Wildlife Friendly Landscapes
by Carla Allen
by Carla Allen

Greetings from Nova Scotia!

Carla Allen has been gardening for the past 25 years, co-owned a nursery in southwestern Nova Scotia for 16 years.

Carla has an extensive image library and nurtures a network of horticulture in the region. She was the first president of the Yarmouth Garden Club.

September 2, 2007

Calendars give humans the reassurance that winter has begun its downhill slide into March and finally, spring, but what about wildlife? With dwindling food reserves, plummeting temperatures and likely even more snowfall, birds and animals face a daily struggle for survival.

One way of assisting them with this challege in future is to make your property a wildlife friendly haven. By providing the essentials - high energy food, water sources, cover from predators and shelter from storms, you can boost the furred and feathered population in your yard dramatically. Actually, by adopting the following recommendations, you’ll also be helping hibernating critters as well, like reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Earlier this week I saw an apple tree still loaded with fruit. Although I had to wade through knee-deep snow to take a picture of the plump, frozen brown apples, other visitors probably had easier access. Many varieties of crabapples have fruit that stays on the tree for months after others are usually gleaned. Although birds do not take these fruits early in the fall because they are not as palatable as other fruits usually available at that time, they do serve as an important food source in the fall and winter, when freezing and thawing has made them sweeter. From your window on a winter’s day, you can enjoy watching cardinals, cedar waxwings or robins eating the fruit. Some birds feed on overwintering insects hiding in the bark of your apple tree. Encourage them to cut down the number of undesirable bugs in your garden by hanging fat in the branches of the these trees during winter months. Many species of mammals and birds use apple tree cavities in winter for shelter or for food caches.

Hedgehogs are associated more with Britain and other parts of Europe but I found a description of their method of collecting apples amusing. They are reputed to carry ripe apples back to their nests for winter storage by rolling on the ground under the trees. When the hedgehogs uncurl and wander off, they have fruit embedded on their spines to take home.

Other great food sources for wildlife include berry-producing shrubs and small trees such as the viburnums, sumac, dogwood, and the deciduous winterberry holly.

Evergreens are particularly important for protecting wildlife and here’s something we often overlook. These plants need not be upright. Spreading junipers provide valuable shelter and escape for smaller creatures. They also serve as terrific nurseries. One year while pruning spreading junipers I came across several old nesting sites hidden in the branches.

In the same manner, the odd brush pile can provide benefits. Sometimes a slightly messy landscape - including seedheads left on perennials and dead tree trunks harboring larvae and hibernating amphibians is a desirable goal.

One of the easiest ways to attract and enjoy birds is to keep a feeder well filled. The antics of these visitors can entertain you through all four seasons if you invest in their future.

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