Nothing like the sight of babies of any species to turn us into mush. It simply cannot be helped. I never tire of seeing the homes the assorted garden creatures make. Bird nests are of course the most obvious. But solid looking adobe-like bee hives, papery nests of wasps, the large, messily put together squirrel abodes, the perfectly spherical beads of butterfly eggs on leaves of select plant, the cottony casings through which are visible the growing baby spiders are all the result of parents no less dedicated or anxious than we humans. In the role of parent, across genus and species, we can understand each other with total clarity and empathy. Is that not marvelous in itself?
A healthy garden will support all sorts of beneficial creatures. Any gardener worth her salt will do everything in her power to do right by her garden. Which brings us to part 3 of our goal to creating gardens with a conscience. Enlightened Gardening. Given all that we now know about the delicate balance in Nature, our role in impacting the environment and, how each living thing is connected to every other, it becomes imperative and urgent to do our part and do it well.
Imagine entering a garden that is lush with flowers, neatly clipped hedges. Even some clever topiary. Mature trees. Green lawns. Exquisite statuary. Sounds lovely so far? But now notice the quiet. No hum or buzz or shriek or trill or hurried rustle. Dead silence. Begins to feel strange? Then notice the absence of all animal life. No sign of movement but for a passing wind. Nothing flitting, flying, scurrying or hopping. I can already sense my panic. Like a child in an Halloween haunted house. Something bad is about to happen!
And that is what animals bring to our gardens, our world. Not only do they perform basic necessaries like pollination and pest control but they bring in the full spectrum of life itself. We could not function without them. Our spirit would be lost.
So, starting with including indigenous plants, a garden must offer a safe haven for beneficial creatures. Thickets and brambly shrubs for certain types of bird nests and other insects to find shelter and avoid discovery by their predators, Trees for other birds and squirrels. Discrete piles of fallen branches and upturned pots to give safe harbor to toads and garden snakes. Bird houses, nesting boxes, bat houses, bundles of narrow, hollow cylinders of wood or bamboo to encourage bees to take up residence.
Just like humans, other creatures also look for the ‘right’ neighborhoods. If you’ve ever watched birds check out possible nest building sites or houses already in place, you’ll know how carefully they consider the options. Safety, privacy, availability and access to food, light and wind exposure are factors uppermost on every animals mind. Sound familiar?!
It is in the interest of all concerned parties that the gardener does her bit to create the appropriate environments for the valued creatures. If we want them to grace us with their presence, then we must do the needful. Apart from a choice of housing locations, there must be available water and food. A water-bath, a fountain or a pond will suffice. Appropriate and diverse plants for food. Birds are good at scouting out where to get bugs and worms as well. If the garden is organic, then the food and water will be naturally clean. For us and for our fellow residents.
In very early spring, I put up a ‘nesting wreath’. A bunch of grapevine clippings are woven into a circle. To this I loosely attach natural fibres like cotton, jute or wool, feathers, twigs, hair, ribbons of colorful paper, dried flowers and leaves, moss and such. A little reservoir of nest building supplies to encourage the avians.
We provide a healthy place for them to live and raise their babies and they return the favor. No doubt we also provide each other a certain amount of entertainment in the bargain. Isn’t this how life is best lived?
(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar