Thursday, October 8, 2009

No Man's Land

My Florida Backyard is a small suburban lot, with only about 10 feet between houses on either side. On the south side of our house, we have our paver walkway lined with Mexican Petunia and annual flowers. It's also where the rain barrel resides, and it leads directly around to the back porch and back door. We visit the south side of the house on a regular basis.

However, the north side of the house is a bit of a no man's land. We rarely walk around that way; our kitchen windows face out onto it, but since they also look directly into our neighbor's windows, the blinds are often closed for privacy. Still, when you don't have much space, you hate to leave any area unplanted, so our side yard to the north is the perfect place for some wild shrubs, including:
We chose all of these bushes because they met several criteria. First they tolerate partial to full shade, and even thrive in it. Second, they attract wildlife, with blossoms or berries or both. And third, they are native and require little to no maintenance - perfect for a side of the house we rarely visit.

My favorite of these shrubs is the American Beautyberry. This fast-growing, drought-tolerant, cold-tolerant bush has showy purple berries for a good portion of the year. Beautiful though they may be, they don't seem to tempt the local birds as much as I thought they might. They sort of seem to think of them as a "last resort" kind of berry - if others are available, they'll eat them first. Even mockingbirds, ravenous and territorial as they are, generally ignore these lovely berries. That's fine with me, though - I get to enjoy the splash of color just outside the kitchen window, where they provide a bit of a screen from the neighbors.

So I guess the moral of the story is - a good Florida-Friendly wildlife gardnener should use all the space available to them. Even if you don't see it much, the local fauna will appreciate it (and maybe your human neighbors too)!

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