Cape Conservation Corps wants to recognize good stewards of the land by highlighting your conservation efforts. We want to know what steps you have taken to make your landscape wildlife friendly. We believe even the smallest changes can make a big difference and have a positive impact on the environment. If we decrease our own footprint we can begin to transform the natural world and build positive connections.
Your yards do not to have to be 100% native or completely converted to a nature-friendly landscaping. We are looking for people who are making changes to a more sustainable, healthy habitat for wildlife to flourish. Each quarter we will select a Habitat Hero to feature on our website, and Facebook page. Please nominate yourself or a neighbor as a Habitat Hero for next quarters selection! Email us at President@capeconservationcorps.org.
Habitat Hero – June 2021
Everyone has to start somewhere and that is what our newest Habitat Hero has done. Terri Rafiq has designated areas in her yard for native plants and she started planting them! Her love for all wildlife is strong, but birds hold a special place in her heart and she is hoping to attract nesting birds to the yard by adding small understory trees and shrubs as possible nesting spots. She is putting in host plants for butterflies in hopes to have caterpillars for bird food! She has been collecting plants from neighbors sharing free native plants and has picked up many natives from the local garden club sale. Over 70 native plants in the ground this spring.
Curious as to what her inspiration was for starting on this journey I asked her to share how it began and she gave me the best answer I could hope for! “In my early work as a grad student researching songbirds, I learned how food availability in different seasons can affect reproductive success. I was also able to see the devastation invasive species can wreak on ecosystems. In recent years, and hearing about the steep decline in our bird populations, learning about Doug Tallamy’s research put many ideas all together for me. Having abundant wild food is so much more reliable and efficient than human-provided seeds and mealworms trucked all over the country and perhaps grown in unsustainable ways. I really believe in the difference one yard at a time can make.”
As I walked around the property with Terri I noticed the beautiful oak leaves she has filling her beds, using them as mulch among her newly planted natives. She keeps the leaves on site, either in the beds or in compost bins to use later. Her “lawn” is patches of clover or other volunteer green plants intermixed with bare patches, places that ground nesting, solitary and harmless bees can make their home.
The native beds line the fence along the backyard, outlined with fallen branches from the yard. Giving it a natural landscaped look. The beds are filled with many natives starting with Coreopsis in the front, spice bush (Lindera), red bud (Cercis), blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium), service berry (Amelanchier), dogwood tree (Cornus), a volunteer fleabane (Conyza), a bright patch of bee balm (Monarda). Even around the mailbox she has two types of spiderwort (Tradescantia), one planted, the other a volunteer.
Blue-eyed Grass & leaf mulch
Coming around the side of the house there is a patch of ferns, ostrich (Matteuccia struthiopteris) and sensitive (Onoclea sensibilis) that will fill together nicely. Everywhere you look is FREE native that has come up and been welcomed to the yard. There is Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), which will offer wonderful fall color and wildlife value, here is a patch of striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculate) that has popped and been allowed to spread even the boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is a welcome volunteer because she realizes the great pollinator value to this plant.
Ostrich fern, sensitive fern and Virginia creeper & leaf mulch
Striped wintergreen & leaf mulch
There are lots of host plants like milkweed (Asclepias) , turtlehead (Chelone), Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium), violets (Viola), golden alexander (Zizia aurea), goldenrods (Solidago), and asters that will attract specialized butterflies and moths to lay their eggs. An all-time favorite ground cover of mine is making its way around an oak tree, golden ragwort (Packera aurea). When the larvae that have been munching on oak leaves all summer are ready to drop to ground and pupate they will have plenty of vegetation at the bottom of this oak to shelter in. Or if it is one that chooses to burrow into the ground, the soil around the oak will be soft enough to allow for this thanks to the native root system that has loosened the soil.
As I made way through the rest of the yard I noticed the lobelia, brown eyes Susan (Rudbeckia triloba), dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata) and phlox, creeping (Phlox stolonifera) and woodland (Phlox divaricata). Teri has planted a large variety of plants so she will have something in bloom throughout spring and right into the later fall to keep the pollinators and other wildlife creatures happy. The mayapples (Podophyllum) and the Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) have gone to sleep until next spring but they will offer a nectar source for early pollinators (the Virginia bluebells) and a favorite snack of the eastern box turtles (the mayapples). The sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), an aggressively spreading grass has found a place in the corner where it will be allowed to spread its seed. Come fall she will be rewarded by the beautiful golden seedhead.
I am sure I missed some of the native plants I saw that day but they are all welcomed into her yard to help create a healthy ecosystem, a place welcoming to turtles, snakes, frogs and toads (all of which she has found in her yard). There are many places that invite creatures to call her backyard home, from the brush piles, leaves in the beds and the native plants. Her future plans include adding some pinks to the landscape, delicate wildflowers and irises. She would also like to add some mid-height shrubs for another layer of structure and improve her ID skills on the butterflies and caterpillars that come through!
Terri is grateful for the time and resources to work on transforming her property into a biodiverse ecosystem that provides habitat, food, water and resources for so much wildlife! Thank you Teri for being a Habitat Hero!
