Archive for Wildlife

Ecosystem Gardeners is Having a Contests – Won’t You Vote for Helen’s Haven?

I garden for my own reasons as I hope others do as well. I hope all you of take this contest in the spirit of what appeals to you and to recognize there are no winners or losers in the garden. This is just a fun thing to do…

Carole Brown at Ecosystem Gardening wanted to give a round of applause to all the gardener’s who have submitted their photos and articles to the Ecosystem Gardening Showcase. So she decided to run a contest so you can vote for your favorite showcase garden….Helen’s Haven is up for vote.  They are all winners, that’s for sure!

To vote, go here  Ecosystem Gardening Contest The pressure is on!!!

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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Guest Blog Post @ Ecosystem Gardens- Helen’s Haven Wildlife Habitat

2008 JCRA Winter Tour 019

Helen’s Haven Wildlife Habitat

The birds take flight as I walk down the garden path; otherwise I’m alone. Light is low in the morning hours with scents in the air to attract me and the wildlife.

My garden, Helen’s Haven, is enjoyed by me, my kids, the wildlife. Helen’s Haven was designed with all in mind.

A garden full of color, scent, flower, texture, and wildlife is a way of life for my kids (8, 9, and 13); they don’t know any better. Often, they will ask why other kid’s from school don’t have gardens that are flush with flowers, why they aren’t luring lizards, or chasing fireflies in the cool of the early summer evening. It’s all in a days adventure with the Yoest family; we wouldn’t have it any other way….See the full story please visit Carole Brown’s blog post:  Helen’s Haven Wildlife Habitat

Copy and photos by Helen Yoest

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening With Confidence Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her Facebook page, the Gardening With Confidence fan page. Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum.

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The Birth of a Hummingbird

This is truly amazing. Hummingbirds are such tiny, wonderful creatures.

Remember, protein makes up 60% of a hummingbird’s diet. The source? Soft bodied insects. Think before you use pesticides. Then put your spray away.

The Birth of a Hummingbird

Helen Yoest
Gardening With Confidence

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Wisdom from Edwin Way Teale

Manteo 2009 025r

In the words of Edwin Way Teale: “You can prove almost anything with the evidence of a small enough segment of time. How often, in any search for truth, the answer of a minute is positive, the answer of the hour qualified, the answers of the year contradictory!”

Helen Yoest
Gardening With Confidence

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Bronze fennel – host plant for Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies

Wildlife 005

Bronze Fennel

Name:  Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’

Zones:  4 to 9

Size:   3 – 4 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Conditions:  Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil.

Bronze fennel is grown in my herb garden for one reason:  as a host plant for the Eastern black swallowtail butterfly.  The plant itself is very lusty looking.  Bronze color adds interest in an herb garden that can be heavy on green.  The feathery foliage looks good all summer, as long as it is not allowed to go to seed.  To avoid this, feel free to cut it back during the summer, or just let the larvae do it for you.  Invasive in some areas.

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Don’t Panic!

If you are going out to pick parsley and find this instead – don’t panic.  Plant more.  My garden is looking bare of parsley this time of year, but the butterflies are plentiful.   We’re happy.  So are the Tiger Swallowtail larvae.  Just in case you’re wondering, there are plenty of other parsley plants around for these larvae to finish growing on.

Helen Yoest
Gardening With Confidence

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Bat Cave Perserve opens for summer hikes


I’m excited to introduce to you my friend and guest blogger, Christopher E. Nelson.  Chris owns and operates Carolina Outdoors Guide, a comprehensive directory of federal and state outdoor recreation sites in North Carolina, including parks, forests, lakes, wildlife refuges, rivers and more, with pages for camping and hiking, and the This Land, Your Land blog.  I hope you find this feature as fascinating as I did.  Enjoy!

I don’t know how I first found out about Bat Cave Preserve, but for at least a year I’ve had it in the back of my mind as a topic for the Along the Way feature in Living in Style magazine, which I write and edit. Along the Way is meant to be a travel feature about out-of-the-way, less-known places or events in North Carolina.


