Bringing Nature Home

We transformed our front yard this spring -- once home to a decling maple tree, a declining blue spruce and a variety of weeds and alien ornamentals -- it has become a thriving natural habitat. Trees were removed, the soil was amended, and we've eliminated unnecessary lawn.

In May, we planted an abundance of native species (elderberry, red chokeberry, arrow-wood, mountain mint, swamp milkweed, butterfly weed, purple coneflower, goldenrod, Joe-Pye, oak leaf hydrangea and witch hazel). We added a  native arborvitae, pink peonies and the annual herb, borage (a honey bee favorite). To provide nectar for adult Lepidoptera species we have created layered beds of flowers, while the native host plants provide food for larvae.  

Borage | May 2016 | © Jessica Allen

Most of these improvements were made possible by a generous grant from the Jane Goodall Institute Roots & Shoots program. We traveled to the Brandywine Conservancy Native Plant Sale in early May and purchased 18 plants and shrubs. Everything is thriving. We've already seen our population of birds and wildlife increase and our visitors are becoming more diverse.  

Plants are not optional on this planet.  With few exceptions, neither we, nor anything else, can live without them.                                                                                                                      Douglas Tallamy          

I wish I could take full credit for the re-design of our property.  I was inspired by entomologist (and fellow Pennsylvanian) Douglas W. Tallamy's wonderful book, Bringing Nature Home. In his book he explains the clear need for restoration of our natural world, using local native species to provide food for the insects so many other animals depend upon for nutrition.

Tallamy mentions a term coined by Michael Rosenzweig, reconciliation ecology.  In Win-Win Ecology:  How the Earth's Species Can Survive in the Midst of Human Enterprise, Rosenzweig calls for the redesign of human habitats for the accommodation of other species.  Right now we are not doing a very good job sharing our Earth!  

In our backyard, we've begun designing an under-story/hedgerow.  Last weekend we planted mountain laurel and two more native arborvitae. We're hoping to add more evergreen native species in the fall.  As a family, we are happily redesigning our human habitat.  I hope to inspire others to do the same!  Reconciliation with our natural world is why I share my photographs; to show people we are not alone here on Earth...and, to remind everyone this is a beautiful place to live.