screen off an undesirable view and/or give you privacy throughout the year.

1/4 Acre Plan This brochure contains a wildlife-friendly, landscape design for a 1/4-acre yard. It will give you a starting point, but you are encouraged to adapt it to your own vision. As we go through the various elements of the plan, we’ll point out why each is important, and consider alternatives that can fill the same purpose. We have chosen primarily native plants. A trip to your local library or plant nursery will provide many more suggestions.

Spruce is a Favorite Birds and small mammals love the spruce for food, nesting, and winter shelter, especially if the branches are allowed to grow to the ground. If positioned correctly (usually to the north), they will indeed break the path of the wind and keep your home warmer in winter. For visual interest, it’s especially nice to combine

1/4 Acre Habitat Design

When you are ready to choose your plants, it’s often best to start with trees. Their cost will vary according to their size at the time of purchase. Once they’re in place, you don’t want to have to move them, so think carefully before getting out the shovel. Is the tree appropriate for the soil conditions and amount of sunlight. Have you planned for it’s mature size. Will it crowd your house or other trees, or eventually shade that spot where you had hoped to put a flower garden. Is it evergreen or deciduous (losing its leaves in the fall), and how will that affect whatever is nearby. Are you interested in flowers, fall © WindStar Wildlife Institute

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A Plant's Home

evergreens of various heights, colors, and textures. Don’t limit yourself to pines and other conifers. There are a number of broadleaf evergreens that are worth including in your plan. Along the lower left side of the drawing are three peach trees. Fruit trees benefit both people and wildlife, and you can choose from a wide range of heights and types of fruit. Also consider the color of the flowers, whether or not the fruit will be eaten or just decorative, the need for chemical treatments, the length of time it will take to bear fruit, and whether it needs another of the same species nearby to ensure fertilization.

Crab Apple Best For Wildlife Most native trees, such as the crab apple at the top of the yard, bear fruit that is more suitable for wildlife than for human consumption. The willow oak, also in the upper section, is an oak, not a willow. Many species of wildlife enjoy nut trees, and acorns are a special favorite. Be sure to consider the mature size of any nut tree, and be careful about planting black walnuts because they release a substance that is toxic to many other plants. The sugar maple and dogwood in the central part of the yard are both versatile. The dogwood has lovely spring blossoms, and birds will feast on its autumn

berries. The maple produces seeds that are eaten by several species, and turns striking colors in the fall. Since both are deciduous, they will shade the house in the heat of the summer, but not block the warming sun in the winter. Once again, think about the mature size and whether or not any tree will block a favorite view from the house. The flower gardens don’t have specific plants indicated, but there are many selections that will appeal to both butterflies and hummingbirds. Choose a color scheme that appeals to you and group plants to create blocks of color. Some suggestions for this area include: s

Lantana (Lantana camara)


Pentas (Pentas lanciolata)


Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)


Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium spp.)


Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)


New England aster (Aster spp.)


Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)


Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Recommended Deciduous Trees and Shrubs


Scientific Name

American Holly

Ilex opaca


Myrica pensylvanica

Height 40'

Red berries; slow growing


Berries (male and female)

Creeping Holly Grape Mahonia repens


Eastern Hemlock

Tsuga canadensis


Juniperus virginiana


Eastern Red Cedar

Eastern White Pine


Pinus strobus


Benefits For Wildlife




Blue berries

Seeds, sap, cover; fast growing

Many varieties

Kalmia latifolia




Butterfly bush (Buddleia)

Oregon Grape

Mahonia aquifolium


Blue berries


Buttonbush (Dephalanthus occidentalis)

Wax Myrtle

Myrica cerifera



Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Mountain Laurel

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Berries (male and female)

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A Plant's Home


Bee balm (Monarda didyma)


Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea)

There are many kinds of shrubs illustrated throughout the yard, and variety is one of the most important considerations when landscaping for wildlife. By offering a wide selection of flowers, fruits, and heights of plants, you will appeal to the greatest number of different species.

of lawn near the house, but it offers little for wildlife, requires effort and money to maintain, wastes water, and encourages the use of polluting chemicals. Less lawn is better for both you and the environment. For a low-growing alternative to grass, consider the many kinds of ground covers available, such as cotoneaster and creeping junipers. If you have corners that can be left taller, many native grasses provide shelter and seeds for birds.

Fruiting shrubs near the windbreak include inkberry (Ilex glabra), bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa), and blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). All of these are native and favorites of birds and other small wildlife.

Man-made structures can add decorative accents to the garden and at the same time contribute to your wildlife habitat. In this design, trellises, arbors, and lattice screens support vines which bear flowers for nectar, berries for birds, or provide nesting sites.

Some are duplicated in the upper planting areas, along with shrubs planted for their nectar, including spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia). The spicebush has berries for birds, and the white flowers of the sweet pepperbush will attract butterflies. The red twig dogwood (Cornus siberica), while not native, provides wonderful red color in winter and birds enjoy its autumn berries.

Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculata, an exotic that may become invasive), climbing rose, clematis (native version is ligusticifolia), and trumpet creeper (Bignonia capreolata) are shown in the plan. Other choices include Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), yellow jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens), coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), and grapes.

Group Plantings To Increase Appeal In most cases, groupings of trees and plants will be more pleasing to the eye and more appealing to wildlife than individual specimens standing alone in a sea of lawn. Mowed grass is nice for people, and you may want to maintain an area

Š WindStar Wildlife Institute

for all wildlife. You may not have room for a pond, but a birdbath or fountain will see lots of activity. It should be kept clean and be placed within 5' of a tree or shrub to allow escape from predators. Benches and paths through the garden let you wander and rest to enjoy your creation. The WindStar Wildlife Institute publication, How To Create A Wildlife Habitat Plan For Your Property offers a step-by-step guide. Some other titles in this series which might be of help to you include: s

Butterfly Gardening;


Landscaping for Birds;



Nesting boxes placed around the property will encourage birds to raise families in your habitat. Additions like a dust and grit area for birds or a mud puddle for butterflies may not sound charming to humans, but the wildlife will come in even greater numbers. Feeders are an obvious addition, and water is essential Page 4



Essential Elements of a Wildlife Habitat; Homes for Backyard Birds; Creating a Wildflower Meadow; and Creating a Wildlife Habitat Plan.

This article was written by Maryland Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist Cathy Gilleland. For more information or for the name of a Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist in your area, please contact: WindStar Wildlife Institute E-mail:

WindStar Wildlife Institute is a national, non-profit, conservation organization whose mission is to help individuals and families establish or improve the wildlife habitat on their properties.

A Plant's Home

Landscaping a Small Yard For Wildlife  
Landscaping a Small Yard For Wildlife  

Trying to attack the whole project at once is a sure way to become discouraged and make expensive mistakes. Take some time to study your pro...