Open Gardens Project – Featuring Sally’s Habitat

Site Information: This habitat in the Rose City Park neighborhood has full sun, part sun, shade, and dry soil.

What inspired you to enroll in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program?

I was a Portland Audubon staff member back when the program was launched, so I was interested in it from the beginning.

How would you describe your habitat?

It’s all about building healthy soil. Lots of compost, leaf litter, organic fertilizers, wood chips, etc. Add a variety of canopy layers of native plants, incorporate my favorite non-natives, bird feeders, and a bird bath, and magic happens.

What are your top three favorite native plants and why do you love them?

Vine maple, western trillium, and yellow stream violet are some of my favorites because they remind me of my childhood home. I’m also really pleased with how well the fawn lilies and hooker’s fairybells in my yard are doing, so those are also big faves.

What changes have you observed as a result of creating habitat?

More diversity of bird species, and some are year-round residents instead of just winter-season visitors. Insect life has definitely become more varied. As an established garden at this point, it requires less work to keep it looking good.

What were the two most significant challenges you encountered while creating habitat, and how did you address them?

Our area was impacted by the Bretz floods of years ago, thus the ground had LOTS of rocks (hundreds of pounds) which I chose to try to remove as much as possible, breaking a few garden tools in the process. Also, prior owners had predominantly non-native foundation plants and lawn, most of which I have removed.

What resources did you find especially helpful?

Top books- anything by either Doug Tallamy or Jeff Lowenfels, Sara Stein’s Noah’s Garden, M Osler’s A Gentle Plea for Chaos, and the Encyclopedia of PNW Native Plants. Also workshops by Larry Weaner, Sean Hogan or Linda Chalker-Scott, and anything that Xerces publishes or has available online. Design principles of Piet Oudolf, who stresses four season gardens and multi-sensory designs.

How do you enjoy your Backyard Habitat throughout the different seasons? What are its highlights in each season?

The variety of spring flowering plants is pretty amazing. I’m still adding flowering things in summer and fall to keep the pollinators busy.

What part of your backyard habitat are you most proud of?

How lush and thick some areas have become by the spreading of the native ground covers and the succession of different species through the seasons.

What part of your backyard habitat are you most proud of?

It’s been hard physical work, but it’s been fun, and the results are gratifying.