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Birds and bats and butterflies! Oh my!

As you know, this column is about trees, shrubs and all things "landscaping." So it might seem strange when I tell you that today I'm talking about houses. Wait! Stay right there! This isn't about the house that YOU live in.

To help make your landscape both pleasurable end environmentally sound, you might want to think about providing "housing" for both your plants and the wildlife that share your piece of the planet.

Here's a brief look at some houses and why they can be a benefit.

Greenhouse

First of all, a greenhouse allows you to pursue your passion for helping things to grow year round, regardless of the outdoor climate. Perhaps you'd like to experiment with exotic plants, fruits and fresh veggies or new plants you've never grown before. There is tremendous satisfaction to be had from nurturing tree seedlings and watching them grow day by day. But there is one very special benefit to owning a greenhouse that you might not want to mention to your nearest and dearest. A greenhouse can become your own private oasis. An island of calm, away from the worries of work or the demands of family life. Your own quiet little world; warm, green and humid!

Sound tempting? Not surprising when you consider that there are more than three million "hobby" greenhouses in the USA. A lot of people have given into the temptation and invested in their own greenhouses where they can nurture nature in peace and quiet.

You can find reasonably-priced greenhouse kits that are quite easy to assemble and come in sizes from modest to capacious. I suggest you look for models that include break-resistant glass with a thickness of around 3 mm or so.

Bat House

Far from being a nuisance, bats can be your best friends if you spend any time at all outdoors. Why? Bats eat insects. Lots of them. A bat can consume around 3,000 mosquitoes in a single night. So theoretically, ten bats could eliminate 210,000 mosquitoes per week. That's a great deal more than one of those buzzy bug zappers that attract and kill butterflies and other beneficial insects in addition to pesky mosquitoes.

If you feel a little leery of providing a home for a few bats, just ask yourself which of the following statements you are most likely to make: "Gee! I was only outside for a few minutes and I'm covered in mosquito bites!" or "Honey, get the garlic. I'm covered in bat bites!" Unless you live in Transylvania, it's probably the first statement. More bats equal fewer mosquitoes.

If you have a pond or any other standing water, you have an even greater incentive to find a way to attract bats to come on down and enjoy an all-you-can-eat mosquito buffet.

You might want to try and build a bat house from scratch, but a pleasant hobby project would be to buy one or two bat house kits that you can easily assemble. Remember to leave the bottom of the bat house open to prevent birds moving in as squatters!

Butterfly House

Butterflies seem to add an air of tranquility to any area of your landscape. They create a gently moving and constantly changing show of color as they flit from plant to plant. Additionally, they serve a very practical purpose because they are highly effective at pollinating your flowers.

However, they are delicate creatures and need protection from the elements and predators. You can help by putting up one or two butterfly houses. You can do this by hanging them from tree branches or attaching to posts.

If you position your butterfly houses close to a few Butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii) you'll give the little critters even more of an incentive to congregate around your landscape.

Bird House

There are so many types of bird houses that it's almost impossible to describe just one. However, I mention bird houses here to motivate you to investigate some of different types designed to attract very specific types of birds.

I found a very useful web site that describes how to build various bird houses for different species. The site includes some simple construction diagrams, too. The site is located at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/nreos/forest/steward/www16.html and you can click on a direct link when you go to my web site www.landsteward.org and find this column under the "Plant Man" heading.

I hope you agree that putting a few extra "houses" on your landscape can actually add to your pleasure and enjoyment. If there is a landscaping problem you need help with, or if you have an idea for a future column, feel free to send me an e-mail.

The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] and for resources and additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org



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