Native Thickets in Yards: An Urban Mimicry of Forests and Woodlands

The Nootka rose (Rosa nootkani) thicket is getting denser, and I can only just get by it these days.  Soon it will be impenetrable to humans and most predators, making it the perfect shelter for wild birds and their nesting sites.  In urban areas, native thickets like this one will help keep nesting birds safe from cats as well.  We planted our Nootka rose patch in an area where we only infrequently walk to establish more ground-covering native species like bunchgrasses, honeysuckle, salal, etc.  Wild birds tend to select undisturbed sites such as this for their nesting sites, and ground-nesting birds like juncos do well to have their nests tucked inside an impenetrable thicket that is largely undisturbed--this gives them a greater chance of success at raising their brood without predation.

This thicket is made up of mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) and red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), a little more pleasant to brush up against than Nootka rose, which is armed with small thorns.  I think the yellowing mock orange leaves look so pretty against the backdrop of the red-twig dogwood.  I have observed many species of birds perching on the bare, leafless branches of red-twig dogwood and the nearly bare branches of mock orange here.  When I planned out the design of our backyard habitat back, I intentionally created areas where there would be undisturbed native thickets for wildlife habitat.

Native thickets are valuable in many ways, one of which is that they attract more than just birds, they attract many species of wildlife that benefit one another and can provide a safe corridor for moving through urban spaces.  They don't have to look unruly, either.  As you can see here, the yellows and reds of mock orange and red-twig dogwood complement one another nicely.  Along a fence-line, it creates a beautiful border of differing texture, color, and height.  Evergreen and deciduous native species can be intermixed to create a biodiverse thicket that in turn attracts many wildlife species.   Here, you can see a young buckbrush (Ceanothus cuneatus) that will eventually get every bit as tall as mock orange and red-twig dogwood in the background.  This area is mixed with sword ferns, snowberry, wild ginger, graceful cinquefoil, Willamette Valley gumweed, a large amount of native species in the rain garden below, and a Pacific madrone behind the photographer, just to name a few.  On the slopes of the rain garden, you will find kinnikinnik with ground nesting bees.  These thickets keep feet off those slopes, providing the perfect, sunny slope for their nesting tunnels.  There's a little something for many species of wildlife that are found in urban areas, and that is why native thickets provide the perfect habitat in these locations as they are a mimicry of forested areas around the area.

My hope for each of you is that you find peace and rest this week and that it impacts you in a positive and meaningful way.  xoxo