Our blog’s purpose is to
- Celebrate nature in our yards
- Discuss how to make your yard a healthier habitat for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife
- Describe wildlife happenings in our yards
- Encourage use of native plants – the essential foundation of any functioning ecosystem
- Provide information about growing local (southeastern Pennsylvania) native plants
- Inform readers about events, books, and other resources
Who we are
We are Edie Parnum and Barb Elliot, co-founders (in 2002) of the Backyards for Nature program of the Valley Forge Audubon Society, which serves Southeastern PA. We provide ideas for making yards more wildlife-friendly, give presentations to local groups, write articles about backyard habitat and attracting wildlife, offer on-site consultations for improving backyard habitat, and assist others in obtaining backyard habitat certification.
We are both certified National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Habitat Stewards and have had training in gardening for wildlife and native plants at various workshops and conferences. Our yards have been NWF-certified Backyard Wildlife HabitatsTM since the 1990s. Each of our yards is also certified as a Monarch WaystationTM, providing resources for all life stages of monarch butterflies. We both regularly volunteer as citizen scientists for Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch, and were volunteer birders during the PA Breeding Bird Atlas project.
Edie is Ornithology Chairperson for the Valley Forge Audubon Society, a bird walk leader for Valley Forge Audubon Society and the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, and has been the compiler for the Valley Forge Audubon Christmas Bird Count. She has observed 119 bird species on her property, and dozens of butterfly species. Barb’s yard counts include more than 85 bird species and 25 butterfly species. Barb was a board member of the Habitat Resource Network of Southeast Pennsylvania and an amateur researcher for Bat Conservation International’s Bat House Research Project. She is passionate about attracting birds, butterflies, bees, dragonflies, frogs, toads, bats and other wildlife to her property and sharing that experience with others.
Why this blog?
Since January 2002, as the Backyards for Nature program of Valley Forge Audubon Society, we have given more than 50 presentations to environmental organizations, gardening clubs, and community groups, written 55 articles about attracting and helping birds, butterflies, and other wildlife in one’s yard, and Edie has personally visited 53 properties to offer advice to homeowners about how to make their yards more wildlife-friendly. Through this blog, we would like to continue the conversation with a wider audience in southeastern Pennsylvania. We hope you will find it useful and visit frequently.
Very nice – interesting facts – thank you – keep up the good work.
Edie – this looks great. We will be sure to follow. It was very nice seeing you in Ohio.
Edie – the site looks great and is inspiring me to get my little garden in better shape.
I just wanted to tell you that the native Honeysuckle I planted 2 years ago and the Bee Balm I planted last year are paying off! I have a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting my garden regularly! I put out a hummingbird feeder for her, but I have not seen her eat from it. Still cool stuff from Center City!
Hi, Patty. Glad to hear your Bee Balm and Trumpet Honeysuckle are hosting a hummingbird. My motto: plant native plants and the birds will come. I’d love to see your yard sometime. Here’s an article I wrote a while back about a bird/butterfly habitat garden on a small property in a cement and asphalt neighborhood in East Mount Airy.
Edie, so wonderful to meet you yesterday. We really enjoyed the walk at Heinz. Great job with the blog! Keep up the great work. I will continue to visit!
Enjoyed meeting you and Rob at the Heinz bird walk yesterday. Glad you like our blog. I like yours, too, and have signed up to get future posts. Thanks again for carrying your scope.
Hello, I was just working on a post about Monarch Butterflies and came across your site for the first time. We stopped mowing a portion of our yard several years ago and enjoy seeing all the life it has brought into our yard. While lots of milkweed has grown on its own, we have also planted more. This year we added a small butterfly garden as well. I love coming across other people who are making their yards inviting to nature! We live in Montgomery County, PA, so hopefully we will see you at an event some time!
Naturally Educated, thanks for sharing your success with leaving a portion of your yard more natural. It’s good to hear that milkweed grew there and that you have added more milkweed and a butterfly garden. Yes, I hope that we can meet you some time since you live in the area.
I love what you have to say here. I just moved to our first house and we are creating a native garden.
The lawn is overwhelming and overlays clay soil, and I understand the area was once swamp. (This is Princeton nj.).
Couple questions: if we want to transplant a scarlet oak sapling from the old apt (tree is about 8 feet) should we wait for fall?
Is it my imagination or do conventional lawns support Japanese beetles?
Thanks for reading and commenting on our latest blog. Congratulations on buying your first home and so glad you are planning to plant natives. Unfortunately, although Scarlet Oak is a wonderful tree for supporting Lepidoptera (butterflies & moths) and other wildlife, I don’t recommend that you attempt to transplant an 8-foot sapling. Oaks have a long taproot, so they are difficult to transplant. They are quite adaptable but prefer dry, acidic, well-drained soil.
Fall is a good time to plant trees and shrubs. You will be able to find native plant nurseries in New Jersey on this website. http://www.npsnj.org/pages/nativeplants_Sources.html
Although you may be in a hurry to have large trees and shrubs to replace your sterile lawn (yes, turfgrass hosts Japanese Beetle grubs), it’s best to plant young onrd. They will adapt to their new location quickly and usually catch up to larger, more expensive specimens in a few years.
Here’s some information about planting trees and shrubs:
1. Dig a hole only as deep and twice as wide as the soil in the pot.
2. Remove the tree or shrub from the pot and place it into the hole. The soil line of plant should be level with the ground.
3. Fill in the hole around plant with the soil that was removed from the hole. Do not add fertilizer, compost, or any other soil amendments. Push down on loose soil with your hands but do not use feet or otherwise compact the soil.
4. Spread an inch of compost on top. Again, fertilizer is not necessary.
5. Water well immediately. For the next 24 hours, water slowly with a dripping hose or leaky watering can.
6. Add 3-4” of mulch but do not let the mulch touch the tree trunk.
7. Cage the tree or shrub with metal fencing to prevent deer browse. The cage can be removed in a few years when the tree or shrub is so tall that deer damage seems unlikely.
8. Water weekly except when rainfall is sufficient. A spring-planted woody should be watered at least until the end of the summer. For those planted in the fall, you should provide water until the ground freezes. Remember, you are more likely to lose your plant from insufficient water than from any other cause.
What a truly beautiful Informative website.
I live in Blackurn, Victoria. I am often snooping for good garden sites and found this whilst looking for Blue banded bee information.
Well done, i just love it!
Lorna, thanks so much for your comment. It’s nice to know that we have reached as far as Australia! Hopefully, you are able to put in plants native to your region and help your local wildlife.
Co-Director, Backyards for Nature
Southeastern Pennsylvania, USA
I came looking for native groundcovers for southeast PA. Wonderfully informative article. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!