Site Information: Located in the Roseway (NE Portland) neighborhood, with full sun, part sun, shade, and dry areas.
What inspired you to enroll in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program?
I wanted to create a habitat for birds but also to learn from other gardeners.
How would you describe your habitat?
We have 3 different rain gardens, several water features, a snag “wildlife tree,” a Mason bee house, and wildflower meadow -some of which is Oak savanna habitat. Our conditions are somewhat unusual in Portland because we have rocky, well-draining soil and hot, sunny exposure (and Gorge winter wind). We’ve eliminated all the grass and have succession-planted many trees to replace some that we’ve lost to create more shade.
What are your top three favorite native plants and why do you love them?
– Vine maple: each one is unique, and each season has something to offer!
– Snowberry: such tiny flowers, but the hummingbirds can’t get enough. And the bright white berries in fall are so fresh.
– Fringecups: pretty and tough too. I love the red veining and different colorations that come with cold in winter.
What changes have you observed as a result of creating habitat?
Lots of birds throughout the year! The fountain draws lots of mammals too. I observe many more kinds of bees in our yard that I don’t see walking the neighborhood. I’m enjoying the busy Mason bees this week! We talk to passersby a lot about how we’re gardening, and I get questions from all sorts of people about different aspects of the garden.
What were the two most significant challenges you encountered while creating habitat, and how did you address them?
I was overwhelmed by the noxious weeds when we moved in but just kept plugging away. It was possibly my first realization about how much gardening there is/can be to do in the wet season when the soil is easier to work. Our microclimate is so hot in summer and cold in winter, and the rocky, well-draining soil was a real challenge to learn which plants could thrive here. I bought lots of different species in the early years, trying different things and trying to have one of everything. Eventually, I figured out what works here and starting creating more repeating groupings -learning about Plant Communities helped me!
What resources did you find especially helpful?
- Portland Plant List
- Ency. of NW Native Plants
- Going to tour other yards and naturescaped sites (like EMSWCD)
How do you enjoy your Backyard Habitat throughout the different seasons? What are its highlights in each season?
I love that we have something usually blooming all the time: the manzanitas in winter, late spring is the show-stopper with the wildflowers, summer is not so pleasant because it’s so hot, but I really appreciate our big W. hemlock that shades the house in the afternoon, and we move to the east patio in afternoons/evenings. Fall has lots of colors, but in recent years we’re really enjoying the aspens in gold!
What part of your backyard habitat are you most proud of?
When we built onto the back of the house to add a mudroom, we assumed we’d have to remove the big W. hemlock, and though it pained us, we had accepted it. Our friend suggested that we try really hard to keep the tree, and ultimately we cut the eaves around the tree to keep it, and I’m so glad that we did! By then, it was our last remaining big tree, and I really appreciate the shelter it gives us.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about your journey?
I think it’s easy to look back and think you did something wrong or “how could I be so stupid?” but the garden goes on growing, and you can always change things. I’ve learned so much and would do so many things differently if I could go back and do it over, but I didn’t know then what I know now. Sometimes, I think that regret helps me be more deeply in my body when I’m out in my garden to enjoy each moment for what it has to offer.