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Natural Awakenings National

Creating a Wild Space at Home

Backyard landscaped pond to invite wildlife


In their book The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, University of Delaware ecology professor Douglas Tallamy and landscape designer Rick Darke show how to create wild spaces in yards, including what and where to plant and how to manage the land. They advise homeowners to:

  • Stop using pesticides and herbicides.
  • Replace non-native plants with those native to the region.
  • Reduce lawn space, converting it to native plants.
  • Leave leaf litter, withering plants and dying trees alone to provide shelter and food for wildlife.
  • Create a small pond or another water feature.

“Mourning cloak butterflies overwinter as mature adults. If you say, ‘Hey, let’s just clean up all of that so-called leaf litter,’ you could be cleaning up the habitat of mourning cloaks and killing them,” says Darke, who has served as a horticultural consultant for botanic gardens and other public landscapes in Texas, Maryland, New York, Illinois and Delaware. “That’s not litter. It’s meaningful habitat.

“A dead tree in your home landscape, called a snag, often contributes as much to the local ecology as a living tree,” he adds. “For example, woodpeckers build nests in holes or cavities in a snag, and countless insects find shelter and nourishment in the organic material of the snag.”

Danita DelimontAdobeStockcom

Why We Need Wild Places: How to Invite Nature Back into Our Lives and Landscapes

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