When gardening, I like to create a beautiful space that nourishes birds, butterflies, bunnies and other backyard wildlife. Creating a safe habitat for them is fun! It supports backyard critters and provides backyard interest for my family, plus it’s refreshing exercise for me.
In 2003 I decided to make our yard more inviting by planting trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. I was eager to transform the backyard yet I didn’t know what I wanted to plant or exactly how to garden. By using the internet, reading books, and talking with family and friends, I’ve learned much about landscape design and gardening.
Historically, before 2003 our front yard had some small evergreen shrubs and hosta plants along the front wall of our home – it needed some improvement. The backyard needed much more work. It had an old rusty chain link fence, one very old, large maple tree, and grass.
The first change was to create a nice backdrop for the gardens before I started planting. The rusty fence was replaced with a traditional wood fence and I painted it white. Then I researched and planned for the gardens. Here are some helpful tips in case you are interested in starting a garden.
Plan your garden on paper before choosing plants. There are many types of gardens; fruit, vegetable, Zen, and formal just to name a few. I planned to create a garden mostly for birds and butterflies with a tropical look and feel.
Before selecting plants, three key items to consider include learning about which zone the garden falls under regarding location, the soil conditions and the lighting conditions.
To learn more:
• Reference a gardening zone guide to learn about which zone you are in.
• Learn about the soil conditions with an inexpensive, easy to use soil tester kit from your local garden center.
• Watch and write down the lighting conditions for specific areas of your yard.
Research plants online, in books, or visit a local garden center and read the informative tags on plants to select the right plant for a specific spot in your garden, whether it has bright sun all day, part sun and part shade, or all shade.
After testing the native soil in our yard I found out it is clay based and highly alkaline — it’s hard and poor. A few plants, for example Lilly of the Valley, Purple Tall Bearded Irises and Red Raspberry perennials grow well in the native clay soil, and many plants don’t. I must prepare and enrich the soil in my yard before planting.
To improve the quality of soil before I plant, I mix my native clay soil with Miracle Grow Garden Soil for Flowers and Vegetables, Garden Magic Topsoil, and coffee grinds. Sometimes I’ll throw in a little compost or peat moss, too.
To provide a garden for birds and butterflies, select plants that will attract and provide them with fruit, flowers, nectar, and shelter. Include bird baths and saucers to provide them with water, and bird houses for shelter.
The following plants have proven to be winners in my northeastern Ohio yard, located in zone 5. The perennial plants have survived two extremely cold winters with temperatures as low as -20 degrees F.
Annuals: Marigold, Geranium, Portulaca, Salvia ‘Vista Red’, Pansy and Viola
Annual and Perennial Herbs: Basil, Chives, Cilantro, Parsley (Flat and Curly), Thyme, Rosemary, Sage
Bulbs and Rhizomes: Hyacinth, Tulip, Canna Lilly ‘Red King Humbert’
Perennials: Black-Eyed Susan ‘Goldsturm’, Lobelia Cardinalis ‘Queen Victoria’, Coneflower, (Echinacea) ‘Sombrero Salsa Red’, False Indigo ‘Purple Smoke’, Fern ‘Ghost’, Hardy Hibiscus ‘Jazzberry Jam’, Hardy Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’, Hens and Chicks, Hostas, Iris ‘Purple Tall Bearded’, Poppy ‘Beauty of Livermere’
Perennial Ground Cover: Lilly of the Valley ‘Bordeaux’, Pachysandra (Japanese Spurge), Sedum
Shrubs and Woody Stems: Arborvitae ‘Bobazam’ (Mr. Bowling Ball), Azalea Exbury ‘Lemon Lights’, Azalea Evergreen, Burning Bush, Butterfly Bush Buddleia Davidii ‘White Profusion’, Grape ‘Concord’, Lilac, Viburnum Burkwood (Mock Orange), Viburnum Linden (Cardinal Candy), Raspberry ‘Red’, Rhododendron, Salvia Nemorosa ‘May Night’, Quince ‘Texas Scarlet’
Trees: Alberta Spruce, Arborvitae Emerald Green, Crabapple Malus ‘Robinson’, Cherry Prunus Serrulata ‘Kwanzan Cherry’, Magnolia ‘Sweet Bay’, Pine Pinus Strobus White, Serviceberry ‘Autumn Brilliance’
These plants work well in our garden since they are hardy in this climate; provide fruit, seed, nectar and shelter to animals, and are low maintenance. Plus, these varieties bloom at different times of the year — there’s always some color and interest in the yard.
Gardening is interesting, endless and ever changing. I don’t feel it’s ever finished, but rather a creative work in progress. I’ve been working in our garden for 15 years and enjoy the opportunities it provides to learn and grow.
I’m an enthusiastic gardener and find the work pleasant and relaxing — it is a lot of work, but if you enjoy it, it’s not so much work and well worth the effort.