Landscape Design With Birds and Pollinators in Mind

Hi Gang,

This summer I am teaching a “Landscape Design With Birds & Pollinators in Mind” class twice in Avalon. These 2-hour indoor classes are co-sponsored by the Avalon Environmental Commission and the Avalon Free Public Library. The classes are FREE but registration is required. Details follow:

June 14 (Friday), 2:30-4:30 p.m.
(same class offered Fri., August 16, but at a different location)
“Landscape Design with Birds and Pollinators in Mind”
by Pat Sutton
Registration required; Space limited to 20
Where: Avalon at the Tennis Building, 250 39th St, Avalon, NJ 08202

August 16 (Friday), 2:30-4:30 p.m.
(same 2-hr class offered Friday, June 14, but at a different location)
“Landscape Design with Birds and Pollinators in Mind”
by Pat Sutton
Registration required; Space limited to 20
Where: Avalon Free Public Library, 235 32nd St, Avalon, NJ 08202

DETAILS ABOUT THESE CLASSES:

Registration is required.

For the June 14th CLASS Avalon property owners began registering May 17. Registration opened up to others on May 31.

For the August 16th CLASS Avalon property owners may register beginning July 19. All others may register beginning August 2.

To register, please call the Avalon Library at 609-967-7155 or stop by their circulation desk at 235 32nd St, Avalon, NJ 08202.  At registration, participants will receive Pat Sutton’s handout, “Landscape Design with Pollinators and Birds in Mind,” which includes instructions on creating a sketch of their property required for the class. Be sure to read this handout over prior to the class so that you get as much as possible out of the class.

The property sketch should be emailed to Pat 3 days prior to the class (so by the end of the day on Tuesday, June 11th for the June 14th class and by the end of the day on Tuesday, August 13 for the August 16th class). The property sketch should have the registrant’s name in large, bold letters on the sketch in a spot that will be included when it is photographed or copied and sent to Pat.  Photograph the property sketch (so that your name on the sketch shows up), and e-mail the jpg or pdf scan to Pat Sutton (Pat’s e-mail is at the top of her Landscape Design HANDOUT received upon registration). In the e-mail subject line registrants should enter: “Landscape Design – June 14 or August 16 (whichever day/class they signed up for) – their full name.”  If you feel more comfortable sending Pat a few photos of the area you would like to transform into a native plant habitat, by all means send photos instead, but please don’t crash her computer with many HUGE photos. If you have any questions, reach out to Pat (but hopefully everything is explained in her handout and these instructions).

The first half of the class will cover resources and a slide program about the topic. During the second half of the class the group will brainstorm the projected images of each participant’s rough sketch. This brainstorming session should result in participants heading home with ideas and plans to enhance each of their properties for pollinators and birds.

Happy Wildlife Gardening,
Pat

2024 Tours of Pat Sutton’s Wildlife Garden

This year I am excited to share that I will be leading tours of my wildlife garden for the first time since COVID. It’s been a long time since the last tour (2019) and I’ve missed sharing my wildlife habitat and all the wonder unfolding in it, plus it has evolved as I’ve learned more, as plants have grown and spread, and as I’ve acquired additional Chocolate Cake nectar and host plants. I will be leading these tours for CU Maurice River, a non-profit organization (registration will be required through CU Maurice River, not through me).

In this post I’ve included photos of the garden in late June when the tours will occur(as well as late June garden visitors).  Don’t let the photos of ornate bees, flies, & wasps deter you from signing up for this tour.  We’ve never been stung in our garden.  All these beautiful pollinators are far too busy gathering nectar and pollen, avoiding predators, seeking mates, and selecting nest sites to show any interest in us!   Details follow:

“Tours of Pat Sutton’s Private Wildlife Garden”
47 Years in the Making
Saturday, June 29, 2024
(RAIN DATE: Sunday, June 30, 2024)
Morning Session: 9:30 a.m. to Noon  (SOLD OUT a/o 5-31-24)
Afternoon Session: 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. (SOLD OUT a/o 5-31-24)
Limit / Session: 20
COST/tour: $30 (CU Maurice River member), $40 (nonmember)

These tours are SOLD OUT as of 5-31-24.  Please email info@cumauriceriver.org  OR call (856) 300-5331 to get added to a waitlist

Contact CU Maurice River at the office (856) 300-5331 to register and pay for this garden tour or do so on their website.   For the Morning Tour register HEREFor the Afternoon Tour register HERE.

Sign up for the session that best fits your schedule (morning or afternoon tour), and join Pat Sutton for a late-June tour of her 47-year-old wildlife garden in Goshen (Cape May Co.), NJ, when some of her favorite nectar plants are in bloom and drawing in pollinators.

