One of the great things about working with the scale of your own yard is that you have neighbors. And they have yards, too. At least if you're in a suburban or in-town setting. The big plus for this is that you don't have to buy out the whole nursery -- especially since you won't have space for everything in the nursery, anyway. My western neighbor has a
flowering dogwood, a red cedar, and a number of other trees that I don't. The neighbor to the east also has a flowering dogwood, a mature willow tree, a maple, a magnolia and some lovely hemlock. These are assets for wildlife that I don't have to replicate in my own yard because they are already in close proximity.
In the photo, I'm looking through the edge of my yard and into my neighbor's. Between the two of us there are already a number of mature trees to provide food and shelter to wildlife. Even hummingbirds benefit from mature trees like these--a magnolia is practically a condominium for a hummer during a thunderstorm. The density of Norway spruce works, as well.
Both of my neighbors have been extremely tolerant of my landscaping convictions. They have even been known to aid and abet my cause -- allowing me to plant a Winter King Hawthorne on their property on the one side and assisting with the removal of a silver maple (replaced with sourwood) on the other. Trees are the most trouble to place, but because of the time they need to mature, it is essential to get those "bones" into the landscape before planning the other portions.
In the first 18 months of occupation, we added a Red Buckeye, an American Holly, the aforementioned Winter King Hawthorne, a Forest Pansy Eastern Redbud (drop dead gorgeous tree), common Witchhazel, and a Prairie Fire Crabapple. And that's just the trees. The Red Buckeye is one of the very first food sources for hummingbirds, as the blooms come on before the leaves. The holly and the hawthorne both supply winter berries. And the crabapple supports dozens of species from bloom to fruit. With these bones in place, the rest of the structure of the landscape can be addressed so that both the critters and I enjoy it.
It can be very difficult to find a "true" native through nurseries anymore. I was fortunate with the buckeye, witchhazel and sourwood. The others are hybrids or other modifications of the true forms. The Winter King, for instance, is a Green Hawthorne grafted onto Washington Hawthorne rootstock. The Washington Hawthorne is evidently more vigorous, but has other bad habits (like legginess and other shrubby habits). Eastern Redbuds in the native form can be horrifically prolific in seed production, resulting in a forest of redbuds you didn't bargain for. For the most part, birds and butterflies have adapted to minor changes in hybrids, providing the blooms themselves aren't too different. But more on that another day.
Thanks for reading--