Habitat Hero – March 2021
Emily Brown is the 2nd Quarter 2021 winner of Cape Conservation Corps Habitat Hero Award. One of the best ways to attract local fauna to your yard and create a welcoming habitat is to plant more natives, then add some natives! That is exactly what Emily’s plan is. Eventually she would like her entire garden to be only natives. Emily recently participated in CCC’s native plant swap. She agreed to dig up a non-native invasive shrub in her yard (Nandina domestica heavenly bamboo) and CCC replaced them with three natives shrubs (she selected 1 of each Spicebush, American Beautyberry and Sweet spire) and is also planning on adding Winterberry this year.
She has already planted seeds of milkweed in a bed with Echinacea Coneflowers. Rudbeckia Black Eyed Susan’s and a native Hydrangea round out the natives thriving in her garden. Every year she leaves the leaves to create habitat for overwintering insects and a food source for birds and small mammals Rain barrels on each gutter of the house help to catch rain water and slow it down to prevent runoff. They use the water from the rain barrels to water her plants inside the house and in the garden, wash their hands when they are outside playing or done with outside activities. This past year she took her neighbors real Christmas tree from their curb and put it in her backyard: laying it down in her backyard to provide a habitat and food source for the winter birds and local backyard birds and animals. As it decays and loses its pine needles she plans to chop up the base of the tree and branches and use it as mulch in the garden. The kids put birdseed pinecones ornaments on the Christmas tree over the winter to provide an extra food source for the birds. Emily knows to not use pesticides when trying to provide a safe ecosystem so she has never used pesticides! By adding natives, food sources, nesting areas and having a pesticide free yard Emily has created a beautiful and safe place for the local fauna! Thank you Emily for being a Habitat Hero!
Habitat Hero – December2020
The 4th Quarter winner is Allison Crews-Turner. When Allison was looking to buy a house seven years ago she first fell in love with the yard of the house, before ever seeing the inside. It was landscaped with a perfectly manicured garden and typical non-native plants that are all too often seen including hostas, liriope, nandina and rose bushes.
About a year or two ago she was gifted Doug Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home and she began to re-imagine what a garden should be and who it should be for. She began adding native plants to her existing garden, even expanding her beds and adding new ones to plant more natives. She began to see a transformation taking place before her eyes. The native plants were alive with native insects. She added milkweed and was rewarded with monarchs laying eggs on them and forming chrysalis right in her own side yard. Her son Anson and her spent summer days watching the transformation. Along the side of her house in the sunniest spot she has her monarch nursery—plenty of Asclepias and lots of places for the chrysalis to form.
Monarch caterpillar Preparing for chrysalis Monarch chrysalis Butterfly emerging
In addition to adding milkweed she has planted Rudbeckia black eyed Susans, Monarda bee balm, Aquilegia columbine, Echinacea coneflowers, Solidago goldenrod, Asters and Sweetbay Magnolia and dogwood trees. She is planning on adding ever more native plants next spring including increasing the shade loving plants in her front beds. Even more encouraging is her willingness to start removing some of the non-native, particularly invasive species from the property.
Milkweed Coneflowers Goldenrod
Allison is also in the process in trying to establish a meadow area near the back of the property by sowing in some wonderful native seeds and plants. She has a place for leaving many of the leaves that fall onto the property for birds to find food, moth, butterflies and other insects to overwinter and of course they will break down enriching her soil with all their wonderful nutrients.
Tussock moth caterpillars
On the side of the house she has left an area to go a bit “wild” with many native plants, including Asclepias syriaca common milkweed that this past summer were covered in monarch caterpillars as well as tussock moth caterpillars and there was plenty of plant materials such as native grasses for the caterpillars to form their chrysalis. Her family enjoyed looking for more chrysalis each day!
At first Allison was a bit hesitant to accept this honor as she feels she has more work to do but I explained to her that she is exactly the right person to showcase because of the changes she has made and the plans to add even more native plants to sustain more local fauna. Her commitment to “re-think” pretty is exactly what makes her a Habitat Hero!
Habitat Hero – September 2020
Our 3rd Quarter 2020 Habitat Hero award goes to Louise Zeitlin for her love of nature and the welcoming landscape she has created in her own backyard.
Her desire to be a good steward of the bay, the environment, and wildlife began in 2012 as she became a volunteer at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC); through her training and volunteer work a concern for the environment kicked in. Already an avid birder through CBEC and their bird programs, she learned about the care and feeding of injured raptors and soon found herself a raptor handler, handling both hawks and owls, and feeding them once a week. She was able to teach school children all about these birds and how to protect them. Through CBEC she also learned how important it was to save the bees, the butterflies, and insects, every insect has a job in the environment, too, though they may not be as pretty.
One of the things that brought Louise to my attention was the beautiful photos she posts on local Facebook pages, a page for local Cape nature photos and her personal FB page (all photos in this post are hers.). She also recently discovered the Serene Ravine and has shared on Cape Conservation Corps FB page some of her amazing discoveries at that site. She was surprised we selected her as a Habitat Hero because as she says “Who me? When it comes to gardening, I plant by the seat of my pants and hope for the best!” but yet I could see the care that went into making her yard a safe place for wildlife to inhabit. From the MANY (more then 13) birdfeeders and water sources to the nectar rich plants—many native – she has provided a place for birds, bees, butterflies and a wide range of insects to hang out.
