Category Archives: gardens with wildlife

living around wildlife

July Meadow

After our drain tile renovation destroyed our lawn, we laid sod.

clover, selfheal, purple deadnettle, meadow, self-heal, Prunella, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

In the 10 years following, other plants joined the grassy monoculture.  Our classic lawn has become more of an urban meadow.

I still enjoy the tidy look of a freshly mown lawn… all smooth & green…  But I appreciate the wildflowers, too.

blacktail fawn deer garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

And I’m not alone.

The local deer seem to be spending more time grazing the meadow than they do harvesting in the ornamental beds.
Hooray for that!
For the moment I can enjoy watching the young family  – – rather than spend my time shooing them out of the garden.

wild clover, trefoil, Trifolium, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Wild clover naturalized early on.  It mostly blooms white, like the short Dutch clover, but often with a hint of pink.  I wonder if it’s interbred with the larger red clover which we grew fields of on the homestead?  So sweet.  Think clover honey…
(FYI – I’ve never been stung in our yard).

selfheal, purple deadnettle, self-heal, Prunella, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Self-heal, aka purple deadnettle, works wonderfully as a low growing groundcover too. Like the clover, it stays green while grass browns in the summer dry. Prunella vulgaris blossoms attract more beneficial insects into our yard.  The seed feeds birds, too.

creeping buttercup, sitfast, restharrow, creeping crowfoot, Ranunculus repens, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The European Creeping Buttercup is well established under our apple tree & along the shady foundations of the house.  Ranunculus repens resides safely below the lawnmower blades. It colonizes via runners. New roots spring off a runner a few inches from the mother plant, creating a baby.  Then the same runner continues along for more adventures.  In our yard, it’s never crept toward the drier, sunnier areas.

creeping buttercup, sitfast, restharrow, creeping crowfoot, Ranunculus repens, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

C thinks the buttercup is pretty.
But the deer avoid the whole plant.   They’ll graze carefully all around it.  To mammals buttercup is toxic. (Blisters inside the mouth & throat are reason enough to avoid.)
That said, insects enjoy the flowers.
🙂

blacktail fawn twins deer, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I recently learned from Dr. L. A. Gilkeson that insects have declined at least 45% since the 1970s. (!! That’s 10 times faster than we’re losing mammals  !!) The decline is mostly due to habitat loss – and lawns don’t count as ‘habitat’ if they’re monocultures.

blacktail doe deer grazing on clover selfheal meadow, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

In fact, untended weedy lots have more insects than a diverse ornamental garden.  Perhaps in relaxing our ideas about the golf green lawn, we’re helping sustain the insect population that’s left?  I’m confident our meadow hosts far more insects than the post-reno sod did.

blacktail fawn deer garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

This meadow is certainly better for the birds & bees.  The deer like it more.  And it’s less maintenance for us.  With the deer helping out, C doesn’t need to mow or fertilize it as often.  We don’t water it as much.  Granted, the meadow wants to creep into the decorative borders just like a grass lawn wants to do. So, I’m still edging the beds.  Oh well, one day I’ll come up with a solution for that.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying the flowers & all the wildlife.    🙂

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Here are some other meadows:

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Welcoming More Nodding Onion

The warm July browns the moss on our rocky outcropping.  The licorice ferns have disappeared into their summer dormancy.  It’s the Nodding Onions that brave the drought.

sweet onion, barbecuing onion, nodding wild onion, lady's leek, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The delicate pink flowers of Allium cernuum look too delicate to survive the heat – but here they are.  🙂

Last year the deer grazed this patch of wild bulbs. That surprised me because deer tend to leave smelly plants alone.  But this year? It seems this onion is not on their menu. Who knows why?

sweet onion, barbecuing onion, nodding wild onion, lady's leek, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Nodding onion is a native wildflower throughout the pacific northwest.  It likes the winter rain & summer dry of Southern Vancouver Island.  It’s a perfect low maintenance garden plant.  Instead of primping & coddling exotic plants – I welcome more of these natives into our ornamental garden.

So, I’m letting this little clump just do its thing.
No deadheading,
therefore
Self-seeding.
I’m imagining a haze of summer pink on this hillside in a few years.  Can’t you imagine?

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Digging Bluebells

Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

For a few years, I thought bluebells were lovely spring flowers & welcomed them into our beds & borders.  And no wonder:

  • Each stem bears a profusion of bellflowers.
  • The bells dangle & shift delicately in the breeze.
  • Deer ignore the blossoms.
  • Bluebells are just so darn pretty.
  • Great masses of them are even prettier.  Have you seen the blue carpets of English woodlands in bloom?
Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

In the Pacific Northwest, we have similar growing conditions to the UK. Bluebells grow just as well here but aren’t as welcome.  (preference is for our native Camas.) It’s becoming more apparent to me how thuggish bluebells can be – overwhelming whatever they’re grown with, especially other bulbs – – like Camas.  😦

It’s a pity something so pretty can be such a bully.

before the dig - Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

This spring my challenge is to clear one bed of as much bluebell as possible.  Here’s a “Before the dig” photo:

I do like the lush spring foliage of the bluebells, but can you see any of the perennials?  Those plants are hidden from sunshine by masses of bluebell leaf.

Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

A pitchfork worked well in the moist soil.  Great clumps of bluebell came out.  Apparently, bluebells don’t leave their survival to seed dispersal alone. Each bulb can produce offsets, forming dense clusters.  Clever.

Check out how deep some bulbs were! The bluebells in this photo had only just reached the surface of the soil!  That’s a loooong climb through darkness.  Imagine how much energy the bulb had stored in order to grow that much stem in search of sunshine!! (If only we could harness that energy!)

Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Then…  I started noticing how some of the shoots were creating replacement bulbs closer to the surface.  Isn’t that clever, too?  Another great survival strategy.

I wonder how deeply a bulb can be buried before it just cannot reach the soil surface & re-establish itself?

Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

And THEN….  I noticed how some bulbs were sending out ‘runners’.   This is certainly an effective way of increasing its distribution in the bed!  These bluebells are determined to take over.

Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

There were masses of new starts– baby plants, that likely grew from the seeds that fell last year.   I tried my best to get them all.  But just think about it —  my digging has likely exposed more of the seed bank to the sunshine.  More bluebells are about to sprout.

There’s no way I dug out ALL the bulbs.  Many stems broke off, leaving the bulbs deep in the ground.  Hopefully depriving the bulb of this year’s leaf will starve it enough that it won’t grow next year.  What are the chances?

after the dig - Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I’ll continue to pull any that I find this spring.  For now, the bed is clear enough that the other plants have access to the sunshine & a chance to grow.

I guess we’ll have to wait until next spring to see how well the effort pays off…

Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

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