Sykesville author's tips on gardening in harmony with wildlife
By Andrea F. Siegel
For The Baltimore Sun|
Mar 20, 2018 at 8:00 AM
Nancy Lawson and her husband transformed their two-acre property outside Sykesville into a wildlife-friendly oasis. Now, Lawson is teaching others to do the same.
The former Humane Society editor is the author of “The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife.” Published last spring, the book is a guide to gardening in harmony with the insect and animal kingdoms.
Here, Lawson offers advice for Marylanders who want to welcome critters into their backyards.
How do we approach changing our gardens?
I don’t advise ripping everything out. There could be insects and animals using the plants you already have. It’s a gradual process. You can keep those rhododendrons and azaleas, but you can add the elderberries, the serviceberries, the spicebush. [Native plants] are generally the most nutritious for wildlife.
The welcoming evergreens and flowers in the front, the backyard pool enveloped in gardens, the views of the lush landscape — that’s not how the grounds looked when Bruce and Polly Behrens bought their Ruxton home in 2001.
By Andrea F. Siegel
Mar 20, 2018 at 6:00 AM
You say a good habitat offers food and shelter through the year. What should we be planting?
I really like tall wildflowers like joe-pye weed, boneset and senna. I plant flowers that are pretty so my neighbors will see them and they will plant them too.
Oak trees, because they feed more caterpillars than any other plant — they’re a good bird feeder. Trees that flower early are good for bees.
If you have the space, [add] an eastern red cedar, beloved in the winter by birds. Redbuds, sassafras, staghorn sumac — they’re smaller.
Virginia creeper can be a great nesting site for birds. It can grow up trees [and] be a great ground cover. And plants with berries for migrating birds.
If you are using thick mulch, you could be covering the bees — many are ground nesters. Add ground covers like robin’s plantain, golden ragwort. They provide a year-round buffet and shelter for so many insects.
According to conventional wisdom, life in the country is simpler than in the city. But for Deborah Weiner and her family, it’s the opposite.
By Kit Waskom Pollard
Sep 13, 2017 at 8:00 AM
What about city gardens?
There are animals everywhere in the city. A single opossum can eat thousands of ticks in a week. Snakes are great: They eat rats; they eat mice. They are one of nature’s checks and balances.
What’s missing in places is that middle shrub layer that’s so important to nesting and so that birds and other animals can escape predators. Carolina and Virginia roses can make a thick, shrubby patch.