In recent years they had to take several large trees down which created a sunnier area to expand her garden and add more sun-loving plants. She researched and learned what she needed to do to attract pollinators. One by one she started to plant flowers that would provide the nectar and pollen butterflies and bees needed. In the two years since she began this “haphazard” pollinator garden she has been amazed to see what pollinators she has attracted—build it they will come. Louise said, “It’s been exciting and rewarding to see the bees and the butterflies find a home in my yard”. As in every good marriage there is compromise. Her husband still wants to hold on to some lawn as Louise would like to take over for more gardening, they have come to a balance. And as Dan sees the benefits of adding more native plants he has begun to enjoy the nature that visits their yard as well!
Louise has a mix of natives and non-natives and is adding to it each year, favoring the natives as she moves forward. Some examples of her plants include Coneflowers, Blue Mist Flowers, Swamp Milkweed, Stonecrop, White Butterfly Flowers, Bee Balm, Tickseed, Coreopsis, and Butterfly Weed. These are great nectar sources and some are even host plants for butterflies to lay their eggs on. She was so excited to see Monarch caterpillars munching through the milkweed this fall. While visiting her yard I was able to witness several butterflies enjoying the fruits of her labor, a Monarch, Painted Lady, Buckeye and several Grey Hairstreaks stopped by to sip the nectar!
Her greatest joy comes from the feathered backyard friends that visit the feeding and water stations in her yard. She has even come to love those pesky squirrels and has learned to embrace them, calling them “little engineers of the animal world because they are so clever”. Her favorite birdbath sits close to her bedroom window where she hears them splashing around. Sometimes they even cover the window in “splash” that make it appears as rain!
Louise’s enthusiasm and love for the natural world is evident in the good stewardship she has shown not only in her own backyard but the community around her, whether supporting CCC’s mission, volunteering at CBEC or sharing her passion for wildlife to the next generation- the kids at CBEC and her own grandchildren. I am proud to have Louise represent CCC as the newest Habitat Hero! I think she summed up what it means to be a HH best by saying “My garden has allowed me to learn more about bee and butterfly behavior and witness the trials and tribulations of their daily lives. It’s not always easy, I don’t always know what I am doing, but I do my best to give them the best that I can.” That’s all we can – our best to leave this world a little better than we found it. Thank you Louise for being a Habitat Hero!
If you would like to nominate yourself or neighbor as the next Habitat Hero please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how you are a good steward of the land….remember we aren’t looking for “perfect landscapes” but life sustaining ones!
Habitat Hero – June 2020
When I received a nomination for this quarter’s Habitat Hero, I was excited to get to visit this property. It is one I have admired from the front but have never seen the back or been up, close, and personal with the plants. I was not disappointed. The 2nd quarter winner of the Cape Conservation Corps Habitat Hero is Catherine Salam. Catherine is a long time CSC Garden Club member, Master Gardener, Master Composter, Bay-Wide certified and self-taught gardener. Like many of us, she uses trial and error, learning along the way, letting the plants self-design as they settle into their happy place.
We started the tour of her property out front at her pond, a beautiful oasis that provides so much for habitat I was hooked already! Water for the birds, dragonflies, damselflies and frogs, plants for cover and resting spots and food sources. The garden across the front of the property is full of plants that provide nectar, host spots, shelter and beauty. Something is bloom in every season. There are asters, amsonia, phlox, goldenrods, and milkweed and several annuals for a splash of color. Even some veggies tucked in to some open sunny spots, according to the principles of ‘foodscaping’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foodscaping.
Catherine is working on removing the invasive plants that can choke the native plants and prevent a fully functioning ecosystem, including English ivy, a Russian olive tree, Japanese spirea and kerria, and bamboo. She has stripped her lawn to only walking paths to take you from one area to the next. The front path is lined with a small row of boxwoods on one side and the low stone wall on the other, her “Nike swoosh”. It draws you in to the space and piques your interest to what is around the corner. As we made our way down the grassy path we passed an inviting sitting area- a wrought iron bench with a canopy of Carolina jessamine (or jasmine) climbing up to make a shaded resting place. The side yard that was lined with a variety a native shrubs, and trees including dogwoods, witch hazel, redbuds, American holly, sassafras, black cherry. So many produce berries to nourish the backyard birds that she only needs to put seed out in the winter. There are elderberry, blueberry, blackberry, viburnums including “Blue Muffin” and a maple. Beautiful shade loving oak leaf hydrangea providing nesting areas, spicebush to host the spicebush caterpillar. The beds under the canopy contained shade loving perennials including tiarella, heuchera, wild ginger, ferns, trillium, iris crestata and carex.
The pathways continued in the backyard as we circled around the beds, noticing blue jays, catbirds and robins. The backyard gardens contained even more varieties of native plants: joe-pye weed, Helenium species, bee balm, more milkweed, asters and golden ragwort. Catherine also has several raised garden beds in the back with a selection of herbs, veggies and annuals.
