News

Habitat Hero Awards: Residential Gardens, Part II

Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day. 

Continuing Our Virtual “Tour” of Inspiring Residential Gardens

This is post two in the virtual “tour" of our top residential garden Habitat Hero Awards (listed in alphabetical order, no ranking implied). They’re full of ideas to inspire your own wildscapes and habitat gardens!

Engelstad YARD, Rapid City, SD—Outstanding Residential Yard

The front flower bed--prairie for pollinators, a tree for a perch, and to shade and cool the house

When this Master Gardener moved to a golf-course-and-green-lawn community in western South Dakota, she had already experienced the rich rewards of restoring native prairie in her yard. How to convince the homeowners association to allow her to replace some of her lawn with prairie?

Back yard with formal flower beds featuring native prairie plants

"We requested permission to create a Japanese garden with native plants." Once permission was granted, they removed all of the river rock in front of the house and their indoor summer temperatures dropped by 10 degrees!

Then came moving plants that didn't belong where the landscapers had placed them, and planting native prairie plants in their stead. And as the natives took hold, the pollinators and songbirds moved in.

Bumblebee with full pollen "baskets" on her hind legs at Pikes Peak® penstemon

She's had to "corner" the landscaping company hired by the homeowners association to keep them from spraying her yard with pesticides, and even turned the every-two-days lawn sprinklers off herself a few times. "But I think we’ve had an influence," she says. "There are more flower beds now and less river rock and even a few native plants." (She also designed the plantings at Pinedale School in Rapid City, this year's Outstanding Schoolyard.)

Adult male American Goldfinch (winter plumage) in hawthorn tree

FReudenburg/White Yard, Colorado Springs—Outstanding Wildlife Habitat

A bobcat drinks from the front yard cascade in winter.

Living not far from the foothills and Garden of the Gods, this couple knows their yard is part of a wildlife corridor between the plains and the mountains, so they make a point of landscaping to provide food and water for critters from native bees to bobcats!

The private backyard oasis

Their backyard, mostly fenced to keep out deer, is where the couple's chickens and edibles live; their front yard is a xeriscape full of food plants for pollinators and songbirds.

The colorful front yard rock garden and perennial bed

"The yard is a work in progress," the couple admits. But they love to garden and bird-watch, and they are so dedicated to wildscape principles that they are part of a neighborhood group that rents goats to control weeds instead of using pesticides!

A "weeder" goat

Rose Wildscape, Powell, WY—Outstanding Zone 4 Garden

When you live in northern Wyoming's windy, dry and cold climates, and you have sandy, alkaline soil, you've got a serious gardening challenge.

Inside the low wall, an oasis for people and wildlife

Starting in 2005, this intrepid couple created a walled garden around their house for a windbreak, and within it, are growing an oasis for songbirds, pollinators and people. The garden uses little supplemental water and no pesticides.

Layers, fall color and texture, plus plenty of hiding cover for "little guys"

They've got layers, color and texture, and plenty of summer and fall food. They admit that they need to add more spring food, and replace bark mulch (which blows away and dries out) with gravel mulch more appropriate to the native and xeric plants.

And they've got an array of songbirds, from meadowlarks to hummingbirds. This wildscape is a great example of what our founder, Connie Holsinger likes to say: "Plant it and they will come."

Apache plume re-blooming in the fall, Maximilian sunflower behind gone to seed.

Stalls/Purner Yard, Denver, CO—Special Recognition for Creativity

The southwest corner of the yard after lawn removal begins.

Take one ordinary 1950s city lawn-scape plus two guys motivated to do something interesting and water-saving, add a Wildscape 101 workshop, and what do you get?

That same corner as a prairie-garden in the making with Little Free Library on a post

A brand-new front-yard prairie garden in the making (they grew most of the plants from seed this year) with a Little Free Library that has made their corner "one of North Park Hill's new thriving ‘destinations’ in a matter of months. People point. They stop. They read. They ask questions. They leave inspired," say the owners.

Backyard: edibles and a pollinator border

And a back lawn replaced by edible garden with a wide pollinator border. "Our morning back yard coffee is full of birds and their song," they wrote in their application. "The bees buzz all morning and evening. ... Just yesterday I sat and watched four goldfinches finally make their way to our bright and seeding sunflowers too. And all this in just one growing season!

"It’s been such a special journey – for the neighborhood, for the critters, and of course for us."

Thanks, guys! That pretty much sums up why we wildscape.

Congratulations to all the 2014 Habitat Heroes! Thank you for helping grow a network of habitat for wildlife in the Rocky Mountain region.

Join Audubon RockiesPlant Select® and High Country Gardens in promoting wildscaping. Be a Habitat Hero.

How you can help, right now