The little waterfall and pool are already proving a welcome habitat augmentation for the local bird community that visits my two feeders. Red-breasted nuthatches (Sitta canadensis) and chesnut-backed chickadees (Parus rufescens) regularly compete for space for drinking and bathing. An adjacent mature Douglas fir tree and a lilac bush provide perches for the birds to wait their turns or to dry themselves. The chickadees in particular seem to take considerable pleasure in getting throughly soaked in the shallow end below the falls. A seldom-seen brown creeper (Certhia americana) even joined in one day. As the summer progresses, the rocks of the pool have become coated with green algae, but any method that I can contemplate beyond draining and scrubbing would likely harm the creatures that enjoy it, so I let it be for now (for pond construction and maintenance, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has an excellent primer at Backyard Wildlife Program ). Rather, I have chosen the long-range approach of planting shading vegetation around the edges, including horsetail (Equisetum hymale), Sword fern (Polystichum munitum), red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia?? – last winter’s purchase from a local nursery, but I cannot recall the species), Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophyllum ‘Jack Frost’), and container-bound Japanese bloodgrass (Imperator cylindrical). Four-inch pots of Alaskan fern (Polystichum setiferum) have been tucked into moss within the rocks the hope that they will provide large fronds that will shade and soften the edges of the pond. My intention is to create a leafy corridor that will shade the water and create the feeling of a small stream emerging from the woods, and a pleasant surprise for those approaching the deck. This area had been formerly overrun with St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) originally planted by my mother, and later razed in an attempt to create a succulent garden. However, the St John’s wort stubbornly reemerged and was dueling with a resprouting hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) stump for dominance of the 15′ x 30′ area when I arrived upon the scene. I am still battling both of them in hopes that sheer tenacity will succeed.
The hummingbirds here are not readily drawn to my artistic glass feeder with brown wood base and red-metal flower petals, plus the ants usually get to it first. So I have contented myself with growing two baskets of fushcias and several nascent salvias in the front yard that seem to attract an Anna’s (Calypte anna) on occasion. Meanwhile, profusions of dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) and robins dominate the fringe habitats, the Juncos chipping with fury when the cat emerges for a stretch. I imagine that they might enjoy the additional structure provided by the now 9-foot tall pole beans that curl about bamboo props in what this winter will become the front yard. The beans, content with the rich mix of rotted horse manure and sawdust applied to the area, are doing little more than producing a profusion of green leaves. The cukes and yellow squash, in contrast, are durable producers, already overwhelming our ability to keep up with them.
A rare find the other day was the appearance of a barred owl with 200 feet of the house late one sunny afternoon. Indeed, it flew over the heads of my father and I and perched in a nearby alder where it sat imperiously for quite some time while I examined it with binoculars. Later that night, I heard several hooting ‘who cooks for you all’ in the woods out back of the house.
My most favorite of the avian visitors are the Pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) that have lived and even nested on the property for as long as I can remember. My newly instigated gardens are of little interest to them, but they roam the back twenty, where numerous alder and Douglas fir snags of varying heights provide them with feeding stations, and I often hear their cries through the forest. Continuing to perpetuate their devotion to this place will be on of my primary goals in the creation of natural gardens and viewing areas elsewhere on the property.
Adventures in creating a 10-acre garden from scratch