The beautifully landscaped garden with a mix of natives and non-natives coming together to form a mini-oasis is just part of what makes Catherine an ideal Habitat Hero winner. Her ecofriendly maintenance makes up the other 1/2. She is using IPM (letting the good bugs take care of pest management instead of pesticides and insecticides,) collects rain water from her property in four rain barrels she has installed on her downspouts to capture and direct the water. In the fall she leaves her stems from the spent flowers as nesting and overwintering spots for insects, strategically placed brush piles add to the habitat in her yard, uses leaves as natural mulch and compost from four bins as a safe way to add nourishment to her soil. In addition to the winter feeding stations for the birds she has installed a mason bee house for those important solitary pollinators!
Catherine has stated her goal is to “have an integrated, ecological, beautiful, four season interest setting to enjoy” and I would say she achieved that. There are places to sit, reflect, find a sense of peace and calm from the outside world while providing a safe place for everything from pollinators, amphibians, birds, and mammals to seek shelter, food, water and nesting spots. From her sense of design to creating suites or little rooms, the contrasting foliage from deep purple to bright chartreuse to the dainty fronds, lacy caps and broad deciduous leaves to everything in between creates a sense of place where humans and fauna can find respite from the craziness of the world.
Finally, Catherine is instilling the value of nature, the need to be a good steward of the Mother Earth in the next generation by involving her grandkids in the planting, growing and eating from the garden to show respect for the natural world, allowing them to discover how “cool” bugs are, teaching them to love, respect and nurture our natural world. Thank you Catherine for being an amazing example of what a good steward of the land is and being a Habitat Hero!
Habitat Hero – March 2020 Jeanne Klingler
Our 2020 first quarter Habitat Hero is Jeanne Klingler. I have known Jeanne for many years as she works in the media center of MRMS where all 4 of my kids went to her for book recommendations. We became friendly through garden club and discovered our mutual interest for gardening for nature. In fact, we formed a small group with several likeminded friends and took an online class where we read articles, watched videos and discussed wildlife friendly landscaping.
I have visited her yard many times and knew all the great things she had going on over there so in times of social distancing I knew without even having to visit she would be the perfect choice for the first Habitat Hero of 2020. In lieu of an in person visit I had an email Q&A to get the best description of her yard and what her plans are for the coming year. She is working with CSC resident Chris Pax, a native landscape designer on converting her front “lawn” to a shady native garden area. Be sure to check out Chris’ website for great newsletters, online classes and design services.
Click here Jeanne Klinger Q&A to visit our website and read my Q&A with Jeanne.
Habitat Hero – December 2019
The end of summer and into the fall I would drive past a house on the corner of Hampton & Broadview, slowing down as I turned the corner to admire the garden islands that had been carved out, significantly reducing the size of the lawn. I would crane my neck trying to see all the different plants in the landscape- looking for natives (of which there are many). The main attraction that always caught my eye was that the gardener at this residence had planted the hell-strip along Hampton (that narrow, barren area between the road and the sidewalk) with many native plants, grasses and even tomato plants that she encourages passer-byes to pick. Finally, on a warm day at the end of December I knocked on her door and awarded her CCC’s Habitat Hero Award.
Congratulations to our 2019 4th Quarter Winner Julianne Sharp. A garden club member and longtime Cape resident Julianne has been transforming her yard into a flourishing habitat for many pollinators, including bees, butterflies, birds and small mammals. Her list of plants is extensive and includes many natives that are vital to our local fauna that have evolved together over hundreds of thousands of years. They depend on each other for survival, many are specialized to only use a particular plant to lay their eggs. Her landscape includes many layers of plants such as groundcovers, structural plants and fillers for color. The plants vary in height, color and bloom time. It is important to always having something in bloom from early to spring to late fall so that pollinators always have something to eat. She has included many native grasses as well that provide structure, habitat and nesting spots. I spied several bare areas on the property that allow solitary ground bees to make their nests.
She has been replacing the lawn which is devoid of all life by carving out many island gardens throughout the property. She has also planted Trifolium repens white Dutch clover to replace the areas that are still grass and removes the wild strawberry from the garden beds but transplants them into other areas as a groundcover. Her use of natural materials throughout the property such as a garden border from an old tree, cut into pieces is not only eye catching but provides another spot for Mother Nature to come in. She has used local tree service companies for shredded mulch, including from a tree they had cut down. Her compost piles provide rich soil to nourish the garden beds each spring.
I won’t be able to list all the plants she has but I can give you the highlights! She has a variety of native grasses including Schizachyrium scoparium “Standing Ovation” Little Bluestem, Sisyrinchium angustifolium “Lucerne” narrow-leaf blue-eyed grass, Chasmanthium latifolium Northern Sea Oats, Panicum virgatum “Shenandoah” Switchgrass, Eragrostis spectabilis Purple Lovegrass and a grass-like plant Carex Appalachica Appalachian Sedge.
Her native fern selection includes Onoclea sensibilis Sensitive fern, and Polystichum acrostichoides Christmas fern. Groundcovers include Anemone canadensis Canadia anemone, Chrysogonum virginianum Green and gold, Erigeron pulchellus “Lynnhaven Carpet” Robin’s plantain, Geranium maculatum Wild geranium, Mitchella repens Partridge berry Pachysandra procumbens Allegheny spurge, and one of my favorites for a shady spot Packera aurea Golden ragwort.
