Posts Tagged Wildlife

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 Garden of Denny and Georgina Werner

Werner Garden

Werner Garden

With drifts of purple coneflower, spikes of orange Canna, and the spilling of yellow coreopsis morphing the straight edge of the border, a garden is formed. And not just any garden, but the garden of Dr. Dennis (Denny) Werner, plant breeder North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, NC.

Since 1988, with the support of his wife, Georgina and their children, Denny has been making a home garden similar to what might be found in an arboretum. “Our goal was to create an expansive border that would allow us to grow a large diversity of species, that would provide a regular supply of cut flowers, attract wildlife, and a border that would have high visual impact when in flower from March through frost,” says Denny.

His 160 foot border (2,800 square feet in all) has been tweaked, maintained, watched and wondered by visitors in flight and on foot.

July2009 Southern Living Visit 139

The Werner’s like to entertain in the garden finding that even non gardeners gravitate to the border. As a focal point in the yard, “The border is a great way initiate conversation with visitors,” Denny says.

This border is a haven for wildlife, attracting an incredible diversity of butterflies, moths, birds, bees, and other insects. As visitors are drawn closer, they are inevitable amazed at the abundance of wildlife fluttering and flitting about. An Eastern bluebird above is eyeing yellow and black swallowtail butterfly larvae feeding on fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Monarch larvae munching on milkweed (Asclepias spp.) and spicebush larvae serving up on their namesake, (Lindera spp.) Later, as these larvae form chrysalis and the respective butterflies emerge, they don’t have far to go to find their favorite nectar plants waiting.

Gaillardia aestivalis var. winklerii

Gaillardia aestivalis var. winklerii

Watching the birds feed on the garden is also a source of entertainment. The goldfinches alight the flowers of tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) causing the flower heads to sway as they feed on the seed; hummingbirds visit the Cannas, and towhees forage the ground. These birds share the garden with jays, robins, chickadees, mockingbirds, and crows.

More than wildlife benefit from the garden; the Werner’s share bouquets of fresh cut flowers – often times paired with a pint of blueberries – with friends and neighbors.

To others, the task of selecting the plants to go into a border this big might have been daunting. Not so with Denny. With his distinct advantage, selecting plants for his Zone 7b garden to perform well in the south’s hot, humid summers was all in a day’s work.

Working with clay is a common problem for gardeners in the south. Before the border could be built, it was necessary to improve the soil structure and drainage.

Deeply plowing and amending the soil by adding large amounts of compost and PermaTill to the site, prepared it for planting.

Some may find it surprising to learn the garden requires very little routine maintenance, “Weed problems are minimal, as the growth of the plants is so vigorous that annual weeds have little chance to compete,” says Denny.

In mid winter, the plants are cut down to remove dead growth. Then a covering of 1 -2 inches if shredded pine bark is applied to renew organic matter, control weeds, and to help retain soil moisture.

For most years in the Raleigh area, there is as little as three months between last frost and first flower. During this time, the garden sleeps. The Werner’s don’t have long to wait for the garden to begin again.

Helen Yoest
Gardening With Confidence

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Meme – Seven things you didn’t know about me

Garden writer and blogger Yvonne Cunnington Country Gardener nominated  Gardening With Confidence garden blog for a blogger’s Meme award. Thank you Yvonne.

I met Yvonne on twitter.  Yvonne is @CountryGardener and I am @HelenYoest.   We tweeted somewhat regularly.  Then one day, during a Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, Yvonne revealed her meadow garden.  Oh my gosh, I knew right then, this photographer, writer and gardener was someone I needed to know better.  Her meadow got my attention!  I’ve been a loyal reader ever since…albeit a lurker.

There were conditions to with this Meme award. In order to participate I needed to:


1. I prefer to be out of doors.  Maybe this isn’t a huge surprise.  But every job I have held, since my first job at 11 renting rafts and umbrellas to tourists at the beach, was outside.  I don’t do office work well.  I like to be out in the open.  Even my career path as an environmental engineer was as a field engineer.  And an illustrious one at that.  You know those tall smoke stacks at factories – some 200 – 300 feet tall?  Yep, I use to climb those smoke stacks to collect air emission samples.   Years of sun exposure did not treat me well.  When you see me you might think I’m 55.  Well, I’m not.  Not yet anyway!

2. It never occurred to me that I could per sue a career in horticulture.  I didn’t even know it was available.  What I did know was that I liked everything in nature.  I was enthralled with the air, the water, the flowers, the trees, the insects, the animals – if it was in my environment, I wanted a piece of it.   I even had a horticulture business (mow, blow, and go lawn care)  in high school and during college, yet it never occurred to me to investigate horticulture as a degree.   BTW, the pay to mow a lawn then wasn’t nearly as much as it is today.  And yes, I still mow my own grass!

