Our Garden Diary - 12/30/97 through 06/30/98
Our Garden Diary - 07/01/98 through 06/30/99
Our Garden Diary - 07/01/99
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My husband and I built our water garden in 1992 We thought it would be a nice addition to our landscape and decided to locate it at the edge of the existing woods at the back of our property. Although everything we read said not to place the pond where leaves would fall into it, this was the most natural setting on the property, and we were building the pond not as a showpiece, but to be a functional part of the environment. Admittedly it has been a pain cleaning leaves out of the pond, but we have never had any fish health problems created by the leaves. We are always careful during the winter that there is some open water for built up gases to escape.
We found a great source for water garden plants at very reasonable prices. The place is Environmental Concern, Inc. and they are located in Maryland. They do not have ornamental plants as they are a source of plants for wetland restoration. The plants they sell are indigenous to the Delmarva area. For the pond we have purchased duck potato, cardinal flower, pickerel weed, lizard's tail, plus other water plants and some grasses, and have been very satisfied with the plants. We have also purchased some shrubs and trees for the yard, and again, the quality was quite nice.
Our pond is irregular in shape, approximately 10 feet across by 16 feet in length, tapering at the ends. This does not include the streambed and waterfall. The maximum depth is about 2.5 feet in the center of the pond. We also built a flat, shallow area in the pond to simulate a bog. See pictures of our pond in spring and summer. Because of the dogs we own, we decided to make a cement pond so that the dogs' nails would not puncture a liner. Try as we might, we can't keep them out, which can make a mess when they stir up the bottom or knock pots over. Guess it's just something you have to live with when the breed you own likes water.
The Internet Ponder
Pam's Puddle - Wildlife and Water Gardening
Steve's Pond - home page
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My husband Brian and I live on a one acre lot in southcentral Pennsylvania. We are in zone 6. When we bought our lot, in 1987, it had been a cornfield. There was a very small woodlot on the back of the property, but no other vegetation.
Our planting got off to a slow start. The first year we planted just a few things. A willow, a birch, some bulbs, a lilac, just some plants we knew we wanted. We then added two carpathian walnuts, two varieties of holly, a few hybrid American chestnuts, and three pfitzers in the center of the yard, surrounding a birdbath. The pfitzers have since overgrown the birdbath. We don't cut them back much because they are a favorite winter spot for the birds. Last year we saw a sharp shinned hawk which had caught and killed a dove, use the pfitzers for shelter while it ate.
As our knowledge grew we decided to plant more native species, having learned they should be more hardy and that indigenous species would be more beneficial to the local fauna. We studied many a list to find plants that are suitable for wildlife, either for winter cover, nesting sites, or food. We have five varieties of viburnum, two kinds of serviceberry, flowering dogwoods, and tartarian honeysuckles to provide berries. We bought tartarian honeysuckles but also planted some that were growing wild on Brian's father's property. The latter are much fuller plants and are a favorite nesting site for mockingbirds.
We planted a row of autumn olives, in our pre-native planting days. Although we realize now that it may not have been the best choice, since autumn olive can be very invasive and it is not native, we have thoroughly enjoyed the choice we made. It has high wildlife value because it produces an abundance of berries that last well into the winter, and it also attracts many insects on which the birds feast. Having the autumn olive hedge has attracted a number of species of birds that neither of us had ever seen before, primarily warblers. We have had both catbirds and robins nest in these bushes.
Our yard is surrounded by chain link fence, to keep our golden retrievers safely on our property. We have planted white pines along one side, mixed with butterfly bushes, a hemlock, daylilies, and a Kentucky coffee tree. On the opposite side of the yard we have planted a hedge row consisting of rugosa roses, silky dogwoods, viburnums, elderberries, plus some other plants. We've included butterfly weed and have enjoyed watching many monarch caterpillars munching on them.
Planting around dogs can be a challenge. We have fenced many a plant to keep it safe in its early development. And orderly flower beds are out of the question, but we have planted small areas of wildflowers, which birds continue to visit into late fall to get seeds. Having the yard fenced gave us a reason to create our hedgerow. The plants help hide the fence and the wildlife benefit from it.
In 1992 we put in a water garden. Green frogs, bull frogs, and eastern American toads have all visited it, as well as dragonflies, water striders, and damsel flies. The toads and green frogs have bred there. It's also a water source for birds. We've even had a pair of mallard ducks drop in from time to time.
We placed our water garden at the edge of the woods because it is the most natural setting for it on our property. This does cause a problem because it gets lots and lots of leaves in it, but we wouldn't change the location. We have sat by the pond on many a summer evening watching as, one by one, the green frogs emerged and hopped into the woods in search of food. If the pond were next to our house the frogs would have to travel across an immense, especially to them, stretch of lawn to get to the woods. This setting is much more natural and, we think, attractive to wildlife.
And, although our decision has been questioned a number of times, we chose to leave a snag behind the pond. We had a cherry tree that died and we already knew that squirrels used the tree in the winter as a den. Since then, we have seen baby squirrels two differents years that were raised in the squirrel den in that tree, and we had flickers nest there two years in a row. The one year they excavated their own hole and it was neat to sit up by the pond watching the pieces of wood fly out of the tree.
Our yard has slowly been maturing. Some trees we have planted include white oak, burr oak, sweet gum, elm, ash, black birch and red maple. Though still small, we can see their potential for creating a very inviting habitat for wildlife in the future.
Brian and I have been interested in gardening for wildlife for many years now. Although our yard is not accessible to many larger animals because of the fence, we have tried to plant for birds and have the pond for small amphibians. We enjoy the frogs and toads who visit our pond as much as we would enjoy seeing deer and fox walking through. We have some plants that aren't native and plants that don't have much wildlife value, but over the last few years we have tried to plant almost exclusively with wildlife in mind and with as many native species as possible. Click here for pictures of our back yard.
Knowing that nesting sites are of major importance to birds, we have put up a number of nest boxes. They have been used many times by bluebirds, but also by titmice, house wrens and chickadees. In 1997, for the first time, a pair of great crested flycatchers built a nest in one of our boxes. Unfortunately they never laid any eggs, or possibly they were destroyed and we didn't realize it.
We would enjoy hearing what others have done to help wildlife, especially in their own backyards. If you care to share your thoughts and ideas with us, please send us some e-mail. Just click on the animated envelope at the bottom of this page. Thanks.
To read our garden diary, just click on the bird's nest.
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