Binetti: Food, water, shelter will call wildlife to your yard

On GardeningMay 8, 2013 

Build a pond, add some berries, create a creative shelter: Those are all ways to get wildlife visitors. Here’s how to make your backyard a more wildlife-friendly landscape:

1. Provide some food: berries, insects and seeds.

Plants with berries such as Oregon grape or mahonia; seeds from coneflower, sunflowers and ornamental grasses; and insect-attracting blooming plants such as euphorbia, lavender and roses are all examples of how to set out a “come and get it” buffet and welcome the wildlife to your landscape.

2. Add some water: a fountain, bird bath or low boggy area.

The sound of running water will draw raccoons, frogs, salamanders and flocks of colorful birds to the garden. If you’re concerned about the safety or maintenance of a traditional pond and waterfall, consider a “pondless waterfall” that recirculates water that is trapped beneath a covering of loose stone. There is no standing water, so no buildup of algae or mosquitoes and very little maintenance. A pondless waterfall provides moving water that also yields a continuous drinking source for pets. For more information on pondless waterfalls, go to

3. Create shelter and protection from predators with layers of plants.

Formal landscape designs are neat and tidy, but they often lack the layers of plant material that provide protection for small birds and forest creatures. By allowing at least one section of the landscape to grow in a more casual style with low growing sword ferns, medium-size shrubs, such as azaleas and rhododendrons, and taller understory trees, such as Japanese maples, you can provide birds with nesting material and protection as they build homes and teach their young to fly.

4. Go wild: At least a little bit in every garden.

Our native plants are not only the perfect source of food and protection for our native wildlife, but they also thrive in our soil and climate. It makes sense for every gardener to include at least a few native plants, no matter what your garden style.

You can now find native plants at many local nurseries, and in our state there are also native plant salvage parties that allow people to dig and take home plants from property that are to be cleared for construction.

Look for native sword ferns that provide evergreen cover for tree frogs, and use these drought-resistant ferns beneath tall fir and cedar trees or in any area with dry shade.

Native huckleberry plants provide edible berries and a delicate leaf structure that can provide screening along the property line of even a small yard.

Then there are the beautiful vine maples, native to our climate with fall color, a graceful growth form and multiple trunks to act as garden focal points in a partially shaded site.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at

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