Wildlife – Love you – Love you not
When it comes to our yards we all have our mixed feelings in regards to wildlife, large or small, from deer to butterflies. In many areas where the natural habitat of wildlife, especially deer, has been eradicated to make space for housing, the deer have no choice but to stay and try to survive on the plant material available to them.
We love to see deer grazing in the park nearby but that feeling changes when they are pruning our shrubs in a non- professional way. We invite butterflies and hummingbirds into our yards but wasps are not welcome.
For a designer the challenge is to choose from an already limited pallet of prairie hardy trees, shrubs and perennials to select the ones which are not on the buffet menu for the deer and have the flower power to invite the butterflies but without the ripening fruit which attracts the wasps. Of course one can keep the wildlife out of a yard by installing a fence around it, but often this is not the open look clients would like to see.
When selecting plants for a yard layout a designer has to consider their size, shape, foliage and flower colour, the flowering time and light situation, while applying some of the main design principles such as ‘Form’, ‘Scale’ and ‘Unity’ . Combining these guidelines with the deer and butterfly objectives severely limits the number of available plants.
Deer in general stay away from highly aromatic plants and plants with thorns. They also don’t favour other plants but unfortunately their tastes often seem to change from one year to another. Designers and horticulturists have created plant categories by observation and networking such as ‘occasionally nibbled on’, ‘severely damaged’ etc. to be able to make an ‘educated’ choice.
Butterflies are attracted by sweet-, pungent- and acrid-smelling flowers that are orange, yellow, pink, purple and red. To simply attract butterflies to a garden or yard, I integrate flowers which are rich sources of nectar. But to really encourage butterflies to hang out – and spend much of the year in the yard, I would also need to include the host plants upon which they lay their eggs. In other words, integrating plants for the explicit purpose of being eaten! For example, milkweed (called “butterfly weed”), is the host plant for Monarch butterflies.
The most distinctive feature of a hummingbird-pollinated flower is its shape. These flowers have long, narrow central tubes designed to force a hummingbird to stick its long beak inside, brushing its head or body against the flowers’ reproductive organs. These flowers often droop or hang pendulously and have modified petals that accommodate the hovering feeding activity of the bird.
The issue with wasps is that they love decaying fruit and usually show up in late summer when their food source is plentiful. As a designer I have to make sure to place shrubs and trees with larger fruit as much as possible away from the entertainment areas where people sit and eat. Sometimes, especially when clients have allergic reactions, fruit bearing trees have to be left out.
My responsibility as a designer is to give the clients the best possible yard solutions for any situation created by nature’s creatures.