Julianne also has huge selection of flowering native perennials that provide plenty of nectar for the bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Agastache “Blue Boa” Hyssop, Asclepias syriaca Common Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly weed Amsonia hubrichtii threadleaf bluestar, Coreopsis verticillata Whorled tickseed, Echinacea purpurea Purple Coneflower, Heliopsis helianthoides “Summer Nights” Smooth oxeye, Lobelia Cardinalis Cardinal Flower, Phlox paniculata Garden phlox, Rudbeckia hirta Black Eyed Susan, Aquilegia Canadensis Wild columbine, Spigelia marilandica Indian pink ,Tiarella cordifolia Heartleaf foamflower and Tradescantia “Sweet Kate” Spiderwort.
Rounding out the list are some very important fall blooming nectar plants. As I mentioned above it is important to always have something in bloom. In early to late fall the monarchs begin their fall migration and Julianne has several varities of Asters, including New England Aster and Aromatic Asters. The purple of the asters works as a brilliant combo with the golden yellow of Solidago goldenrod. She has Solidago sempervirens Seaside goldenrod and Solidago caesia blue stem goldenrod. As far as rock stars of pollinator plants go she has one of the best- Pycnanthemum flexuosum Appalachian Mountain Mint. The number of different species of bees and pollinating flies is unmatched by any other plant you can have!
Julianne is creating a habitat oasis in the middle of suburbia, on one of the main community roads. Providing a safe haven for birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to raise their young, feed on nectar plants, and remain safely sheltered. She does so by providing native plants, water sources, bare soil, fallen leaves and standing stalks. When I stopped by on a December day all of her spent plant stems were still there, no doubt overwintering next year’s bees and butterflies. Julianne is doing an amazing job at supporting our local ecosystem by her gardening habits! Congratulation and thank you Julianne for being a Habitat Hero!
Please email to nominate yourself or a neighbor who you think may be the next Habitat Hero! You will have our beautiful sign for 3 months, article on our website, shout out in the Caper and a $25 gift certificate to buy more plants. email@example.com
Habitat Hero – September 2019
Ever since Bill and Virginia Klocko moved into their house in Cape St Claire, Virginia has been hard at work removing non-native and invasive plants from the property. It started with Crown vetch that was creeping its way under the cement steps and driveway and continues today with English ivy. Virginia is a Master Gardener with a passion for Monarch butterflies that she raises from caterpillar to chrysalis before releasing the butterflies (34 total so far this year with 50 more in various stages of chrysalis and caterpillars). Virginia has 5 separate composting bins for yard waste, newspapers and scraps that she uses to enhance her landscape. She saves waste water from the washing machine and dishwashing to water her plants. Instead of an electric dryer she hangs her clothes on a line to air dry saving electricity! The Klockos are practicing many environmentally conscious habits that make them Habitat Heroes and good stewards of their land. In addition to our reward Virginia’s yard has been Baywise Certified by the Master Gardeners, meaning they are practicing bay safe habitats for clean water.
The first thing Virginia showed me was her Monarch nursery. She has several enclosed mesh baskets where she is raising monarch caterpillars. She collects them from her Asclepias syriaca common milkweed around her yard, adds cut Milkweed to the cage and protects them from predators. They form their chrysalis and attach themselves to the top of the mesh enclosure. Once they emerge as the beautiful Monarch butterflies she releases them back into the wild. Fortunately for them her yard has an abundance of native plants offering nectar for them.
I was so excited walking around her yard as she pointed out all the native plants she had growing there. Many she has planted but just as many have volunteered in her yard. There are multiple levels to the yard as the house sits on top a hill. As we weaved our way through I could see and hear a group of birds enjoying the habitat provided for them. At one point we had to switch directions and go around a gorgeous spider web that had made its home among the meadow like front yard, no doubt a prime location for catching his dinner. I was delighted too by the plants that were blooming for the fall that would benefit migrating birds and butterflies: they included White wood aster, various Aster species, Mountain mint, Virginia creeper, and Blue mist flowers. There are numerous trees and shrubs providing berries such as American holly, Viburnum, Dogwood, and Black cherry. The seed heads of the River oats are beginning to put on their amazing autumn show! The NY Ironweed and Joe-Pye weed is waning but their fluffy seed heads are calling out to the birds to feast upon.
I cannot wait to go back and visit this oasis next spring or early summer to witness the Baptisia, Blue bells, Milkweed, Black eyed Susans, Brown eyed Susans, Carolina Allspice bush, Redbud tree, Itea, Penstemon, Amsonia, and Elderberry all bursting with their beautiful colors and providing nectar sources, nesting places and protection from predators.
The yard is covered in groundcovers that control erosion and are a great alternative to a typical lawn that is devoid of life. There is Sedum ternatum, Wild ginger, Solomon’s seal, Christmas ferns, Partridge berry, and a lush mossy area. Many of these sprouted in her yard and have woven themselves into the landscaped quite comfortably, like an old friend.