Bat Cave Preserve, 275 acres owned by the North Carolina Nature Conservancy in Hickory Nut Gorge, which is in Rutherford and Henderson counties, easily qualifies on both counts. And, as a bonus – in terms of a good timely story for the June/July issue, anyway – it is only open to the general public through summer hikes led by Nature Conservancy volunteers.

Dana Redfield, a Nature Conservancy volunteer whose night job is manager at the venerable


Dana Redfield

Orange Peel music hall in Asheville, had agreed to take me up to Bat Cave on a Sunday in May. The morning’s rain had quit and, despite my pretty much ignoring her directions though I didn’t really know where I was headed, we pulled into the turnout off of US 64 within moments of each other. It looked like this was going to work out.

Bat Cave has been known by generations in the southwest North Carolina mountains, and is even at the center of a couple of myths involving Indians and stolen gold. But it was pretty much ignored scientifically until the 1970s, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that researchers realized the Bat Cave system is more than a mile long, making it the largest granite fissure cave in North America and perhaps the second-largest in the world. Fissure caves are formed by movements of the earth – earthquakes and other shifts – as opposed to erosion, which forms most caves, including the limestone caves prevalent in the Southeast. The rock in Bat Cave is angen gneiss, a granite formed about 535 million years ago during the Cambrian period, according to the Nature Conservancy.

As the name implies, several species of bat make their home in Bat Cave, including the endangered Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis). Little more than a week after we were there, the Nature Conservancy banned all entry to Bat Cave to guard against the spread of white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed a half million bats in the northeast and has spread as far south as Virginia. Hikes will go to the cave entrances, but the cave itself will be posted. Prior to the new restrictions, because even human body temperature can damage the habitat, visitors were only allowed in the 300-foot entrance hall to Bat Cave and in a smaller chamber called Little Bat Cave. Every three years, Nature Conservancy volunteers and staff enter the cave to inventory the bats, coming up with about 175 on the latest count, according to Dana, who participated in the count. From October to mid-April, the preserve is closed so that the bats’ hibernation is not disturbed; a gate at the bridge over the Rocky Broad River controls access. If the bats are awakened, Dana explained, they will search for food and not find it, but in the process burn energy they need to live through the winter.

Update: On Thursday, we heard from Adrian Bell with the Nature Conservancy, who said the hike this summer goes no farther than the lower and smaller entrance known as Little Bat Cave as part of the effort to safeguard the bats.

The preserve is also home to fine examples of a rich cove forest, usually found at higher elevations but here because of the gorge’s cool, moist conditions, and an acidic cove forest, which is typical of steep gorges. Presence of the two types of forests causes Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana), chestnut oak (Quercus prinus) and Rhododendron (Rhododendron



maximum) to grow nearly side-by side. As I quoted Dana in the Along the Way piece: “The rich cove and acidic cove forest, the preserve is such a great example of that because it’s so obvious. We do a lot of non-native species removal, so it’s like a North Carolina forest would be if there wasn’t (for example) kudzu and other invasives.”

Because of the work done by volunteers like Dana, the preserve also sustains many spring wildflowers, including bloodroot, toothwort, phacelias and several species of trillium (which, except for some trillium, were not much in bloom the day we were there). There are also many types of ferns, including walking

Walking fern

Walking fern

fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) and marginal woodfern (Dryopteris marginalis); several varieties of alumroot (Heuchera americana) and several endangered plants, including broadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis latifolia) and Carey’s saxifrage (Saxifraga careyana). I’m still learning photography (and know zip about botany), but I tried to capture images of the plants Dana told me to shoot.

Dana at the Seepage Pool

Dana at the Seepage Pool

Our first stop on the hike was a seepage pool where Dana spotted the small “crevice salamander” that is only found in Hickory Nut Gorge. Originally considered a separate species, they are now known as the Bat Cave form of the Yonahlossee salamander (Plethodon yonahlossee).

Salamander  Photo credit Dana

Salamander Photo credit Dana Redfield

The hike itself is moderate with some strenuous parts – a couple of steep areas – and takes a couple of hours. The Bat Cave blowholes, cracks in the cave wall where air that cools as it falls through the cave streams out, are a reward just prior to the cave entrances. The Nature Conservancy leads hikes Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., through August 12. Reservations are required, and the fee is $10. Phone 828-350-1431, ext. 4 for more information or to reserve a spot.