Pat’s gardens showcase the many different ways a habitat can offer food, cover, and water. This one-half acre property shelters 202 species of native plants, including 127 native perennials (plus Partridge Pea, a native annual), 60 native trees, shrubs, & vines; 9 native grasses, and 5 native ferns. Pat’s garden plant signage includes common & latin name, year planted, source of plant, and often specific wildlife that benefits from the plant.  Pat’s wildlife habitat includes two wildlife ponds (that numerous frogs, toads, dragonflies, and damselflies breed in), many and different water features, bird and butterfly feeding stations, a pocket meadow of wildflowers and grasses (see 1st photo in this post), extensive shade gardens in under shade trees, wildlife corridors, shrub islands, a woodland of native plants (saved from a jungle of Multiflora Rose and Japanese Honeysuckle in 2009), and a full-sun pollinator garden.

Over the 46 years Pat & Clay have lived at this site (since 1977), they’ve tallied 213 bird species including such unlikely species as Varied Thrush, Pileated Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and Black-headed Grosbeak (wintered). They’ve also tallied 79 butterfly species (the 2nd highest butterfly yard list in NJ)! But a real scare in the last 6 or so years has been a drastic drop in diversity and numbers of butterflies (and moths), despite Pat continually adding to their property’s offering of native nectar & host plants.

Fortunately, other pollinators (bees, wasps, flies, day-flying moths, and beetles) caught Pat’s fancy. They seemed to be abundant, but in reality, they too are probably far fewer during today’s “Insect Crisis,” than they once were. Pat readily admits that “in the good old days, we were so dazzled by the clouds of butterflies dashing about the garden that we barely noticed the other pollinators.”

With less travel during the Pandemic, Pat explored her wildlife gardens almost daily, savoring the myriad of native plants and the many pollinators attracted to them. In previous years she’d dabbled at learning bee, wasp, and fly pollinators, but they are tough! With the help of iNaturalist and Heather Holm’s book Wasps, she earnestly studied and documented the pollinators benefiting from her wildlife habitat.

Late in 2023, Pat was given hope (and great joy) when she tallied up the pollinators (beyond butterflies) benefiting from their diverse ½ acre property. She’d photographed 111 pollinators, including: 37 wasps, 31 flies, 26 bees, 9 beetles, and 8 diurnal moths nectaring in the gardens. That project is ongoing. You can check out Pat’s iNaturalist sightings HERE (once there click on “Sightings”).

During this tour you are sure to see butterflies and many of the other pollinators that have caught Pat’s fancy, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and other songbirds, and learn of many native nectar and host plants, as well as enjoy many fun garden features and design ideas.

This totally educational experience will benefit and dazzle long-time gardeners and new-to-wildlife-gardening participants alike.
Native plants will be available for sale at two nearby sites the day of these tours.

Upon registration, participants will receive instructions for the tour.

Canna – fall care & winter storage (plus Host Plant for Brazilian Skipper)

My garden is largely made up of natives, but I love hummingbirds and they love Cannas.  I have added some non-native hummingbird favorites, as long as they are not problematic (invasive) and Cannas fit that category.  They bloom all summer and fall until the first frost.

Those of you with Cannas will want to dig up their tubers, if you haven’t already, before the ground freezes hard.  I normally dig mine up  sometime in November or December for the winter.  This year I just tackled the task on January 6th.  If you haven’t done so yet, use a mild day to get this task done before winter sets in.

If the task of digging them ALL up is just too much for you (as it is for me) , dig up just enough tubers (from just a few of your plants) so you’re sure to have enough to plant in all your favorite spots next spring (where tubers you left in the ground rotted over the winter).  Now that I’ve grown older and wiser, that’s what I do and my back is much happier with this decision.

You could leave your Canna tubers in the ground, but some, if not all of them, may ROT over the winter.  I’ve found that most of the Cannas growing in a sheltered, south-facing garden in my front yard survive the winter and resprout nicely each spring.  So I leave those in the ground and the bulk of them survive.  But nearly all the Canna tubers in my backyard gardens rot over the winter, so those are the ones I dig up each late fall / early winter.   If you do dig up Canna tubers and store them properly over the winter, you’ll have viable tubers to plant the following spring plus many extras to give away to family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

Canna tubers multiply!   The other day when I dug up 7 Canna tubers I’d planted spring of 2023, my wheelbarrow filled with 50-60 tubers.  Yes, while tapping them on my wheelbarrow to get all the embedded dirt off, many broke into pieces, but that’s OK!.  Each will produce Cannas in spring when planted.

