Wildlife Haven: Creating an Enchanting Habitat for Birds and Wildlife

Wildlife sanctuaries are often renowned for their dazzling display of plant and animal life.

If you envy the beauty of conservatories, but don’t have the time for a field trip, then you can cultivate a wildlife haven right in your garden. You don’t need miles of sprawling acres on your land – even the smallest plot can provide respite from the hectic pace of the 21st century. 

One of the most obvious tips is to plant flowers that attract butterflies and other beneficial pollinators. Some gardeners have dedicated entire plots towards butterfly gardens for these gossamer-winged creatures. 

When considering which flowers to grow, keep in mind a few important tips.

Gardening Marigold For Wildlife Haven | Vego Garden
  • As plants are essential in the garden, you’ll want to aim for diversity. Increased diversity will attract a medley of beneficial pollinators, which in turn increases the ecological diversity of your garden. Incorporate late-season flowers such as aster, goldenrod, and marigold with summer-blooming flowers for continuous bloom all reason round.  
  • If you seek to attract primarily butterflies, tube-shaped flowers are ideal, as they are often nectar-rich and have adapted to their long tongues. Other pollinators prefer more accessible nectar sources: flowers with umbels, cups, or spikes. 
Gardening your own wild haven is possible | Vego Garden
  • Among the innocuous blooms lurk invasive species, which are often disguised to resemble native varieties. As the delineation is not always clear (some are even sold at garden centers), make sure to plan out your garden scheme beforehand, and that you’re opting for native alternatives. Some gardeners choose to grow aggressive, but not necessarily invasive spreaders, in raised garden beds to prevent them from encroaching into other areas.  

Flowers that Attract Butterflies 

Butterflies for wildlife haven gardening | Vego Garden
  • Lantana: The sweet nectar scent of these multicolored perennials beckons many butterflies. Fares well in slightly acidic soil that is well-drained and loose. 
  • Summersweet: Also called pepper bush due to its spicy-smelling flowers, summersweet blooms profusely at the height of summer and extends until August. It's one of the few flowering shrubs that will grow in shade, making them ideal for shade borders or woodland gardens. 
  • Autumn Joy Stonecrop: Features rustic sprays of foliage that changes from deep pink to copper as the season progresses. Its tuft-like habit makes it ideal for border plantings with ornamental grasses. 
  • Asters: Stout little flowers that resemble daisies. Can tolerate partial shade and dry areas, and are known for their versatility.  
  • Trailing Lobelia (Lobelia erinus): An overlooked plant that blooms tirelessly into the fall. The petals are a lovely Tyrian purple, the trademark color of royalty.   
  • Rattlesnake Master: Like its name suggests, this hardy, yet unusual plant has adapted to thrive in prairie regions, where the highly venomous prairie rattlesnake lives. Its yucca-like foliage and its prickly flowers adds intrigue to the garden without the high maintenance of exotic flowers. 

Tips for Attracting Beneficial Wildlife to the Garden

Plant flowers that return year after year: Annuals are usually planted among vegetables, but for gardeners that have a special section for native flowers, perennials are preferred. More often than not, garden plantings tend towards the wilder side, mirroring the lively romanticism of cottage gardens. Shop for native plants, non-invasive varieties, and nectar-rich flowers for optimal performance. For carefully curated collections that take the uncertainty out of guesswork, Garden for Wildlife has a variety of proven selections to check out. 

Avoid the use of chemical pesticides: Chemical pesticides or insecticides near your garden can result in ecological harm. Even organic pesticides such as neem oil run the risk of disrupting the feeding habits of butterflies. Instead, organic or biological controls are considered wildlife friendly options in curtailing the spread of pests. Holistic pest management, which relies on many of the same principles of wildlife conservation, will help your garden reach a natural equilibrium that emulates the natural world. 

Cultivate a prairie-themed garden: Prairie gardens are one of the few instances where man’s dominion over nature has produced a more favorable result. It’s easy to view natural prairies as dull and boring – with nothing but miles of grass at its height, punctuated only by the occasional buzz of insects. But when condensed into a small plot, the intricate ecosystem of a prairie comes alive. 

Wild ornamental grasses turn a gardener's yard into a peaceful haven | Vego Garden

Most prairie plants happen to be native plants that when grown together, offer a rustic sort of appeal. Ornamental grasses such as bluegrass and pink hair grass are layered with coneflowers and asters to emulate endless swaths. Many prairie flowers feature spires, are long-stalked, and have muted tones. Mellow rhythm, much like the soulful notes of bluegrass music, is emphasized; flamboyant mixtures less so. While varying flowers can create interest, a vibrant tulip or azalea can look out of place. Other variations of the theme include cottage gardens, pollinator gardens, and wildflower meadow gardens.

Grow plants for moths: Moths are often overshadowed by their sun-dwelling cousins, but those nocturnal insects are just as important in the food chain. Comprising over 90 percent of the order Lepidoptera (which includes butterflies), moths are critical pollinators. Witch hazel, red oak, and river birch are a few trees that attract these whimsical creatures. 

Leave debris in place: Some gardeners are overzealous in their garden maintenance, scourging the yard until every leaf is shuttled and every shrub has been trimmed. It’s best to leave some flowerheads in place to provide food sources for migrating birds and insects in the colder months. When it’s time to clear the garden of debris, leave stray leaves and twigs in place, where they will provide protection for overwintering butterflies. Besides, seedheads can add much-needed visual interest during winter. 

Wildflowers add beauty to any gardeners meadow haven | Vego Garden

Create natural areas: Often, there is an instinctive feel of what a wildlife garden is like – the more it resembles the sweeping landscape of a woodland meadow, the more critters will feel at home. Specific gardens like wildflower meadows and pollinator gardens can provide shelter and sustenance to passing insects. Even simple gestures, such as building a brush pile or leaving a portion of your lawn untrimmed, can better attune your garden to nature.

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