Backyard Harmony

Posted 4-9-2022 in Naturalist Corner

Who doesn’t love a sale? A native plant sale, that is. I confess to not having given much thought to using native plants in my garden landscaping until I went on a Sound Water Stewards watershed field trip to Pat and Tony Vivolo’s beautiful property on the south end of Camano Island. 

The Vivolos are excellent ambassadors of native plant gardening. Among other things, their property is certified as a Camano Wildlife Habitat. A walk through the property is a delight for the senses: there are a variety of native ground cover, berry-producing shrubs, blooming trees and other vegetation – all providing food and shelter for wildlife and pollinators. Utilizing native vegetation, that is adapted to grow in our area, not only benefits wildlife but also helps our environment by greatly reducing watering needs and eliminating the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers that runoff into the Salish Sea.

The Vivolo’s stewardship so inspired me that I too wanted to be one of the certified backyards on Camano Island. A great resource for native plants is the Snohomish Conservation District Annual Native Plant sale. Unfortunately, I was too late last year to get in on it, but I was lucky to already have some native plants growing in my garden and I was able to locate additional native plants and shrubs at local nurseries. I worked on creating areas for shelter, hung nesting boxes and added water sources, which are all among the requirements for certification.

The Camano Island Wildlife Habitat project strives to “keep Camano a wildlife-friendly island and to create, preserve, enhance and restore wildlife habitat by providing food, water, shelter and a place to raise young.” Camano Island is the tenth community in the nation certified as a community wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. The goal is to create networks of wildlife-friendly properties.

I am proud to say that my property was certified last year as #974 of 1,010 certified backyards to date. I’m always thinking about where I can add more native plants to my landscape and how I can replace my non-native ornamentals, that might be pretty to the eye, but if caterpillars can’t eat them to turn into butterflies and wildlife can’t feed any part of them to their young, do they really need to be there? So, you can bet I made sure that I wasn’t too late for this year’s plant sale. I really made up for missing it last year, let’s just say I got a little bit plant happy. A couple of neighbors were excited to benefit from my overexuberance and thankfully took some of my overflow. But my husband was definitely not excited when he saw how much I came home with … and I handed him the shovel.

— photos and essay by Lucienne Miodonski, SWS Class of 2021

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