She explains that there is a big push within the National Audubon Society – with good reason, she adds – to be planting as many native plants as possible. “It’s because the plants that have grown here for generations have all of these insects rely on them, and in turn, the insects feed our birds and other wildlife. When we get into gardens that are full of ornamentals and exotics, they don’t always support the insects that are valuable for wildlife.”
The Audubon’s wildlife gardens have a little bit of both, said Kim. “There are things here – like Irises – that aren’t native to Vermont. However, most of what we’ve tried to do is plant [native] varieties that will spread.”
Some of the plants were planted as nectar source, while others, like the echinops (globe thistle) and echinacea, were planted for the seeds that birds will eat well into the fall.
They also have an area at the edge of the forest, where young trees are grown for early successional habitat. “We let it grow to a certain point – right now there are a lot of berries, milkweed, and goldenrod, and we manage the area for species of birds that like that early growth,” said Kim. When the trees grow into larger saplings, they cut them back. That way, birds that prefer the early growth for habitat, such as the common yellowthroats and mourning warblers, are encouraged to call the garden home.