Their Refuge -- And Yours!

Call it Habitat Gardening, Landscaping for Wildlife, or a Backyard Refuge, conservation one yard at a time is an idea that meets the moment and is here to stay.

A personal space shared with nature. "Something new every day."


Three million birds missing from the U.S. and Canada, ”insect apocalypse,” climate derangement, habitat loss…the insults to the ecosystem appear endless and we can feel powerless. But many people have turned to native plant gardening in support of wildlife — habitat gardening — as their constructive response to the heavy impacts of humanity on nature.


An early and continuing apostle for this prescription is Douglas Tallamy, a faculty member at the University of Delaware who authored Nature's Best Hope and Bringing Nature Home. Listen as he explains it all in this nice interview on Santa Fe radio station KSFR: Doug Tallamy Interview

(Then continue below.)

Let's Bee Safe. Might we be leading pollinators down a garden path to danger?

We can draw pollinators to our gardens with pretty flowers, water and nesting spots. At what risk? Obviously, we should not be using pesticides in places where we wish to nurture insects and birds. This especially includes any “year-long pest control” or “soil drench” that may still be in their tissues and pollen beyond one year. But how do you know if your nursery or its out-of-state supplier uses long-lasting, systemic poisons (neonicotinoids) on the plants they sell? It is a real danger, and everyone can learn from the recent video "Buying Bee-Safe Plants, How You Can Help," from the Xerces Society. Click the image to the right and skip any ads:

Xerces Webinar on buying Bee Safe nursery plants. Click the image, skip ads and choose full screen view.

It's a lesser concern, but there are varieties of some native species that may be overly selected for showiness or hybridized to the point where they don’t serve pollinators, who may waste energy trying to find nonexistent nectar or pollen. You can put your garden space to better use. Here is an interesting article on the subject:

Non-toxic gardens are safer for kids and us as well as birds and bees. (Pajarito Environmental Education Center)

Our Refuge Too

In gardening with nature we are creating peaceful, fascinating refuges for ourselves as well. Scientific studies repeatedly show a physical and mental health benefit, not only for the gardener but for children and others living in more green, biodiverse surroundings. 

“There is strong evidence that time spent in nature can improve the attention capacity of children with attention deficit disorders.” 

“Hospital patients with nature views from their rooms spent fewer days in the hospital and used fewer pain medications.”  Click here for a Forest Service page on this subject.

The Native Plant Conservation Campaign has compiled a partial list of the health and medical contributions of native plants to human wellbeing. Find it here:

Now then, how?

Learning and thoughtful planning are essential. Even if you are able to hire a designer and installer, you should understand the plants and principles. Luckily, resources have multiplied.

  • Courses and workshops (some by our chapters)
  • Personal networking with and between experienced NPSNM members is often available.
  • Find helpful literature on our website HERE. 
  • Look for books with our climate in mind, such as those written by NPSNM members Judith Phillips and George Miller.
  • Your Extension Service provides all kinds of information including webinars.
  • Backyard Refuge education and certification program by the Friends of the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. Although oriented to the Albuquerque area, check out this 

A cholla (Cylindropuntia imbricata or spinosior), well off the path, can offer safety to birds and their nests.