Gardening for wildlife is not only fun, it’s addictive, often turning causal gardeners into passionate eco-conscious gardeners eager to learn more and spread the word about this nature-based gardening ethic. Luckily, it’s never been easier to gain knowledge and share the experience.
Resources abound in books such naturalist David Mizejewski’s Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Other Backyard and Doug Tallamy’s four books (Bringing Nature Home, The Living Landscape, Nature’s Best Hope and his latest, The Nature of Oaks), which offer new perspectives and ideas on ways to make a home for nature.
Tallamy and Mizejewski are also part of national organizations and campaigns including Mizejewksi’s work as spokesperson for the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program (nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife) and Tallamy’s latest project, the Homegrown National Park (homegrownnationalpark.org) grassroots initiative encouraging citizens to turn their yards into mini national parks that offer havens for wildlife. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (wildflower.org), where ecologist Michelle Bertelsen studies and educates others about natural ecosystems and the power of nature in our lives, is another fabulous resource for information and education.
All three sites provide opportunities to learn about and find native plants anywhere in the U.S. and they are working to build community through programs such as NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program and Homegrown National Parks interactive map of U.S. regenerative gardeners.
A wealth of resources is also available closer to home through native plant societies, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener groups and other garden and conservation organizations in each state. Expert help is also available through many colleges and universities and Cooperative Extension systems in each state and through public gardens and arboretums, many of which offer opportunities to see native plants in action.
Making connections with these organizations is a great way to tap into local expertise and advice on everything from plant sources to sustainable gardening practices. And our own yards and gardens can be sources of inspiration and education to others in our communities.
By growing in and from the wild, wild world of nature-based gardening, we can learn firsthand just how gratifying it is to make the world a better place. Plus, we can make some new friends.
As Burtelsen says, “Plant nerds are fun people to know.”
Katie Jackson is a freelance journalist and book author with more than four decades of experience writing about everything from science and history to arts and culture. She is especially drawn to stories about nature and the outdoors, a fascination that she’s cultivated during her 20-plus years as Alabama Living’s gardening columnist and one Katie also cultivates in her own wildlife-friendly Opelika, Ala., yard.