When landscapers use the word ‘habitat’ it’s almost always preceded by
the word ‘wildlife’. Nothing wrong with that, to be sure. But what
about you? What about a human habitat?
Landscape designers can create environments that make birds and other
wildlife feel right at home. They feel safe and relaxed and they are
likely to spend more time there.
If you are like many homeowners, your backyard doesn’t seem to be
beckoning you outside, inviting you to kick back, relax and become one
Sound familiar? If so, stay tuned because I have a few suggestions
that will help you create a delightful human habitat that can adapt to
any budget and any skill level.
When Cheryl and I create a new garden, we focus on elements that allow
us to be enveloped by nature, to enjoy the peace and tranquility that
nature provides. (If you’d like to see some photos, see the note
below.) A human habitat garden should resonate with the five senses:
sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.
1. The sight of foliage in different shapes and sizes and shades of
green and other colors; the sight of flowers as the progress from tiny
green buds to full blooms, then to the gold and copper of fall.
2. The undulating sound of leaves rustling together as the breeze
wafts through the tree canopy above.
3. The smell of roses and other fragrant perennials and the burst
of aroma released when fresh herbs are rubbed between your fingers.
4. The touch of different textures from the rough bark of a tree to
the velvety-smooth feel of a petal.
5. And yes, taste too, from the herbs that go from your garden to
your kitchen pots.
For us, nothing beats taking a cup of coffee out to our garden first
thing in the morning and letting the sights, sounds and smells of
nature give us both peace and energy. Twenty minutes like that and
we’re ready to deal with whatever life can dish out for the rest of
the day! Nature, yes; but nature to which we’ve lent a helping hand.
If you’re feeling that you could do with some of that right now,
here’s how you can start.
Don’t plan anything too grand. It can become overwhelming and you are
likely to give up in frustration. Remember, this is your own personal
human habitat. It doesn’t have to be big or take up your entire yard.
Start with a small area. You can expand later if you wish.
Think ‘scale’. You’re not Gulliver. You don’t want to be dwarfed by
trees that will, in the course of time, soar into the sky on trunks
wider than an oil drum. Nor do you want everything in your habitat to
be so miniscule and close to the ground that it is little more than a
lawn. Think different plant sizes that complement each other (and you)
Evergreens. Plan on including some evergreens so you have some
greenery in your habitat year round. There will be warmish days in
early spring and late fall that will tempt you outside and the
evergreens will be there to welcome you.
Yarrows. They’re easy to grow and are some of the most popular plants
as a result. Look for Achillea Moonshine with its canary-yellow
flowers and silver-green foliage that goes with just about everything.
Add in some Achillea Paprika or Achillea Terra Cotta for an eye-
pleasing mix of colors.
Ornamental shrubs. Yes, they’re ornaments but living ornaments. Think
about Carolina Allspice with their aromatic leaves and fruits that
have almost a strawberry fragrance. Check out Fragrant Honeysuckle
with its heady perfume and delicate pink and white flowers. Don’t
forget Spirea Gold Mound with its clusters of tiny, light-pink flowers
on reddish-hued foliage.
Hardscape. A wooden bench where you can sit and enjoy your habitat. A
pergola or even a gazebo can be found ready-made or in kit form if
you’re not skilled in carpentry. Find paving options at hardware
stores and garden centers.
Yes, there’s much more and we’ll pick it up in the next Plant Man
column, with a focus on herbs and grasses to make your yard a true
If you’d like to see some examples of gardens that Cheryl and I have
created over the years, send an e-mail request to
firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll e-mail you some pics.
More human habitat tips next time!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org