This post has been adapted from the Backyard Habitat Certification Program’s Open Garden Project.
Meet Laura. Laura’s home in Cedar Hills was recently certified as a platinum level backyard habitat. The folks at Backyard Habitats recently checked in with her to talk about her habitat’s journey and a few of her favorite things in her yard.
What inspired you to enroll in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program?
My sister is a former backyard habitat member in East Portland. We grew up learning and loving native plants so when I purchased this home, I was really excited about turning the yard into my own little ‘edge of the woods.’
What part of your backyard habitat are you most proud of?
My hedgerowA row of trees or shrubs that provide wildlife habitat, reduce pollution, and provide shade.. It was worth the first few years of caretaking and now it’s like looking a slice of forest. I love all the birds that call it home. There are definitely at least two families of birds that live in our hedgerow and the local woodpecker visits regularly!
What changes have you observed as a result of creating habitat?
Lots more birds! We have a hummingbird (or three) that come daily now. Now that the aspen trees are big their leaves make even the hottest summer day feel cooler. Since it’s a fairly established garden, I don’t have to fuss much. I only have set up drip irrigation lines for the new plants. It thrives and looks wonderful no matter how busy I am with the kids or the job.
What are your top three favorite native plants and why do you love them?
My hawthorn tree – there are always birds in it! It’s grown in so nicely and it routinely reminds me no matter where I am that I’d rather be gardening.
My native dogwood – it took a few months to track one down and it had a hard year or two at the beginning but now it’s thriving, and it blooms multiple times a year.
My broadleaf stonecrop – my very first Oregon native plant! It lived in a pot, making my apartment feel like home until I could give it a proper home. Every time it blooms, I feel like I’ve found home all over again.
What were the two most significant challenges you encountered while creating habitat, and how did you address them?
Full, very hot sun. I used a drip irrigation system for the first three summers to make sure I didn’t lose any of my hedgerow. After that, it’s been on its own.
The grass removal. We had the English holly removed professionally – it was over 15 feet tall – then took out the rest of the shrubs on our own. But that grass removal was hard work. We took out the whole back yard and replanted with a low-mow mix of clover, yarrow, and English daisy. Since then, we’ve been slowly taking it out as our beds expand. I use chemicals as rarely as possible… so it requires lots of digging, flipping, soil cutting, and adding compost and mulch.
What resources did you find especially helpful?
We took the rain garden installation class, which was very helpful when creating the garden in the front-yard. I rely on Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes and Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest when planning what and where I’m going to plant next.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about your journey?
…that it is a journey. Every year things are different. Some years – like when I had my second kiddo – not much happens but it’s always waiting for me to come back!
More about the Backyard Habitat Certification Program
Since its inception in 2007, the Backyard Habitat Certification Program has enrolled over 9,000 properties across Multnomah, Clackamas, Clark, and Washington counties. The program helps urban residents transform their spaces into thriving oases that are healthier for people, wildlife, and the planet.
For more information about the program or to enroll your habitat, visit Backyard Habitats.