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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - October 12, 2010

From: Meadville, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Wildlife garden for PA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty plants, I am a student at Allegheny College, Meadville, PA. I am working on my senior thesis, and I hope to submit a successful proposal to plant a native species and wildlife garden around our college's new ES department. Could you help me with what species would be good to attract and which would have educational benefit and be cost effective? What model (garden, ecosystem landscaping etc) would be beneficial in your opinion?

ANSWER:

Well, seeing as how this is your project, I won't do it for you but can certainly point you in the right direction.

The first thing you need to do is determine which ecozone/region you are in and decide what biome(s) you want to represent in your plantings.  For instance, it may be more appropriate to duplicate a woodland garden ecosystem than a meadow, depending on your setting at the college.  You will find the NatureServe website and database very helpful in making that determination.  It takes a little time to familiarize yourself with their database and how to search it according to your state or ecozone ... but you are a student!

Once you have determined what type of habitat you are going to create, the National Wildlife Habitat certification program will help you figure out what you need to provide.  In general, "if you build it ... they will come".  If you provide the three essential requirements: food, water and shelter, you will attract wildlife.  Keep the food web in mind ... all these critters will want to eat each other!

When you get to the plant selection process, you can visit our Native Plant Database and do a Combination Search for Pennsylvania to generate lists of plants that are native to your area.  The Recommended Species search will give you lists of plants that are easy to obtain at nurseries and there is also a link to native plant suppliers in your area.  Each plant name on the list will link to a detailed information page that provides bloom information, cultivation requirements and wildlife benefits.

You may also find the Evergreen.ca database helpful. Even though you are not in Canada you are in the Great Lakes watershed and have a similar climate and plants as Ontario.  You can search their database according to the Habitat Garden you are planting (i.e. pond, woodland, meadow, butterfly, bird, hedgerow and so on).  You can cross reference the plant list they generate with the PA native list fom our database.  Check out our Bibliography page for books on the topic (select Wildlife and Mid-Atlantic).  I also recommend The Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-region Guide:  The Wildlife Gardener's Guide.

Have fun, let us know how you make out and don't hesitate to cntact us if you have more questions.

 

 

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