The list of native trees in this quarter acre Cape lot is impressive. Again, many sprung up on their own or are the babies of the more mature trees. The list of trees, understory trees and shrubs includes Holly, Redbuds, Pawpaw, Dogwood, Beech, White oak (the largest host plant for butterflies), Sassafras, Blueberry (high and low bush), and Viburnums. Not only do they provide shelter and nesting spots for the birds and small mammals but many host many species of caterpillars that become moths and caterpillars. Those caterpillars are what the nesting birds feed their young. The whole food web is playing out in their very own backyard making the Klockos an excellent choice for our newest Habitat Hero of 2019.
They will be on our Habitat Hero Tour next June so you can see all the amazing ecosystem support they are providing to the local flora and fauna of Cape St Claire. Email me with any questions or to nominate yourself or neighbor as our next Habitat Hero. firstname.lastname@example.org
Habitat Hero – June 2019
Our 2019 second quarter Habitat Hero winner is Jennifer Crews-Carey. Last November Cal the Calliope Hummingbird craze begun in Jennifer’s backyard. She was fortunate to have a vagrant hummingbird-the Calliope Hummingbird that is typically only seen on the West Coast-show up in her yard. Her husband pointed out the bird, Jennifer snapped a picture and they posted it on a MD Birding page, thinking it was only our East coast hummingbird the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. A birding expert commented to her that he didn’t believe it was a Ruby-throated and wanted to come out to confirm. An expert from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel came out to verify, band, weigh and measure Cal. He was indeed a vagrant Calliope, somehow way off course from his usual habitat. Jennifer and her husband Rusty set about making their yard the perfect habitat for their unusual visitor by providing lots of sugar water, perching areas, water and shelter for the cold nights. They also opened up their yard to anyone who wanted a glimpse of this unique visitor. People made the trek from as far as VA, NJ, and NY. Some came from worldwide places while already in the area. Cal soon developed his magenta rays of his gorget throat feathers.
Cal (by Jack Anderson)
Many experts warned he could soon take off-in search of a mate as he was maturing. As the end of December rolled around Cal could no longer be seen in Jennifer’s yard, but she continued making a welcoming environment in case he was still lurking in the area. Since his disappearance in December he still has not been seen in the Cape but his visit sparked Jennifer’s interest in her backyard birds. While she had provided seed and housing for birds, she became even more impassioned about her feathered friends as well as seeing what other wildlife she could attract.
This spring Jennifer has added a large patch of milkweed, the host plant for monarchs to her backyard oasis as well as much needed nectar plants for the monarchs after they emerge as adults. While the caterpillars require milkweed to eat as they grow, the butterflies need nectar plants to fuel up, particularly fall blooming plants as they begin to migrate. Asters, Goldenrod and Joe-Pye Weed are all excellent examples of native fall blooming nectar sources. In addition to her milkweed garden Jennifer has several other native plants such as moss phlox, black eyed-Susan, and spiderwort as well as several hummingbird friendly plants like Pineapple Sage. They have set up a variety of hummingbird feeders ranging in sizes and shapes, hung in whimsical ways. There are several old chandeliers, painted red that now house hummingbird feeders. She cleans and refills them every few days (which usually prompts it to rain!).
In addition to the hummingbird feeders there are seed feeders for the songbirds, a bird bath providing water and several houses that are occupied! While I was there we heard and saw a delightful catbird with his brazen attitude. Her large variety of potted herbs are offered up as host plants for the swallowtail caterpillar-including dill, parsley and fennel. Jennifer & Rusty’s yard is a welcoming habitat to many of our local fauna! As they continue to add more native plants they will increase the biodiversity in their yard! Thanks Jennifer and Rusty for being a Habitat Hero!
Habitat Hero – March 2019
Our first Habitat Hero of 2019 is Katie Scott-Kelly. Katie and her family have worked hard to make their Cape St Claire yard a friendly place for many wildlife species-from birds to mammals to the tiniest of insects. Katie is a Watershed Shed Steward for Anne Arundel County so she has learned the importance of providing a safe place to co-exist with us in our own backyards. One place she started with in 2001 was a rain garden in her front yard. Due to flooding in the basement they directed two downspouts to the rain garden and have not had any flooding since. The rain garden not only provided a relief from storm water by slowing it down, spreading it out and soaking it in, the native plant in the rain garden offer a wonderful habitat for wildlife. The rain garden contains joe pye weed, little blue stem, lord Baltimore hibiscus and at one time black eyed Susan’s that have kept the butterflies and pollinators happy all summer long!
The backyard contains more natives that the local fauna finds appealing. From the New York Ironweed, wild ageratum, sassafras, dogwood, spice bush and a bottle brush buckeye there is no shortage of native plants! The birds (and kids) adore the berries on her serviceberry, while goldfinches munch happily on the coneflower seeds. And the bee balm, obedient plant, and woodland sunflower attract a large variety of pollinators. You can’t have butterflies if you don’t have caterpillars so Katie has a wide range of host plants for the butterflies to lay their eggs on. These include common milkweed (that arrived on their own), fennel, pussytoes, spice bush, and sassafras. They raised several black swallowtail caterpillars they found on the fennel so the kids could witness the transformation, even bringing them into the classroom.
Some of the backyard critters that visit include an opossum that made its way across the back fence as they enjoyed the hot tub! A pair of screech owls frequent their back yard. One evening, around dusk she felt something fly past her head and was delighted when she realized it was an owl. She shared the news with the kids who replied “duh, mom, we knew about the owls!”
