Welcome Wildlife to Your Water Wonderland

Let your herb garden set the stage for pools, waterfalls and fountains that will attract wildlife, too.

| April/May 2005

  • Rick Wetherbee
  • In nature, butterflies gather at the edges of lakes, streams and even along sandy beaches — wherever the soil is wet with water and nutrients. — Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to Your Backyard (Rodale, 2001) by Sally Roth
  • Floating plants such as water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) make excellent landing spots for frogs, butterflies and beneficial insects.
    Rick Wetherbee

  • Rick Wetherbee
  • Water lilies' (Nymphaea spp.) shape makes them a natural landing pad for a variety of insects.
    Rick Wetherbee
  • Surround your water feature with visual variety and a diverse wildlife habitat by including a combination of grasses, water-skimming plants and flowers.
    Rick Wetherbee
  • Hummingbirds love to bathe in the mist kicked up by falling water. When constructing your backyard waterfall, leave some open space near the falls for these winged bathers to fly unobstructed through the spray.

Having butterflies, birds and dragonflies in your yard is as simple as making a pot of tea: Just add water and wait. The sensory appeal of water not only adds soothing sights and sounds, but its presence becomes a magnet for all sorts of hoofed, winged and webbed wildlife. Whether your garden consists of potted herbs on the patio or a yard landscaped with beds and borders, make water an integral part of your garden design and you’ll have plenty to watch besides growing plants.

A water feature makes the most of any outdoor space, large or small. The water source doesn’t have to be a large pond or cascading waterfall to be mesmerizing or to attract wildlife. A simple water bowl, birdbath or bubbling urn can create a stopover that a variety of insects and birds will find appealing. Water will draw people as well, making the garden interesting and restful, and enlivening any area or bed it occupies.

Beginning with the type and size of water feature that best suits your needs, here are some factors to consider as you plan.

Water Works

Garden pools can be any shape or size, formal or informal, with depths ranging from 6 inches to 3 feet or more depending on your climate. (The deeper the pond, the more it will stand up to summer heat or winter freezes.) These pleasing pools also provide added appeal with an intriguing class of aquatic plants and moisture-loving herbs such as sweet flag (Acorus calamus), water figwort (Scrophularia auriculata) and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

Birds and butterflies will access the water’s outer edge, and you can make a large or deep pond more wildlife-friendly by placing a few partially submerged boulders or large tree branches in the deep areas so the critters have a convenient place to land. Floating plants with vegetation that skims the water’s surface — such as water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), water lilies (Nymphaea spp.) and frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae) — also make good landing pads for frogs, butterflies and beneficial insects.

Formal pools can be in-ground or raised and are typically defined by their geometric shapes and flat bottoms with straight sides edged with a hard paving material such as wood, tiles, brick or stone. Plants often are used like accessories in a formal living room — reserved with a sense of order. In contrast, informal pools or ponds have a more naturalistic feel due to their irregular borders and lush plantings that help blur the edges between water and landscape. With shallow and deep zones and sloping sides, informal ponds are generally more attractive to wildlife, luring birds and butterflies to drink and bathe along the shallow edges.



September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pennsylvania

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