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How To Turn Your Yard Into A Winter Sanctuary For Wildlife

By December 18, 2023Landscape Design
How To Turn Your Yard Into A Winter Sanctuary For Wildlife

The warblers and hummingbirds may have flown south for the winter, and the chipmunks and woodchucks are hibernating snugly in their beds, but there is quite an abundance of wildlife that hangs around like the rest of us waiting for spring.

Even as you huddle indoors to ward off the chill, your yard can be a lifeline for many native species of birds and mammals. And as the landscape becomes more barren, you will appreciate the color and life that these year-long residents bring.

The good news is that a winter wildlife garden not only attracts all manner of critters for you to appreciate and enjoy, but it will be beautiful in its own right.

Find out how to invite, nourish and shelter wildlife this winter, so you can experience the season for all the beauty it has to offer.

Spotlight On: Maiden Grass, Winter Darling Of New Jersey LandscapesPlant – Yes, Plant – For Winter

Just because the begonias aren’t blooming doesn’t mean there’s nothing to “grow” during winter. While many plants are dormant, they still have plenty to offer.

When you plan your landscape, don’t just think about the growing season – after all, a good third of the year can fall under the umbrella of winter, with its icy days and even icier ground. But a good landscape design will include plants that have four season appeal – not just for you but for the wildlife you want to attract.

Native, winter hardy plants offer color, texture and depth to your landscape, and protection, shelter and nesting areas for wildlife.

Conifers and evergreens are an excellent choice, as they provide year-round color, and are a great barrier against cold and weather for a variety of animals, from mammals to birds, amphibians, and beneficial insects.

Consider tall grasses, which also provide shelter and nesting areas, thorny roses or holly bushes for the protection they offer, and deciduous shrubs like lilac, which make ideal perching spots for birds on the lookout for their next meal or a predator.

Other plants – especially those with seeds and berries, like native ornamental grasses, echinacea, and sedum – boast striking visual winter interest, and will feed wildlife through the coldest, unfriendliest days of the season.

As an added bonus, happy wildlife will remain long after winter’s thaw, which means you’ll have predators around when the bugs and slugs show up to eat your gardens in spring. A winter of wildlife and a healthier garden in spring – what’s better than that?

Spotlight On: Winterberry Holly And Its Dazzling Winter FruitFeed (And Water) The Birds

Some birds will move to a warmer climate during winter, but many stay right where they are – especially if the dining is good. From chickadees to finches and bright red cardinals, birds bring a kaleidoscope of color to your winter landscape. Their songs can cheer the coldest heart and watching them flit from bare branch to bare brach gives you a bird watching experience you can’t attain when the foliage is thick.

To keep your feathered friends happy and encourage them to return – or even nest right there in your yard – you’ll need to provide them not only with shelter and nesting spots but plenty of food and water.

Different birds enjoy different treats, so vary your offerings to attract the widest variety. If you’ve planted wisely, you’ll have plenty of berries and seeds for them to snack on. From sunflowers to winterberry holly, beautyberry and dogwood, you can enjoy a feast for the eyes as birds enjoy a feast for their table.

Add bird houses for a bit of architectural interest and color, and fill them with nuts and seeds, or place hanging garlands of fruit and berries on nearby trees.

Don’t overlook water – it’s just as important for birds as it is for us. Keep a bird bath running as long as temperatures remain above freezing, and you’ll always have a place for them to drink, bathe and play.

If you have a pond, keep a spot of the surface clear for them to drink from. For the sake of your fish and other pond critters, you shouldn’t let your pond freeze over anyway, so add a deicer and it will benefit your pond ecosystem as much as the wildlife that comes to visit.

Don’t Be Such A Neatnik

If you’re used to doing a thorough fall cleanup, raking leaves, gathering fallen branches and pulling up spent plants, it might be time to unlearn those habits. Leave your garden in a more natural state and you’ll be doing wildlife a favor by giving them plenty of places to shelter and nest.

No need to let your yard run wild, simply leave some twigs and leaves so animals can snuggle up, get out of the harsh weather, and spend the winter safely.

Instead of bagging leaves, rake them into a pile in your garden or beneath a tree. They’ll create more visual appeal than a barren landscape and you’ll be rewarded by the company of toads, hedgehogs, mice, perhaps even a fox or two, and other friendly critters.

Make a pile of stones or logs where beneficial insects and garden snakes can overwinter. Even a compost heap will provide warmth and protection.

You can even plant bulbs and winter hardy blooms around it, like hellebore and primrose, or woodland plants like ferns and hosta for a garden that has plenty of seasonal character.

Leave those tree stumps or fallen branches. They’ll add texture and depth to your winterscape, and dried twigs and bark are ideal spots for ladybugs to wait out the winter. When spring arrives, they’ll be ready to eat the aphids and other pests that can wreck havoc with your garden.

And look at it this way – it’s the perfect way to get out of doing yard work. Sit back, relax, and do it for the wildlife!

If you’d like to invite wildlife to your winter garden and want to explore beautiful ways to do it, contact us for a consultation. Our landscape design pros are here to ensure that you and your animal friends can make the most of each season.