I also knew I wanted to write.  In the end, I choose environmental engineering with gardening as a hobby; and I decided to use this hobby as an outlet to write (although I wrote hundreds of papers as an engineer, it never satisfied my creative side.)   Horticulture was always in me.  Even when I chose a graduate school, I chose Brunel University in London, England.  I wanted to spend my spare time visiting great European  gardens.  I did.   It was always about the gardens.

I believed then as I do now, that imagination is key to any success.  If I can imagine it, I can build it.  I believed that with the skills of an engineer, I could tackle any problem.  Today as I garden my wildlife habitat, those skills come in handy.  I am a wildlife habitat gardener ergo, I am a sustainable gardeners.  My half acre plot of land is as much a system as it as a garden.  When I look at it, it does me proud.  As a side note, where I worked in my corporate job, I wrote a monthly gardening column for our newsletter.

3. As an environmental engineer, I worked all over the world.  In 1989, I spent 6 weeks in Pakistan.  My area of expertise was burning hazardous wastes in hazardous waste incinerators and cement kilns.    That’s me, second to the left, holding an assault rifle with the border patrol.  This is only photo op, but yes, I have held a heavy war machine in my arms.  My team and this group and I were gung-ho  about this photo.  Looking back, with all that has happened in the world, I wonder where these Pakistanis are today.

Outside the plant where I was working, refugee camps abound with Afghanistan refugees (from the war with Russia.)  Tents in neat rows were lined up outside our compound.  At one point our compound came under seige.  I had a gun to my head with our captors wanting to know why we Americans were burning our hazardous waste in their country.  Well. we weren’t.  We were there contracted by USAID to rid over-aged pesticides their county had.  These barrels of pesticides were rusting through the 55 gallon drums, going into the aquifers.   We were there to rid a potential problem, actually, to keep the problem for getting worse.  I came home safe and sound, no worse for the wear.  In fact, I was totally unfazed by the whole chain of events.  I can’t say I would have handled it as well today.  Probably because of my children.helen_pakistan_90.gif

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx4. My husband and I have three wonderful children.  Lara Rose, Lily Ana and Michale Aster.

2009 NYC 077My kids were diagnosed with early onset wonder lust, just like their mama.  We are ready to go anytime, anywhere.

5. I had a good relationship with both my parents.  I love my mother and loved my father dearly, but growing up I felt closer to my father.  He gave me 3 things.  More than 3, but three are with me all the time:  1)  Wonder lust.  I have a love of travel – there is no place I don’t want to go, period.  2)  Coffee.  My father woke early and started his day with coffee – quiet and alone.  I was jealous of this relationship.  I knew when I grew up, I too would drink coffee, in the mornings, quiet and alone.  3)  Gardening.  We gardened together, mostly veggies.

When my father died of cancer in 1991, I was devastated.  While I loved my mother, it seemed like a greater loss to loose my dad.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized God gave me a gift – the gift of time to better know my mom.   My dad passed with me loving him, knowing him, understanding him, accepting him, caring for him.  I couldn’t say the same about my mother.  Now I can.  If she had died in 1991 instead of my father, I would never have had the opportunity to know her like I do today.   I cherish our time together.  I moved her here from Norfolk, Virginia 4.5 years ago to an assisted care living facility.  My kids and I get to visit often.

Babcias 80th 003

6. The car and truck I drive will give you no indication of  my love for muscle cars.  I actually like cars in general.  The design, the engineering, the style, the colors even.  On our drive to school in the mornings, my son and I discuss the merits of various cars.  When we see a new model for the first time on the road, it brings on big excitement.  But nothing like it does when we see a vintage Vette, GTO or Mustang.

7. I’m driven to inspire gardeners to garden for wildlife, with sustainable practices and to garden year round (we can do that in Raleigh.)  I believe I have a passion that was meant to help others.  Helping others understand the environment and the impact gardening has on it.  That’s what I do now and have been doing professionally since 2001…and for decades before.


This was difficult.  I read a lot of blogs.  Many of my choices were already tagged and I have many more to tag, but here, I’m limited to seven.

A Tidewater Gardener This is Les Parks blog.  I like Les and his topics, photographs, style.  I think you will too.

Bumblebee Blog This is the blog of Robin Ripley.  Robin also has a garden blog with the Examiner.  This chick likes to tell tales  of her chickens, too.

Compost Confidential This is the blog of Joe Lamp’l of joegardener.  Joe is the nicest blogger I know.  No offense to other nice bloggers, but this guy is just plan nice – all the time.  An offers good sustainable advice too.

