Native Plants: Naturscaping Your Yard

The idea behind naturescaping, or gardening for wildlife, is to plant native plants that animals rely on for food and hiding places as well as to add man-made homes and sources of water to your yard. By providing the three fundamental components of food, water and shelter, you create habitat for wildlife in your yard year round!

Native Plants for Specific Species:

Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum, is a shrub that blooms early in March and coincides with the arrival of the hummingbirds to our region, providing nectar for instant nutrition. Currants thrive in full to part sun and well-drained soil.

Thrushes (including robins), waxwings and other fruit eaters can be attracted by planting Red or Evergreen Huckleberry, Vaccinium parvifolium, V. ovatum, in partly shady organic soils; Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa, in partly sunny moist soils; or Mountain Ash, Sorbus sitchensis, in full sun and well-drained soil.

To attract pollinating bumble bees and many small orange butterflies, plant Oregon Sunshine, Eriophyllum lanatum, a bright yellow flower that blooms for about a month. It’s very showy and has furry greenish-grey leaves that over winter well in full sun well-drained soil. It can be easily started from scattering seed.

Making Homes:

Constructed houses, bush piles, rock walls, underground tunnel dens and even rotting logs all provide places for birds, small mammals and amphibians to hide and homes to raise their young. Bird houses, bat boxes, squirrel and raccoon boxes all have species-specific dimensions so do your research to make sure you are attracting what you are intending to attract. For example, a bird house with too large an entrance hole and a perch allows unwanted starlings to remove native nestlings and lay their own eggs. By having the hole just a fraction smaller, they are kept out. Consult one of the resources listed below for proper dimensions or purchase your house from a knowledgeable supplier such as the Backyard Wild Bird and Nature store in Nanaimo. The power of providing nest boxes is amazing. The Purple Martin population along eastern Vancouver Island coast was down to 5 breeding pairs about 20 years ago and due to placing of nest boxes is presently over 500 nesting pairs!

Providing Water:

Water attracts birds and mammals especially in the summer and early autumn before the rains begin. Moving water is especially attractive and can be easily provided by filling a container with water and making a pin hole in the bottom. Suspend the container from a tree or pole above a shallow pan that catches the drip. This creates a bathing and drinking area for birds and insects. Refill the container in the morning or evening.

For those who do not want deer in their yards, deterrents such as bone meal or dog hair in a mesh bag may help during certain times of year, but when the plants are tender, and the deer are hungry, nothing deters them except 8 foot fences or mesh over sensitive plants.

By adding a few key components such as food, water or shelter to your yard, you can attract and enjoy wildlife.


Naturescape Kits for Georgia Basin $21 order from


Attracting Backyard Wildlife Bill Merilees (Nanaimo author) 1989