Wildlife gardens are gardens which are intended to attract wildlife. A number of organizations which are concerned about wildlife habitat and the human connection with nature have promoted the establishment of such gardens, with some even offering certification programs to people who create wildlife gardens. A garden doesn't have to be big to attract and support wildlife; an apartment balcony can house a wildlife garden just as easily as the sprawling grounds of a country estate.
Several features distinguish a wildlife garden from an ordinary garden. The first is the use of native plants. Plants and animals have evolved symbiotic relationships with each other, and using native plants encourages native wildlife to frequent a garden. The second is the provision of food sources such as seeds, nectar, nuts, berries, fruits, and so forth. The third is a supply of water, which can be in the form of a bird bath, pond, stream, or water feature. A wildlife garden also creates cover and shelter in which animals feel secure and comfortable, with space to raise their young.
Wildlife gardens can be highly formal, with rigid garden design and a very neat, trim appearance. They can also be more casual and sprawling. This allows a lot of room for personal taste, so that gardeners are not forced to compromise their aesthetics when they make wildlife gardens. People who live in areas with neighborhood associations which have strict rules about landscaping can establish a wildlife garden without violating the rules, keeping the neighborhood association happy while providing habitat for wildlife.
Wildlife garden design can be be accomplished with the assistance of a professional consultant who visits the site, establishes a plan, and provides ongoing advice. People can also design their own gardens. Many conservation organizations publish pamphlets and books which discuss wildlife gardens and how to design them, and information can also be obtained from native plant societies and gardening associations. As with any garden, it helps to design ahead of time, creating blueprints which can be used as a basis for the garden.
People may want to consider working with neighbors on a wildlife garden. Extending a garden across several yards will create more habitat for wildlife, and allow animals to move more freely. Hedges and trees can be used to create privacy screens without blocking the passage of animals through the garden, and people may enjoy the aesthetics of a large, seamless garden, in contrast to a series of small gardens separated by fences.