Defining Your Home Garden This is the blog of Cameron.  When I want to know about deer, I go to Cameron.

Grumpy Gardener – Southern Living Magazine This is the blog of a grumpy gardener.  But don’t let his grumpiness fool you.  Steve Bender is a great communicator; he is funny, smart as all get out, and dedicated to his craft.

In The Garden – This is actually a group blog and  should not be included, but I’m tagging Tina Ramsey on this.  I like Tina.  She is a good friend to many bloggers, has interesting things to share, and would be the first person I’d pick to be on my garden coaching team.

Sustainable Gardening Blog – This is the blog of Susan Harris.  We share a lot of interest in sustainablility.  Susan also started to movement for us Garden Coaches.  She clearly defined what it is I do.  Thanks, Susan.

Helen Yoest

Gardening With Confidence

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This Month in the Garden – September



Mid-Atlantic Region

September Maintenance Guide

Helen's Haven Summer - Mixed Bed

Helen's Haven Summer - Mixed Bed


September delights.  With the dog days of summer behind us, September opens with cooler air creating a fresh scent and a sense of excitement.  The source of this excitement may be for no other reason than it being bearable enough to be out of doors once again.

Here’s some September Inspiration in case you need it.


  • Hopefully, bulb selection was already done while the selection was good.  Buy what you fancy while they are available.  Avoid mushy, soft, moldy bulbs; buy from a reputable supplier.  And it is good to know that “bigger IS better.”
  • October is a better time for planting, but purchase in September while the selection is best.
  • Plant fall-blooming bulbs, such as autumn crocus.


  • Continue to harvest basil and use for cooking.  Continue to pinch back flowers.


  • Sowing seeds of California, Iceland, and Shirley poppies, sweet alyssum, and larkspur this fall for spring color and fun.
  • If your Zinnia’s have powdery mildew, they will come out soon, as such, no need to worry about them.  Next year, look for mildew-resistant strains.


  • Towards the end of the month, as the weather cools, the best time to plant and divide  perennials begins.


  • Our native Dogwood is a fantastic four-season tree making it a choice for all those zoned to have one.  As the leaves turn from green to red, excitement ensures.


  • Roses make a big comeback in September and October.  Be sure to stop fertilizing your roses 6 weeks before the last expected frost. In Raleigh, we have a 90% chance of a frost by Halloween. Therefore, stop fertilizing by mid-September. If you have rose varieties with nice hips, this is also a good time to stop deadheading to allow the hips to remain. To tidy up your rose garden, remove the pedals by hand. Letting the hips to grow to signal the rose to go into dormancy.


Watch where you reach.  Black widow spiders are plentiful.

Black widow spider

Black widow spider


  • Save seeds for planting next year or let plants self sow.  Also consider leaving seed heads on the plants for the wildlife to enjoy.


September and October tend to be dry months, unless we have a hurricane.  Plan to water any new plantings, including bulbs.


Don’t be to tidy in cleaning up the garden and deadheading.  The wildlife will enjoy the seed.

Encourage pollinating insects in your garden, such as bees and butterflies, by providing them a tasty treat.  This fall, plan to plant nectar-rich plants.  Nectar, the sugar-rich liquid many flowering plants produce, sustains bees and butterflies.

For the Bees: Add clover, cotoneaster, golden rod, heliotrope, Eupatorium cannabium, Lunaria annua, love-in-mist, asters, and Echium vulgare

For the Butterflies: Alyssum, Ajuga reptans, Iberis amara, catmint, echinops, verbena rigida, Rededa ororate, Joe-Pye weed.

Did you know:

  • 80% of the world’s food crops need a pollinator at some stage in their life cycle; many require multiple visits.
  • Stick with the species.  Many double flowers are usually sterile with no value to insects.  The petals of the second flower replaced the anthers and nectarines leaving the plant unable to be fertilized.
  • Many pollinating insects ingest protein-rich pollen before they can breed and some use pollen to feed their young.
  • Plant in en masse making the plants easier to find through grouped color and scent.
David and Lara Rose putting up a screech owl box

David and Lara Rose putting up a screech owl box

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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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The Book of Six © Six garden practices to be wildlife friendly

The Book of Six © Six garden practices to be wildlife friendly:

Wildlife 154cWildlife 154c

Wildlife 154cFOOD

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 and fertilizers, use of mulch and reducing lawn size.


Red for hummingbirds, yellow for bees, and purple for butterflies.  Color is a  surefire way to attract wildlife.  It doesn’t all have to come from flowers either.  Garden accents add never wavering color  Once in the garden, most colored flowers are game, but to draw them in, give them their favorite color!

October 23, 2008  Red Bed 014c

Helen Yoest

Gardening With Confidence

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