Best of
 Wild Things…
By Karen Vizzi
    Another extremely important feature of the wild garden is water. Water is one of the four basic elements necessary to create a suitable habitat for critters.
     A good water feature can simply be a thoughtfully placed birdbath…or an elaborate pond with mountainous waterfalls. Either one provides the water necessary for some creature to survive. I like the idea of a pond, no matter how small, because a pump will keep the water moving. Moving water circulates oxygen, which keeps the water cleaner and prevents the stagnant conditions that would attract egg-laying mosquitoes. Moving water also tends to attract the widest variety of wildlife. Hummingbirds especially love to fly through a fine spray or mist.  Many garden centers carry pond kits, which include all the items needed to create whatever size pond your garden can handle. In most cases a small pond can be installed in a weekend. My own pond is tiny (approximately a 5 ft x 4 ft oval shape) but it attracts many birds, butterflies, dragonflies and frogs.
     If just the thought of digging the hole hurts your back, then consider just a series of birdbaths. The most effective type will have some kind of pump or fountain mechanism, to keep the water moving. But even a plain old large saucer will do the trick, providing you are diligent about keeping it filled and clean. Birds can be quite messy at baths, sometimes mistaking them for toilets, so I clean mine with a bleach solution every other week or so.
     An important consideration for any water feature is placement. Which critter will be most likely to visit this water source? Birds? Frogs? In most cases, your regular customers will be birds so be sure to place the pond or bath in a location that offers quick cover. For example, instead of placing a birdbath in the center of large expanse of lawn, try placing it close to some shrubs or dense foliage. That way your feathered friend has a quick hideaway should a hawk or housecat approach.
     One mistake that many new “ponders” make is thinking that their pond must be kept as pristine as a swimming pool. Don’t get nervous when the water gets murky or algae begin to develop. Resist the temptation to clean and scrub. The purpose of the pond is to replicate a habitat found in nature, not your bathtub! I don’t mean to suggest that ponds are maintenance-free. They can be quite a lot of work, especially if you keep exotic fish. If you are that serious about your pond, I recommend finding a few good books or make friends with a consultant at your favorite pond supply store. It can get very expensive and there are a lot of things you will need to learn to protect your investment…more than we can cover here.
     I like the natural look around my small pond, so the perimeter is densely planted with all sorts of wildlife-friendly plant material.  I also use pond plants like water lily and water iris, so that my few hardy fish have a place to hide as well. This plant-intensive design also serves another purpose. It creates a kind of screen that enables me to spy on daily pond life without scaring off any visitors.
    Bird Brainers: A beautiful on-line resource for identifying some of your backyard birds 
     Butterfly Bullets:  Most moths sport drab colors and fly only at night, but there are a few brightly colored day fliers too. The way to tell them apart from butterflies is by the antennae…moth antennae are hair-like wisps, while butters have little knobs   at the end, or “clubbed” antennae.
     Plant Pointers:  Most of the plants sold as Easter Lilies can be planted in the garden after the blooms have faded. Go ahead and plant it, allow the foliage to turn completely yellow, then cut it back. With luck, next year it will return. If not, you haven’t lost anything!

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