In addition to the great selection of native plants Katie provides she also has four compost bins in the backyard (obtained through the county for free). Many of the falls leaves get chipped and added as well as grass clippings and kitchen waste. They have a beautiful curvy vegetable garden in the front yard that gets help from all the pollinators she has attracted to her yard with the native plants. A few more natives include amsonia, callicarpa, northern bay berry, red bud tree, fringe tree and columbine all adding to attraction of her landscape-both to the human eye and the delight of the wildlife that reaps the benefits.
Katie Scott-Kelly, we thank you for your contributions for a better ecosystem and your caring approach to providing habitat for our local fauna by providing the native plants that they have co-evolved over hundreds of thousands of years! You are a Habitat Hero!!
Habitat Hero – December 2018
Our fourth Habitat Hero winner is Bill Rappoport, a Cape Conservation Corps board member and active volunteer with CCC. Bill has spent the better part of 2018 installing a Milkweed Garden and converting his yard to native plants. In addition to the many pollinator friendly native plants he has included several species of native milkweed. Milkweed is he host plant for Monarch caterpillars, meaning they can only lay their eggs on milkweed as that is what the caterpillars eat when they hatch.
When the time came for “fall clean-up” Bill took what I call the Lazy Gardener approach and left the stems standing throughout his garden. By leaving the stems he is allowing insects to safely overwinter in the pith of the stalks. This spring, the later the better, Bill will cut the stems back but leave 12-18” still standing as many of them will still house those insects. Once the garden begins to pop up and green out you will not even notice those stems but it will be noticeable to our beneficial bugs. In time the stems will break down and add organic matter (natural mulch) to the garden.
Another “lazy gardener” trick Bill has done is to leave many of his fall leaves in place or rake them into garden areas. The leaves also make a perfect winter home to insects. You will often find birds picking through the leaves to make those insects a tasty meal. If you are lucky enough it may attract a Northern Flicker to this backyard buffet!
A “messy” yard should not be viewed in a negative light, it actually provides the right habitat for so many of the creatures we want to attract: those that benefit our gardens. If we rake away all the leaves and cut back the stems we are disposing of next year’s butterflies and beneficial bugs.
Leaving areas of your yard untouched you will also be providing habitat or shelter for a variety of birds and other wildlife species. A good compromise if you don’t want the “mess” in the front of the house is to tidy up your front gardens and leave the back as untouched as possible. Let the leaves lie, the stalks stand and leave some undisturbed bare soil for our many ground nesting native bees. If the plant material is diseased, remove it but if it is just dead let it decay naturally, adding nutrients to the soil as it does.
This spring when Bill goes back to work on his butterfly garden he will be richly rewarded by his lazy approach to gardening. He will have preserved the larvae, egg masses, hibernating bees, dormant spiders and loads of other hibernating insects. These beneficial bugs will emerge in his garden ready to pollinate his plants, destroy garden pests, nourish the baby birds and provide months of enjoyment as they flit among his native plants.
The following plants are just a few examples of plants that offer winter beauty in any garden:
- Blue Wild Indigo Baptisia australis the large billowy seed heads make a striking winter view
- Joe-Pye Weed Eutrochium spp. They hold their wrinkly leaves atop their tall hollow stems giving the birds a place to perch as they enjoy the seed heads
- Culver’s Root Veronicastrum virginicum birds will delight in the seeds found on this often spooky silhouette in the cold winter months
- Ironweed Vernonia spp. This super tall plant makes a nice accent against the winter skies as it stands up strong in the face of wind
- Goldenrod Solidago spp. There are many species available for a range of conditions with their fluffy seed heads that catch your eye
- Coneflowers Echinacea spp. long after purple has faded the seed heads stand erect and nourish many songbirds, particularly goldfinches
- Native Grasses and sedges amongst which so many have attractive foliage to add winter interest as well as habitat and food source for insects and birds.
Habitat Hero – September 2018
Congratulations to the 3rd Habitat Hero winner Melissa Day located on Hillendale Dr on the Little Magothy. The first thing I saw as I pulled up to her property was the Bay Wise Certified sign and I knew she was doing all the right things to be a Habit Hero. As I walked around her property, I marveled at the mix of habitats in the yard, there were mature trees creating a shady front area, wetlands, moss patches, grassy area in the back and beautiful gardens teeming with native plants. A monarch was nectaring on many of those summer blooms; he could have been born right there in her yard as it contains Milkweed, the monarchs only host plant. Melissa was also fortunate to have nesting bluebirds and cardinals in part because the landscaping has all the comforts a nesting pair of birds would need- food, water sources, shelter, and leaf litter. Food sources include nectar plants, fruit bearing shrubs, bird feeders and native plants containing soft bodied caterpillars birds require to feed their young.
In addition to the natural water source living on the Little Magothy provides, Melissa provides water in the form of bird baths. She has placed several nesting boxes in the yard and has many natural areas to act as havens or hideaways. As she sits in her upstairs she can look out on the yard and observe a wide range of birds making their home or brief visit to her yard. In addition to the many songbirds, a large variety of water birds including the great blue heron, green heron, egrets, cormorants and even eagles visit her landscape.
