An Exemplary Garden for Wildlife

How certifying her yard changed one gardener's relationship with wildlife

Last year, we launched a new partnership with the City of Missoula to encourage residents to promote sustainable gardening practices that benefit pollinators, songbirds and other wildlife in our urban area. Our Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative is similar to many other community-wide efforts to incorporate the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program and its Certified Wildlife Habitat designation, but we face an added challenge of our proximity to abundant public lands that are home to deer, elk, bears and other species that we love to see — at a distance.
Photo by Juliet Slutzker

Photo by Juliet Slutzker

When we talk about gardening for wildlife, our focus is on creating habitat for birds, butterflies, amphibians and small mammals — not large and potentially dangerous or damaging species that are better suited to open space and national forest lands outside the city. Thus, we provide resources on how to deter undesirable animals through plant choices, fencing and caution with attractants such as birdseed. In addition to reducing the risk of conflict and damage to landscape plants, we want to ensure compliance with Missoula’s wildlife-feeding prohibition.

We are fortunate to have many enthusiastic wildlife gardeners in Missoula, including City Councilor Marilyn Marler, who created the first Certified Wildlife Habitat on the University of Montana campus. Marilyn and her husband, David Schmetterling, maintain showcase wildlife gardens at their home and at the nearby Eighth Street Pocket Park.

But few residents exemplify the idea of wildlife-compatible gardening like Missoula resident Loraine Bond, who has certified both her expansive suburban yard and a garden she tends at a downtown child abuse prevention center where she works, described here. Loraine’s sustainable gardening practices can be used in other gardens and yards to help wildlife across the nation!

photo by Juliet Slutzker

Photo by Juliet Slutzker

“I’ve always gardened, but since becoming a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat, I’ve thought of my garden in a different way,” says Loraine. “Who is the garden for? I’ve spent a lot of time taking movies of bees with my phone. This made me aware of the need for flowering plants throughout the season. From the very first flower (crocuses and early primroses) through those that continue flowering after those first frosts (asters) we’ve kept the blooms going. We see honey bees, wild bees, many varieties of wasps, hummingbirds, seed birds, and even squirrels.”

Loraine has designated areas of her yard with plants on which the deer can chew, and has fenced other areas to protect those that would not survive this attention. “We fence on the sides, on top, and underneath,” she says, pointing to her most protected beds. “Other things we leave open to the elements and animals and the birds. The smaller birds also leave the larger berry trees in front of the house alone, but they will eat the delphinium seeds. Even the seeds of the lettuce ‘trees’ have been incorporated into the plan as we collect them for future plantings and watch the birds take their share.”

photo courtesy Loraine Bond

Photo courtesy of Loraine Bond

Upon certifying her yard, Loraine incorporated more sustainable gardening practices, including attention to her water sources. “When the larger birds and deer took over the big bird bath, a smaller one was put in for the smaller birds,” she recalls. She provides water for landscape plants and trees, but generally lets the lawn fend for itself. “Now that it is fall,” she observes, “the light rains have greened our lawn and it looks no different from the other lawns in my neighborhood.”

photo courtesy Loraine Bond

Photo courtesy of Loraine Bond

As we add to the ranks of Certified Wildlife Habitats in Missoula, we seek to network newer gardeners with experienced people like Loraine through our Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Facebook page. With wildlife all around us, there is a great deal we can do to be good neighbors.

Learn MoreLearn more about how you can garden for wildlife and certify your yard today!


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