Naturescaping is a slight twist on traditional gardening…it simply means incorporating native plants into your landscape design to make your garden a welcome habitat for a greater variety of living creatures, beneficial insects, birds and butterflies. It’s a labour of love that will enrich your experience of nature and deepen your connection to the place you live on this planet. All it takes is a slight shift in awareness of your surroundings and some simple changes to your gardening practices.
The Vision of Naturescaping
The term ‘naturescaping‘ is fairly new, but in truth – the IDEA – is a rather old one.
Our ancient ancestors intimately understood the importance and uses of native plants. The advantages that came from working with plants that grew under local conditions was a means to greater survival. They were keenly aware of their surroundings and the cycles of nature. We can only speculate from the written history, oral traditions and monuments built with knowledge and reverence for the changing seasons, that their connection to the natural world around them fed their souls and spiritual lives in profound ways. The Earth itself was recognized as a sacred and living being, and for many today – She still is.
Benefits of Naturescaping
Natural diversity means lower maintenance for a gardener
- Native plants can handle local weather conditions
- Native plants evolved along with local birds, plants, fungi, bacteria and other animals and therefore DO NOT need pesticides, herbicides or extra protection to survive the environment (note: you shouldn’t need ‘ides’ for anything if you are using organic methods)
- Once established, native plants don’t require extra watering
- Provides food and habitat for wildlife
- Your outdoor space becomes more ENJOYABLE when you create a habitat that welcomes your ‘wild’ neighbors
Understand your local ECOZONE
What the heck is an ecozone?! I know – we seem to be a culture bent on coining phrases to describe what is very simple at the most basic level. My instinct is to cringe at being confined to the parameters of a definition or asked to operate within the limits of that definition, but this one is fairly benign. It simply means:
A geographical region having a distinct biodiversity of flora and fauna.
In other words – what natively grows and lives in your area.
Here in Canada we have some wonderful resources for information on native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, soil conditions etc that you can find on-line with a little searching. The folks at Evergreen have a very helpful “Find your Ecoregion’ and “Native Plant Database’. You can click their link above to go directly to that site and search your own region.
Do some reading, find native wildflower, insect, mushroom or tree books for your area – this is a voyage of discovery – have some fun with it! Go for a walk in the natural areas close to where you live and see if you can identify the native plants 😀
Water + Food + Shelter + Space
Water, Food, Shelter and Space – these are the four basic elements we’ll take a closer look at to encourage a healthier natural habitat in your landscape. Remember, you don’t have to do it all – any small change will make a positive impact on the life of your garden!
ADDING NATIVE PLANTS AND ELEMENTS TO IMPROVE THE NATURAL HABITAT
Take a look at the lists below and see what you want to add to your garden to make it hum with a bit more life and energy! If you’re an organic gardener, you probably have most of these basics covered already.
💚 Naturescaping doesn’t mean getting rid of your favourite non-native garden plants – it simply means ADDING more native plants along with other natural elements to enhance what you already love about your garden. We’re essentially sending an invitation to Nature so she can step into your space more fully.
- Backyard Pond, or a decorative ‘pond in a pot’ or half-barrel
- Damp areas for butterflies
- Put moisture-loving plants near down-spouts or create a shallow dry creek bed to direct the runoff to areas of your garden with thirstier plants.
- Install rain barrels to capture rainwater for use in your garden
If you install a backyard pond, the increased diversity will really AMAZE you! Not only has it enriched our enjoyment, but birds like Orioles, Hummingbirds and Scarlet Tanagers are nesting in the yard all summer for constant access to a ready water source. We used to see them far less frequently. We’re also seeing more frogs, garter snakes…snails and even butterflies resting on the lily pads for a drink. It has become a habitat unto itself 😀
- Nectar from trees and wildflowers in the springtime, or nectar feeders for Orioles, hummingbirds or butterlies
- Flowering shrubs, perennials and trees for pollinators
- Seed or nut bearing trees and shrubs
- Birdfeeders or suet feeders
- Leave your seed bearing perennials standing for winter food
- Riverbank grapes and vines like Virginia Creeper are great sources of food for wildlife
- Compost – the decomposers love this!
- Undisturbed leaf litter is a natural source for insect eggs, worms and grubs for birds and mammals
- An organic garden – food for you and your loved ones as well!
Food sources for insects, birds, pollinators and animals can be provided by many native plants, trees and shrubs, offering food in spring, summer, fall and winter. I always leave the perennials standing in the fall to provide seed for the birds in the wintertime – leave garden bed clean-up for springtime!
Remember composting is one of the best ways to feed the health of your soil!
- Standing dead trees or old logs – leave them be
- Layers of native trees and shrubs
- Evergreen trees
- Nesting boxes for birds and bats
- Vines – clematis and grape vines make great nesting spots for birds
- Thickets or brush piles
- Winter roosting boxes for birds
- Insect ‘hotels’ or Mason bee nests
The variety of shrubs and trees that grow on our property, as well as planted vines like Bluebird Clematis and Riverbank grapes and Virginia Creeper have provided nesting sites for Robins and Wrens, to name a few, for many years. They love tucking under the cover of mature vines for protection against the elements as well as camouflage and safety. I’ve watched many little families come and go over the years and remember to give them a wide birth when I walk around the yard so I don’t disturb them too much.
- This is all about creating an open pesticide free space for your wild neighbors
- Organic gardening is a great place to start and I can highly recommend the incredibly detailed and well researched article by Mary Jane at Home for the Harvest – do check out her post here on ‘What is Organic Gardening‘ for all things organic! 😀
NATURAL PEST CONTROL
- Wild plants of Winnipeg – a list of native species on the naturemanitoba.ca website
- Naturescape Manitoba – by the Manitoba Naturalists Society, is an excellent book I highly recommend for detailed species lists and well researched ‘how to’ source guide to help bring back the natural world to your surroundings
- Prairie Originals – an incredible Manitoba source for native plants and seeds – check out their website for a downloadable catalogue!
- Sage Garden Greenhouses – one of my favourite local garden centres, specializing in organically grown plants, proven-effective organic fertilizers and soil amendments and committed to 100% neonicotinoide free plant material. Love this place – check it out if you live in Manitoba!
- FortWhyte Alive has some wonderful resources on Naturescaping, and a fuller list than my own above you can access via pdf at their website, along with other information to bring biodiversity into your own backyard.
“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.” Albert Einstein
Wildlife is welcome here…💚
How I built my pond!
A beautiful water feature will enhance your garden landscape and invite magic into your own backyard...it's easier than you think!