My Gardening Joy - What is Yours?

Monday, February 18, 2008

About 15 years ago, I was fortunate to find a piece of property, just under one-half an acre with a small house and very little vegetation.  I had a nearly blank slate to start my own garden on the first property I had ever owned.  I took a while to consider what kind of garden I wanted.  I am a nature lover; birds, butterflies, even squirrels and snakes always delight me with their presence.  So I decided to create natural habitats in my yard to attract wildlife.  That is the least I can do to help our wild creatures cope with ever decreasing natural habitats and places for them to live, sing, and call home. 

Although I have planted palms along my driveway the rest of my land is re-creations of habitats found in south Florida.  Among the palms beside my drive, I planted shrubs with flowers or fruit that attract birds.  The shrubs include Jamaica caper, firebush, and porterweed.  Doves love to nest on the leaf stems of my foxtail palms while butterflies visit the firebush and porterweed flowers. 

On the east side of my front yard I planted a live oak less than a month after I moved into my house.  Oak trees are magnets to wildlife, providing food, shelter, and habitats for birds, butterflies, lizards, even niches for epiphytes like bromeliads and orchids.  I just had to have an oak in my yard and it has been a delight to observe and enjoy.   

In my back yard, I have planted a palm and grass savannah with native thatch palms, silver palms, native grasses, Tetrazygia, wildflowers, and one of my favorite natives, wild basil.  To the south of this area, I planted Bahama swampbush (Pavonia bahamensis) and firebush (Hamelia patens) to attract hummingbirds.  Every year, from late August into April, I hear and see the hummingbirds visiting the flowers and resting on the branches of my plants.  I've even had hummers come so close to me that I could hear the sound of their wings.  I think hummingbirds really like people and are curious enough to come close to get a better look.

In the back, northeast corner of my yard, I planted a hardwood hammock.  This consists of two wild tamarind trees (Lysiloma latisiliquum)  under planted with white stoppers, Simpson's stoppers, wild cherry, torchwood, white ironwood, black ironwood, gumbo limbo, and a satinleaf tree.  Now this area is dense with seedlings sprouting and filling in the area.  Birds love this habitat and even squirrels are nesting here.  When the Hurricane Andrew-damaged royal poinciana tree died in my back yard, I had it removed, the stump ground up and used this large area to plant more hammock trees.  Now this area is thick with vegetation, shady, and alive with birds.  I placed a bird feeder on the outside edge of this area so that I can observe what birds come to eat.  I get painted and indigo buntings, cardinals, sparrows, a few bluejays, just to name a few.  Birds that I have seen nesting in my yard include: cardinals, mockingbirds, red-winged blackbirds, thrashers and doves.  There may be other species of birds nesting, but the habitat is so dense that I may miss seeing some.  Many of the stoppers have fruits that birds love to eat.   Warblers, shrikes, hawks, and many other kinds of birds visit my hammock . I provide water for the birds in the form of two birdbaths.

The great thing about my yard is that absolutely no irrigation is needed.  I do water newly planted plants by hand until they are established but after that, rainfall is my irrigation system.  I feel wonderful and get so much joy from observing nature in my own garden.  What about your garden?

Click on images to enlarge



 Photo by M. Collins

 Palms & shrubs along my driveway




 Photo by M. Collins

 My live oak with new leaves emerging













 Photo by M. Collins

 Palm savannah with hammock in background

 Photo by M. Collins

 My hammock with Lysilomas and stoppers











 Photo by M. Collins

 Bird feeder and water pan on edge of hammock


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