Melissa has been doing the hard work of removing non-native and invasive plants from the yards and plans on continuing to remove Rosebushes, Daylilies and English Ivy that are not providing any benefits to the ecosystem and replace them with natives. She leaves the fallen leaves in place to encourage overwintering insects as well as insect loving birds that will forage in those leaves, including robins, towhees and thrashers. Other eco-friendly practices in their landscape include composting, mitigating runoff, shunning fertilizers and other chemicals. Very Bay-Friendly practices! In addition to continuing to remove invasive plants Melissa plans on adding wetland grasses to her waterfront such as Spartina. One thing Melissa does in her yard or rather doesn’t do is pulling up “popups”. There are so many volunteer plants growing in her yard that have appeared naturally. Instead of mowing them down or yanking them out she allows them to thrive. I saw Pokeweed, Boneset, St John’s Wort, Tulip Poplar seedlings that have just sprouted on their own thriving in her yard.
On her side yard where drainage and runoff were a problem she has tried to mitigate the problem with PVC drainage system and dense plantings. She has a beautiful stand of ferns thriving in the moisture. All of these practices lead to a “slow it down, spread it out, and soak it in solution”.
I enjoyed my time in Melissa’s yard and seeing all of the bay friendly landscaping practices she is utilizing and the natural habitats she has created. Her yard is truly a functioning ecosystem and that makes Melissa Day a Habitat Hero!!
Habitat Hero – July 2018
Patricia & Rod Frederick
Cape Conservation Corps 3rd quarter Habitat Hero award is being presented to Rod & Patricia Frederick on Hilltop Dr. They have been in the Cape for over 32 years and during that time they have not used any chemicals in their yard, they mulch with the leaves on the property, use compost for planting and replanting. They have included multi-wat
er sources throughout their yard to provide for birds and other animals. When they mow they mow high, leaving the grass at least 2”. They keep their leaves in the wooded areas or where they lie, creating a beautiful leaf litter in which many
creatures can over-winter. They allow the dried stalks from their summer plants to remain standing through the winter to provide another habitat for overwintering insects. They also provide tasty treats for birds and small animals in the spring. They have a beautiful Baptisia australis blue false indigo growing in the middle of a backyard garden, and lovely stands of Onoclea sensibilis sensitive fern (she even shared one with me!).
Blue False Indigo
In the spring their yard is alive with colorful blooms throughout, attracting the eye of pass-byers and pollinators alike! Patricia and Rod are not only good stewards of their land but they like to share their plants with friends and family so others may reap the benefits of these life sustaining plants! They have had many creatures visit them over the years – deer, raccoon, opossum, black and gray squirrels, numerous birds, butterflies and other pollinators.
Thank you Patricia and Rod for all you do to be a Habitat Hero!
Habitat Hero – April 2018
Laura Shrank, CCC and CSC Garden Club member earned her Master Gardener certification last year and has not stopped learning since! She has attended workshops on native seed collecting, a screening of a the documentary Hometown Habitat, participated in a native plant discussion group with several like-minded conservationists and attends regular meetings of the Master Gardeners. She has turned her knowledge into a model ecosystem—a landscape teeming with native plant species and the wildlife that has co-evolved with those plants. Of course she claims it is “a work in progress”, with much work ahead of her Laura is certainly headed in the right direction.
She started by removing invasives growing on her property, including English ivy, Oriental bittersweet and Periwinkle (Vinca) to make room for natives shrubs and plants with an emphasis on pollinator friendly perennials. Laura has added between 60-70 native plant species to her landscape including Vernonia noveboracensis- New York Ironweed, Asclepsias -milkweed, Liatris -blazing star, Physostegia virginiana -obedient plant, Soldiago -goldenrod and Physocarpus opulifolius -nine bark, a beautiful year round interest shrub. All of these native plants are attracting a variety of native insects and other wildlife. She is able to keep track of all these beautiful plants with attractive signs she designed using stamped metal attached to a piece of pine. The tags include the Latin names so she can use them as a science lesson for her home-schooled children (they know the Latin names better than the common names!)
Laura’s yard, along with the support and hard work of her husband Don, earned the Baywise Certification last year because of her commitment to using bay friendly practices. In addition to removing invasives and replacing them with natives, she has also installed a rain barrel and drip irrigation on her raised vegetable beds to conserve water, cancelled her lawn spraying service, added insulation to the attic to conserve energy, and has been composting food waste to use a valuable additive to her soil. Don, her husband has been busy building a retaining wall and putting in swales and berms to control soil erosion and retain water on a tricky corner of the property, adding plants that will benefit from these conditions!
With all she accomplished, Laura is still not done. Her plans this year include adding an additional native plant beds around her mailbox, around the maple tree in the center of the yard, and another on the side of the house. She is hoping to continue to remove a patch of invasive English ivy behind the retaining area as well as a few other lingering invasive patches. She started last year by layering on a ton of mulched wood chips to smother those hard to kill vines! Laura’s hard work will continue to payoff as a welcoming habitat for local flora and fauna and benefit our local ecosystem with her conservation choices. Thanks Laura for being a Habitat Hero!