Be sure to look for the June/July issue of Living in Style in select home-delivered copies of The News & Observer on June 12 or pick up a copy at locations listed at

Mayapple Pixilated

Mayapple Pixilated

Allumroot Trailside

Galax Trailside



Christmas Fern

Christmas Fern



Mushrooms on the horizon

Mushrooms on the horizon







Walking Fern

Walking Fern

Wild Hydrangea

Wild Hydrangea


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Gardening with Confidence – Creating a wildlife habitat at home

Creating a Wildlife Habitat at Home

Monarch on Buddleia

It’s summer-time, a great time to sit a spell and watch the world go by. As you relax on your deck or porch this summer, sip some tea with the wildlife.  Together you can listen to the birds sing or watch their comings and goings from the feeders.  After a pause, watch the butterflies flutter by or feel free to nod off to the melodic sound of a serenading frog.

Creating a wildlife habitat in your own backyard is simple to do and richly rewarding.  Your wildlife garden can be a container garden, window box, a corner carved out in a traditional landscape, or an entire suburban lot.

Engaging children in this activity helps create the next generation of gardeners and naturalists.

Providing food, water, cover and places to raise their young is all that is needed to create a wildlife habitat.    A walk through your property will reveal what you have already.  You may be surprised how little more you need.


To attract wildlife, provide the kinds of food wildlife need – either naturally or with supplements.  The more variety of food sources provided the greater variety of wildlife you’ll attract.  Various seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, nectar, sap, and pollen are all good food sources.   The use of regionally native plants is also recommended, providing 10 to 50 times more food to the wildlife’s likings.

Food can also be supplemented with feeders to hold seed, suet, and nectar.


A clean, reliable water source is a key part to creating a wildlife habitat.  Water is needed for drinking and bathing. Locating the water source within an easy view also makes it entertaining for the homeowner.  Providing water can be as simple as adding a birdbath.  Give multiple locations at varying heights to attract a variety of wildlife.  It is important to provide water year round, even in the winter and, of course, during times of drought.


Wildlife needs cover for protection against the elements and predators.  Having a place to escape the threat of pending danger attracts more to the garden.   A variety of plant life ranging in size, height and density with trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and ornamental grasses, will increase your chances of attracting more kinds of wildlife.


The cover provided also gives your wildlife a safe place for reproduction and nurturing wildlife young.  In a backyard, dense shrubbery or birdhouses provide safe areas for birds to nest.  Different animals have different needs, including certain wildlife requiring water to raise their young such as salamanders, frogs, toads, and dragonflies.

Sustainable gardening practices will also benefit your wildlife habitat such as controlling non-native and invasive species, eliminating or reducing the use of pesticides, use of mulch and reducing lawn size.

Share your summer; invite the wildlife.

Additional information

In 1973 the National Wildlife Federation, the nation’s leading conservation organization protecting wildlife and their habitats, began the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program.  This program provides a mechanism to certify backyard or community wildlife habitats.

For more information on the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program or to begin the easy to follow certification process, please contact NWF or 1-800-822-9919.

The Backyard Wildlife Habitat program is a wonderful resource, whether you choose to certify your backyard or to use this information as a tool to make your garden more wildlife friendly.

National Wildlife Federations Top 10 recommended native plants for the southeast:

Black Tupelo (black gum), Nyssa sylvatica

Willow Oak, Quercus phellos

Sweetbay Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana

American Elderberry, Sambucus nigra ssp. Canadensis

Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria

Sweet Pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia

Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens

Climbing Aster, Ampelaster carolinianus

Narrowleaf Sunflower, Helianthus angustifolius

Helen Yoest
Gardening With Confidence

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The Butterfly Effect

I’m reposting this because it is so timely.  I hope you take the $5.00 butterfly challenge grow out some butterflies!  Enjoy

Aster has been my buddy in the garden this summer – especially when it came to spotting butterflies. We also heard of too many tails of birds eating the larvae, so decided to provide protection. We set up a safe haven for the Tiger Swallowtail.  With $5.00, Aster purchased a mesh trashcan from Target.  We added a stick and a parsley plant.  As we found cats (caterpillars) on the parsley or fennel in the garden, we transferred them into our haven.  A couple of plants later, several larvae later, we had chrysalis.  Today, Aster’s first butterfly emerged.  Below is his photo journey.

