Friday, June 15, 2007

Wild Borders

Most of us have planted trees and shrubs to beautify our property, provide shade or attract wildlife; sometimes they thrive and sometimes they don't. The best way to bring a wide variety of native plants to your yard is to establish a natural border. In these areas, protected from lawn mowers and other human distrubance, an amazing diversity of flora will develop.

On our Colorado farm, we have established a natural border that is 200 feet long and 20 feet deep. Since we bought the property, in 1990, this area has filled in with mulberry, ash, Siberian elm, crabapple and black locust trees; wild cherry, chokecherry, sumac, honeysuckle and lilac cover most of the understory while pockets of current and various wildflowers line the margin. In Missouri, our natural border is much smaller but the higher humidity and greater precipitation produces a larger variety of plants; black walnut, mimosa, red oaks, black maple, boxelder, yellow poplar, redbud and redcedar rise above elderberry, yew, wild grape, privet, honeysuckle, American holly and Virginia creeper.

Naturalists know that such border zones, with their mix of shelter, nesting sites, seeds, berries and insects, attract the greatest variety of wildlife. Among these are cardinals, catbirds, yellow warblers, towhees, thrashers, chats, orioles, goldfinches, sparrows, tree frogs, toads, deer mice, opossums, skunk and raccoons. Unlike most humans, wild creatures prefer unmanicured habitat.