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Design Tips for Front Yard Wildlife Gardens

Design Tips for Front Yard Wildlife Gardens

Front yards are important. They are the first thing we see when we come home every day. The first thing guests see when they visit. Our neighbors also spend a lot of time looking at them. So, it makes sense that we want them to reflect back an image of who you are and what you value. However, I often get asked how to create a garden that supports wildlife but still looks intentional and cared for. My answer, is always that it’s easy. Supporting wildlife doesn’t mean that you have to have a meadow in your front yard. Although nature does seem like prefer a little mess and chaos, it’s not all or nothing situation. You can have a garden that impresses the neighbours and brings you joy when you come home, that is also habitat for pollinators and songbirds. Here are some design tips to make sure your garden looks intentional, welcoming and cared for, while still providing habitat for wildlife.

1. Go with a plan. Like all successful projects, a great garden, starts with a great plan. Whether you design it yourself or hire a professional, a garden plan will ensure that you get the most of your space. Take the time to think about how you use the space, the colours you like Look at other gardens and see what you love or don’t love. Creating a plan can also help you stay on track and not get distracted by plant sale deals. Down the road, a properly devised plan can save you money by ensuring that you do it right the first time and don’t overspend on plants that aren’t suited to the space.

2. Keep it low. Try to keep the bulk of your plants under a height of 5 feet.  Incorporating too many tall plants and shrubs can make your yard look uninviting.  This applies more so to smaller yards. The larger the yard, the more room there will be to create a gradual build of height.

3.The more the merrier. Group your plants together. They will create a larger impact that is more attractive to people as well as passing pollinators (win, win). The size of the groupings will depend on the size of the space and the plants. Groupings can also be replicated throughout the garden to create a continuous flow of colour.

4. Tidy borders. The edge or border of the gardens should be well-maintained. If you are planting right to the curb, using small mounding perennials helps create a soft line that welcomes your eye to the garden. I love sedges as border plants. Other crowd-pleasers are Lance-leaf coreopsis, Upland White Goldendord and Prairie Dropseed.

5. Modern love. Don’t be afraid to use modern or formal design elements. While hard lines and well-trimmed edges may not be what one imagines a wildlife garden, it isn’t against the rules. You can have formal and functional.


Upland White Goldenrod Lance leaf coreopsis 

For more tips on how to have an ecologically functional garden that still impresses the neighbours, check out our post on Mullet Gardening, business in the front, party at the back blog.

Seeding Native Plants Webinar

Seeding Native Plants Webinar
Seeding Native Plants Webinar
 Learn how to grow native plants from seed with Laura Thomas of Hidden Habitat.
In this introductory webinar, Laura will discuss how to ethically collect seeds, clean them for storage, as well as the best methods for storing your seeds. Laura will also discuss how to germinate your seeds indoors and outdoors and how to care for your newly sprouted seedlings.

Date: February 23, 2021
Time: 10am
If you’d like to register, call 705-645-7393 ext 200 or email The Zoom link will be sent out through email to registered participants.

Learn more

Mullet Gardening

Mullet Gardening

Business at the front, party at the back.


Mullet Gardening


Keeping your garden looking good but also functional (ecologically) is sometimes difficult for gardeners wanting to provide habitat. They want to show that their yards and gardens are cared for and are maintained but don’t want to pull out the leaf blower and snips to clean out every last piece of ‘garden debris’. While there are many tips to maintaining a beautiful and ecologically functioning garden, I wanted to introduce the mullet method of gardening. The mullet method evokes the usually unfortunate and surprisingly long-lasting hairstyle that is short at the front and long at the back, or business up front and party at the back.

To relate this to gardening, I suggest we can have a front yard that is more formal or manicured, with a backyard that is more naturalized or wild. Let me be clear that our front yards don’t have to be hostas and lawn either. They can still be an oasis for wildlife, incorporating native plants and trees. Check out my blog on simple design tips for creating a beautiful and ecologically functional front yard. You can simply give yourself permission to have a more modern or formal garden in the front yard, while really going wild in the back. Drop some deadfall, create a brush pile, leave your stems up all year.

The mullet gardening method can also be applied to the garden itself. You can maintain a ‘tidier’ look at the front of your garden while letting the back go more natural. Establishing a well-defined garden edge (just not the plastic garden edger please) with a well-dug V trench softened by a border of small mounding perennials (I really love using sedges) will instantly make any garden look intentional and cared for. Leaf litter can be raked gently to the back of the garden and stems can be cut back at the front, allowing some of your taller perennials at the back to keep their stems up. Letting some of the sturdier tall perennials stand throughout the year can add interest in the winter too.

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