Creeping Phlox

I recently took my small point-and-shoot camera to the backyard, looking for possible signs of spring. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a number of plants have remained green throughout our prolonged winter.

I was especially glad to see the Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) looking healthy through patches of snow.

creeping-phlox-(Phlox subulata)

The dense foliage creates a ground cover tough enough I can walk on it. It keeps weeds down and spreads slowly, but is not invasive.

There are already tiny buds and, with a little luck, by the first of April it will become a mass of color as in this image from last spring.

Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

It grows especially well on the rocky, sunny slope that leads to our rain garden and has proven to be drought tolerant.

With its evergreen foliage, colorful spring blossoms, and ease of maintenance, Creeping Phlox is an effective ground cover and one of my favorite native backyard plants.

I was also glad to see my first backyard honey bee (Apis mellifera) on February 16. I know spring isn’t here yet, but I trust it’s on the way. I’d be glad to hear of any signs of spring you’re seeing.

A year of blogging

Last February I committed to doing a backyard blog for one year. I’ve reached that milestone and it seems like a good time for reflection.

I started this blog hoping to tell others about the advantages of landscaping with native plants. It has been very satisfying to share our backyard and to network with others. I like hearing about your backyard discoveries, and knowing other people share my interests is a powerful incentive for me to continue the blog.

An added bonus has been how the blog has helped me to enjoy our backyard even more. Preparing the weekly posts encourages me to watch the backyard more closely. And the challenge of getting appropriate images often leads to new backyard discoveries.

So, here’s to the beginning of the blog’s second year. I look forward to what new discoveries await, and I hope you’ll continue to share the journey with me.

Kentucky sunrise
A February 2010 backyard sunrise

Woodlands and Prairies Magazine

Woodlands and Prairies is a magazine for folks who “care about their piece of this Good Earth.” Each year, the holiday issue features stories from readers about what they are doing to create healthier environments.

I submitted the story of our backyard and am pleased to have it included in the 2010 holiday issue. It was a special bonus when they asked to use my Winterberry photo on the cover, and this photo of two male House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) on the inside cover.

Carpodacus mexicanus

You can read the article about our backyard. Note: the PDF is 1.2 MB, and may take a few minutes to download.

I think Woodlands and Prairies does a good job of informing, inspiring, and connecting folks who are concerned with healthy land management – whether suburban yards or country acreages. I hope you’ll visit their website:

Kentucky Backyard Wildlife Habitat

At a good friend’s suggestion, I applied for certification as a Kentucky Backyard Wildlife Habitat. It was an interesting learning experience.

The application process included listing plants in the backyard and how they are used by wildlife, other food sources like our bird feeders, wildlife cover, and water resources. It helped me see what we’ve already done for wildlife and how we can do more.

I included some photographs in the application. This one shows a few of our backyard insects.

Here are some of our 2010 backyard butterflies.

And here’s a sampling of our birds and mammals.

Some Kentucky backyard birds and mammals

When we first re-worked the backyard, I focused primarily on the plants. Applying for the certification has helped me realize how the changes have affected the wildlife we see, and how much that adds to my enjoyment of the backyard. I’m interested in exploring how we can encourage wildlife even more.

I now realize we have only one nesting box, a wren house. I want to add one or two chickadee houses and possibly a bat house. I also want to identify more of the insects in the garden, and I’m hoping some of the neighborhood kids will help.

I’m pleased to report that a panel reviewed my application, and our backyard is now an officially certified Kentucky Backyard Wildlife Habitat.