Aster spying butterfly…

Aster watching butterfly emerge…


Butterfly sunning…

Butterfly in the garden…

Butterfly Effect…on a little boy!

Story and photos Helen Yoest
Gardening WithConfidence


  1. May 5, 2009 @ 8:43 am · EditPriceless! I love this and what a great investment this $5 had. Excellent job and so glad you shared this with us!

  2. May 5, 2009 @ 8:47 am · EditWhat a wonderful experience for Aster! Thank you for taking us along on his butterfly adventure.

  3. Kerry said

    May 5, 2009 @ 8:59 am · EditHow totally cool! And what a great way to teach kids the importance of butterflies.

  4. wendy said

    May 5, 2009 @ 9:11 am · EditAwesome project. Swallowtails are beautiful creatures. We had a bunch at this time last year. I’ve only seen a few this year. Hoping they’ll come back.

  5. Dave said

    May 5, 2009 @ 9:21 am · EditNeat! That would be really fun for kids to see.

  6. Jane McKeon said

    May 5, 2009 @ 9:38 am · EditYou’re my kind of girl, Helen! I’ve done this very same thing with my kids, but with an “official” screened butterfly habitat product. Great idea using the Target waste basket! Why didn’t I think of that?!!

Comments (1)

Guest Speaker on Ask Farmer Phoebe – Creating a Wildlife Habitat

I’m excited to be Ask Farmer Phoebe’s guest for her weekly show, Wednesday April 29, 2009.  The topic – creating and certifying your home wildlife habitat.  It would be fun; I hope you can join us!
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What If You Could Certify Your Garden As a Wildlife Habitat? Learn How & Get Your Questions Answered!

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When I learned that backyard gardens can be certified as wildlife habitats, I couldn’t wait to learn more about how to go about doing it. I can’t think of anybody more qualified to share her love and knowledge of gardening than the Gardening  with Confidence gal, Helen Yoest.

Helen’s organic garden is certified as a wildlife habitat AND a Monarch butterfly watch station. She is going to teach us how to certify our own gardens, as well as answer your general organic gardening questions. Please join us!

Next FREE Teleclass: 2 pm CDT (-5 GMT) Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The FarmerPhoebe Organic Gardening Speaker Series are free* weekly teleclasses with a theme. This week is no exception.

Helen Yoest is a professional writer and garden coach with a half-acre plot in suburban Raleigh, NC. Through her business, Gardening with Confidence, Helen works with clients to help them reach their full gardening potential.

In addition to producing articles for publication, Helen serves as a garden scout, field editor and stylist for Meredith Corp., parent company of Better Homes and Gardens. Her name is featured on the masthead of Better Homes and Gardens and their garden Special Interest Media as Country Gardens, Nature’s Garden and others.

Helen’s passion for gardening and love of writing has earned her a number of plum assignments. Her work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Country Gardens, Nature’s Garden, Fine Gardening, Carolina Gardener, Metro Magazine and many others.

Helen practices organic, sustainable gardening methods. Her garden, Helen’s Haven, is a certified wildlife habitat and Monarch watch station.

Visit her blog through her Web site:

April 29 will be a great time to get your questions answered about growing your own food– organically. Please plan on joining us. Can’t be on the live call? No problem! Sign up anyways and you will have 48 hours to download the audio file and listen any time you want–absolutely free!

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Join me at 2 pm CDT (-5 GMT) every Wednesday when, with your questions in hand, I interview a top organic gardening/lifestyle expert who shares tips and tricks that will help you grow bigger, more luscious fruits and vegetables–without chemicals!

Register below for an educational hour with my next special guest. After confirming your registration, you will receive an e-mail with a link to the telephone-based conference service. Once registered you will get a weekly invitation to the upcoming teleclass, a periodic FarmerPhoebe Organic Gardening Tip newsletter and an occasional survey–but that’s it! You can opt-out at any time.

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