Ahhh, the joys of summer. . . Sunshine, apple crumble, fresh berries, and – bzzzzzZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz – oh yeah, mosquitoes. While theoretically I am glad that mosquitoes exist as they form a valuable food source for birds and bats, I would tend to feel from the number of itchy welts on my skin that perhaps my garden has just a few more than are strictly necessary. Just last week I was bit no fewer than 19 times in a period of about five minutes, which I believe is a personal record. While normally I don’t form vendettas against insects for doing their thing, I think anyone would agree with me that 19 bites in five minutes would warrant some manner of defensive action. If that defensive action is taken on with a spirit of grim glee, well, maybe they shouldn’t have bitten me so many times. Without further ado, I present:
For Humboldt locals, the first October weekend of every year means one thing: Pastels on the Plaza. This event pairs artists and businesses to raise money for the North Coast Children’s Center. Each business sponsors a sidewalk square on the Arcata Plaza, and the artists volunteer their time to decorate a square in honor of their chosen business, all for a good cause.
This is our fifth year taking part, and I couldn’t be prouder of my artist, Trevor Shirk. Every year I wonder how he’s going to manage to surpass his previous year’s effort, as I’m always blown away by his work.
This year he took on the ambitious project of transferring our kitten’s sweet personality and fluffy good looks to a sidewalk square in honor of my landscaping business. This is nothing like sketching on a piece of paper, either. The sidewalk is bumpy, uneven, has little pebbles that don’t take color well, and is nearly impossible to color on with any level of control. Well, that’s how I feel about it, anyway. I did the lettering, and after an hour of meticulous work I was ready for a nap. Trevor sketched from 730am to 2pm to create his masterpiece. And yeah, I’m probably biased, but I think it was the very best one there!
Some other pics from the event:
- Give natives instant design appeal
- Lead the eye through the garden
- Create a sense of flow and enhance the shapes in the landscape
- Have a billowing effect which is more like a grand, far-off view of nature than a close-up
- Move with the wind in a graceful way that is fun to watch
- Reflect the scale of the architecture
- Integrate home and garden
Here are some native and wildlife-friendly gardens that use massing effectively:
Though recent polls show that using native plants and attracting wildlife are big priorities for gardeners, these types of landscapes have a terrible reputation for being messy and poorly-designed.
It’s gotten to the point that many landscape designers I’ve spoken with shy away from mentioning native plants to their clients, even if they plan on including native plants in their design. Worse, some short-sighted neighborhoods have taken the extreme step of banning native plants (which attract wildlife) even as they mandate front yard lawns.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There is nothing inherently messy about either native plants or gardening for wildlife – we just get that idea because many of the proponents of wildlife gardening focus more on the wildlife aspect than the gardening aspect. Gardening enthusiasts compound the problem when we give in to negative stereotypes of what a wildlife-friendly garden looks like.
We’ve set up a false choice in our minds between gardening for wildlife or gardening for beauty, when we can absolutely have both.
Wildlife gardeners - if we use good design principles to create a space that is as beautiful to people as it is to wildlife, we’ll find neighbors, friends and relatives lining up to hear more about how we did it. What better way of helping the cause of wildlife than to make others want to follow our lead?
Designers and plant geeks - Hey it’s cool, nobody’s telling us to back away from the plant catalogs. But we’ve gotta remember, wildlife brings beauty of its own to our gardens. Nothing enhances the look of our high-end perennials like a few butterflies and hummingbirds, and that fancypants Brunnera looks way cuter when a salamander’s helping us keep it slug-free.
Can you have beauty and beasts in the same garden?
Yes, yes, yes! Over the coming weeks I’ll be talking about some of the ways you can support wildlife and the environment through good design and having a gorgeous garden. In the meantime, check out these articles to get amped up about some of the ways we can begin inviting wildlife into our gardens:
In this series:
Wildlife Design Tip: Focus on Shape
Wildlife Design Tip: Use Less Lawn
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. butter, softened (I prefer the rich flavor of butter from pastured cows)
- 4 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 3/4 lb. bowtie or other pasta (if using a gluten-free pasta, I’ve found corn pasta holds up particularly well)
- a handful of sungold cherry tomatoes, or other fresh-from-the-garden veggie of choice
- salt and pepper
- Hops plant (either bare-root or potted)
- Stakes or trellis (remember to put up supports the day you plant it as it will grow FAST once it gets started)
- High quality organic amendment to create a planting mound, as hops are heavy feeders and need good drainage
- Start with a high-quality potting soil, especially if you’re using plants that need a lot of nutrients like tomatoes or squash. I’m a Gardner and Bloome girl since I’m a totally organic gardener (their Eden Valley Blend feels like velvet!).
- Choose varieties that will do well in a container (I love the ‘Sun Sugar’ grafted tomato from Log House Plants, as well as the ‘Astia’ patio zucchini seeds from Renee’s Garden).
- You don’t need to fertilize for the first six weeks, as a high-quality potting soil has the nutrients to you get started. After that, one application of a granular organic fertilizer will get you through the rest of the season.