Habitat Hero

Habitat Hero Residential Gardens (Part I)

Examples of inspiring bird-friendly gardens.

A Habitat Hero wildscape supports wildlife by: including diverse layers that provide shelter and nesting opportunities for wildlife - providing natural food (based on plants that provide food for wildlife in different seasons, especially those native to your area), offering water for drinking and bathing – conserving water and energy, eliminating/minimizing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and does not spread invasive species.

Below is a collection of over a dozen Habitat Hero residential gardens and wonderful photos which hopefully will inspire you to incorporate some of these principles and design ideas into your own garden.


The front yard is landscaped with native buffalo turf grass and a plethora of sunflowers, winecups and Echinacea that literally ‘blocks’ the walkway to the house. In addition to the wildflower garden, they have incorporated a veggie garden, brush piles, bat, butterfly and bird houses and frown upon the use of chemicals. Weeds are eradicated by hand with help from the entire family including the kids! “I wanted my kids to be able to experience the outdoors, right outside our door and not grow up thinking a perfectly square yard of water sucking grass was acceptable,” says Holloran


There is abundant wildlife diversity in the Mihajlov’s wildscape as it is located in such close proximity to Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area. This healthy food web is supported by an assortment of plants offering food sources from fruit-bearing trees and berry producing shrubs, nuts from buckyeyes, and nectar and seeds from perennials (penstemons, gaillardia, agastache, salvias and more). The variety of regionally adapted plants offering food and nesting material in conjunction with water sources draws in insect pollinators, birds, small mammals and even coyotes, foxes and raptors!


Are you tired of mowing your lawn and adding exorbitant amounts of water to keeping it looking lush? Then look at the Trout’s beautiful backyard that has strategically placed pavers and turf grass in areas that are designed for human traffic flow in a logical sense. Everything else is filled by suitable habitat for wildlife with mature blue spruces, pines and sumacs that provides great shelter and nesting for birds. Their ‘wildlife crescent area’ creatively borders their fence line with a cattail and koi pond, snags, nest boxes and swamp milkweed to help monarchs on their epic migration. The Trouts are avid advocates for saving the monarch as they headed up the Loveland Initiative for Monarch Butterflies and donated/planted 1200 milkweed plants in 2015!


What motivates you to create a wildscape garden? Spencer sums it up succinctly, “Beauty, practicality, enjoyment of nature and desire to help preserve species.” It is special because of the ambiance and reflects her interest in diverse plants, enjoyment in caring for them and pleasure in sharing it with others – be they people, fish, birds, snakes, toads, insects and other wild critters. She also uses her creativity in reusing old whiskey barrels to plant hardy, water-wise cacti and succulents. In other areas the turf-grass lawn has been converted to a flower garden, xeriscape area and a pond with water lilies and water grasses.


Moving from Oregon full of lush, green landscapes to a standard residential yard that is a vast expanse of flat turf grass and minimal plantings was quite the drastic change. She wanted to respect the region and its water needs, and adapted her vision of gardening. She began by removing the grass from the boundaries, building beds for wildflowers, wild plants, and any foods that might flourish. Year after year, the somewhat relentless removal of more grass, and the building of more beds, continued. They now have a small water area, with rock, pond, a few fish, and plants to draw birds and butterflies all year long. This, with the many different wildflowers and plants, are the focus of many delightful afternoons and evenings sitting on the deck, just observing. “While these results weren’t forefront in my mind when I began the transformation from yard to retreat, the need for something more than grass motivated their creation.”


Hoverter’s mantra is…”bye, bye, lawn!” Not only is this design waterwise and pesticide free, but extremely energy efficient. This is a cold frame greenhouse, needing no electricity other than the occasional use of the fan on a hot summer day and over half of the energy demands are supplied by solar power! Beyond just an environmental friendly wildscape – the wildlife approves and calls this their home. From the occasional Cooper’s hawk to more common visitors, including lesser goldfinches, hummingbirds, canyon wrens, mourning doves, and great tailed grackles. The pollinators even get full access to the greenhouse during the summer as the doors are kept open. This truly is a sanctuary for wildlife and the homeowners as well!


As a plant, animal and nature lover it only made sense to create a garden suitable for everyone. In such a small space Bryant is able to have potted plants, raised beds, a veggie garden and a bee hive as he slowly eliminates the turf grass. Using Mother Nature as a biocontrol eliminating the need for pesticides and relying on insects, deserving them status of Habitat Heroes!


A member of the Bighorn Audubon Society and avid bird and wildlife enthusiast has an ideal property of 38 acres situated in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. Over the past 16 years she has been able to not only restore but improve the land and cultivate a native landscape. She has worked hard to protect this landscape that provides habitat diversity and food, shelter and water for wildlife. Some of the wildflowers that have done well starting from seed include: rabbitbrush, penstemons, liatrls, coneflowers, milkweed which complement the diverse tree community of aspens, cottonwoods, chokecherries, blue spruce, American plum and serviceberries. That in turn has created habitat for nesting Great-horned and Eastern-screech Owls and other wintering birds such as Gray-crowned Rosy Finches, Evening and Black-headed Grosbeaks, erratic breeders such as Pine Siskins, Cassins’ Finch, and a variety of woodpeckers.


A covenant controlled subdivision where the ‘standard’ yard is a 2 acre, chemically induced, sterile green lawn offers little wildlife value. Wanting to make a difference for the local critters, Welch provides them with a chemical-free wildscape as a refuge and admits, “I selfishly wanted to enjoy their company too!” Living on the western edge of the shortgrass prairie butting up against the foothills attracts an abundant assortment of birds. The hummingbirds can be seen in late summer and are attracted to the penstemons, salvias, trumpet vine and honeysuckles. This garden is definitely a Habitat Hero oasis as seen by the numerous nesting pairs of Bullock’s Orioles, Says Phoebes, Barn Swallows and Robins with approximately 25 other avian species that frequent his yard!


Moving from New Jersey 26 years ago, one of the hardest gardening hurdles was that everything didn’t grow easily! Attending talks about gardening, using native and xeric plants, gardening without chemicals, and coping with Colorado’s soil and weather all helped with her personal goal of “preservation of wildlife and habitat in our changing world and the challenge of sustaining our environment.” This is a great example showing how a personal transformation can be just as great as the landscape. This wildscape is accomplished in a smaller area, with her yard backing into an open space, Kelly creatively implemented a flower and shrub border that is now home to snakes, toads, birds, squirrels, rabbits, butterflies, bees and other insects!


A former alfalfa field for 40 years was stripped of trees, healthy top soil, nutrients and native bush. Now this ¾ acre property is filled with 1,000 plants and 80 different varieties from penstemons, yarrows, mallows, sunflowers, daises, asters, princes’ plume and primroses and a plethora of grasses. This high desert is a fragile place and with extended periods between rainfalls, so it is essential to give wildlife a lifeline with desirable habitat, helping to restore the balance of survival. Living in Moab, and in need of some native plants? Visit the Pickett property which serves as a native seed bank to help educate her neighbors for future generations of native bush and wildflowers.


Habitat loss is the #1 factor for endangerment of species in the US. The basis of our Habitat Hero program is providing information and resources for gardeners to create essential habitat - stitching back the landscape one garden at a time, resulting in landscape scale conservation! The Forster’s wanted to keep their native landscape wild and with that have seen countless birds, including nesting grosbeaks and crossbills! At 9,000 feet, summers and growing seasons are extremely short and late spring/early summer is still a time of snowfall. These hardy ruby throated hummers (pictured above) are appreciative of some sugar water and early blooming plants.

How you can help, right now