Have you ever thought of your flower garden as a habitat for wildlife? A flower garden can hold just as many interesting creatures as a forest, a meadow, or a pond -- only smaller. For insects, spiders, and snails, the flowers in your garden are the equivalent of giant trees. Flower gardens, especially if planted with native plants, will attract all sorts of fascinating wildlife to your yard.
Below are some characteristics of a flower garden habitat:
All the flowers and other plants in your garden are either planted by people, or are allowed to grow. Some gardeners are very careful about pulling out weeds as soon as they show up. Other gardeners welcome the weeds! What is a weed? A weed isn't a particular plant, "weed" is simply the common name given to any plant that is considered undesirable to humans. What is a "weed" to some people is a beautiful flower to others. For example, below is a picture of Common Milkweed, a plant with "weed" in its name.
The types of animals attracted to your yard depend greatly on the plants growing in it. By planting flowers and "weeds" that are good food sources or shelter for animals, you will be able to observe and learn a lot about wildlife.
Flower gardens vary greatly based on how much light there is. Certain plants grow better in full sunlight, while others prefer dark shade. Many people prefer to have areas of both so they can have a good variety of beautiful plants in their yard. The animals that come to your yard are the same way. Some are active only in the shade or at night. Others move freely in the sunlight.
A good flower garden habitat must have water. Sometimes this comes only from a hose or sprinkler. Not only does this feed the plants, but small animals can drink water drops from the leaves, or get energy from nectar (sweet liquid) in the flowers. Some gardens have a birdbath or small pond in them, which will attract even more wildlife.
Pollinators are small animals, usually insects, which visit flowers in search of nectar or pollen for food. When a pollinator, such as an ant, bee, or fly crawls into a flower, pollen (a tiny powder) attaches to its body. The pollinator leaves some of this pollen on the next flower it visits. Pollination helps plants reproduce and grow more plants. Other examples of pollinators includes butterflies and hummingbirds.
Many small animals live in the soil and are healthy for your garden. Some of these organsims are found in almost any soil, not just in a garden; but healthy gardens tend to have lots of them. Earthworms, soil mites, and ground beetles are just a few of the many small creatures living in garden soil.
Plants attract herbivores (plant eaters) and pollinators. These animals, in turn, attract predators. Many birds eat the insects that visit flowers. Larger birds (such as hawks) then go after the smaller birds. Who would have thought that planting flowers might lead to hawks visiting your yard? Smaller predators often found in gardens include ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantids.
Frugivores are fruit eaters. Birds are probably the best known frugivores. Besides birds; rabbits, squirrels, moles, raccoons, skunks, woodchucks, foxes, and many others may show up if you have the right types of plants. Seed-eaters include birds, mice, and insects.
Gardeners spend a lot of time planning the "layout" of their garden; in other words, "where everything goes." How well plants grow, and the amount of wildlife that visits, depends a great deal on the layout. Instead of planting just one of some type of flower, gardeners usually plant a whole bunch close together. This helps keeps them from being crowded by other species. As for wildlife, if you were a butterfly looking for a certain type of flower, would you find it easier if there was one, or if there were fifty close together?