Tubers dug up from only 7 plants

HOW TO WINTER OVER YOUR CANNA TUBERS

I dig my Canna tubers up in late November or December, or some years later (before the ground freezes).  My step-by-step process follows:

This is what Cannas look like after the first frost, browned and limp, no longer green
  • I cut the stems off at the ground to make the task of digging the tubers up more manageable

  • I scrape away any mulch to expose all the tubers
By fall, one small tuber planted in spring has multiplied into a sprawling array of tubers
  • With a shovel or pitch fork I dig down under the tubers (placing my shovel well outside the exposed tubers).  I  loosen the tubers and pry the enormous mass  out of the ground

  • You can break big ones apart into smaller and more manageable tubers
  • Tap the dirt off the Canna tubers
  • Place a large plastic bag in a shallow tray or a crate
  • Put a layer of dry leaves, shredded newspaper, or dry pine needles in the bottom of the bag (to act as insulation against freezing)
  • Lay the Canna tubers  on top

  • Cover the top layer of Canna tubers with more dry leaves, shredded newspaper, or pine needles (to protect them from a brutal cold winter).  Tuck more of the insulating material (leaves, pine needles) down around the edges.

  • Pull the bag shut
  • We put our Canna tubers in the crawl space under our house because we don’t have a garage or basement.  A  friend with a basement, puts hers into trash cans with leaves or shredded newspaper and keeps them in her basement.  You could probably store the crate or trash can full of Canna tubers in a garage as well.
We’ve recycled a friend’s grape tray (that he gave us after wine making) and use it to contain our bag of tubers nestled in pine needles. It is shallow so we can easily slide it into our crawl space under the house

PLANTING CANNAS IN SPRING

  • Once the ground is warm, plant single canna tubers here and there around the garden in spots that get full sun.  They are a lovely accent in the garden.  Or you might enjoy planting  a border or a circular bed of them (they make a great “hide and seek” spot for kids to play in).
  • Don’t plant your canna tubers too deep, otherwise they’ll take forever to peek through the soil & bloom.  Simply scrape away a shallow area (not a deep hole), lay down the Canna tuber, and cover it with a thin layer of soil.
  • One tuber will grow into several tubers (sometimes numerous tubers) and send up a number of stalks that will bloom all summer and right through late fall until the first frost, drawing in constant nectaring hummingbirds. 
  • Over the course of the growing season I regularly deadhead spent flowers, careful not to cut off the next bud.

BRAZILIAN SKIPPER

Between 2018 and 2021, there were quite a few Brazilian Skippers sightings in southern NJ, well north of their normal range (but zero sightings in 2022 and 2023).  Brazilian Skippers lay their eggs on Canna leaves to create the next generation.  Many of us with Cannas had an opportunity to study the entire life cycle of this cool southern butterfly.  The eggs are creamy white and often laid here and there (as a single egg) on top of Canna leaves.  Once the caterpillar hatches it makes its way to the edge of a Canna leaf, makes two cuts (or chews), folds the bit of leaf in between over, zippers it shut with silk, and hides inside.

If and when we have another good Brazilian Skipper year, look for these tell tale folded over leaf edges to find your first Brazilian Skipper caterpillars.  Monitor their growth and you’ll be sure to also find their large chrysalis.  Be careful not to be too nosy, or you may attract predators to the Brazilian Skippers’ hidey hole.

If you live in southern New Jersey, like me, report your Brazilian Skipper sightings to the South Jersey Butterfly B/Log.  It’s fun to see the history of their occurrence in southern NJ on this website.  If you live in northern New Jersey, report them to the NABA North Jersey Butterfly Club Recent Sightings page.  If you live elsewhere, report them to the North American Butterfly Association’s Recent Sightings page.

Happy Gardening,

Pat

Tours of CU Maurice River Gardens on Sat., July 15, 2023

Hi Gang,

In recent years CU Maurice River has been hard at work (along with terrific gardening volunteers and growing volunteers) designing and creating rain gardens and pollinator gardens with native plants.

WheatonArts Pollinator Garden

I can’t wait to lead a tour showcasing and sharing three of these native plant wildlife gardens that CU Maurice River has created (and maintains) at public sites in Millville, NJ: (1) First United Methodist Church Serenity Garden, (2) Downtown Millville’s Neighborhood Wildlife Garden, and (3) Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center’s Circle Oasis.  In addition, the July 15th tour will include two private home gardens set in a suburban community.

Saturday, July 15, 2023
Tour of CU Maurice River Gardens, led by Pat Sutton
in Millville, NJ (Cumberland County)
( Rain date Sunday, July 16)
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (Morning Tour)
1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Afternoon Tour)

Millville Neighborhood Wildlife Garden

Join CU Maurice River and Pat Sutton to experience the benefits provided by these revitalized areas that together function as a network of urban green spaces supporting ecological and community health. Every garden is unique and has a story to be told.  Karla Rossini, CU Maurice River’s Executive Director, will share each garden’s story with the group.

At the end of each tour, stay on to socialize and enjoy light refreshments in the last garden.

In the past, Pat Sutton’s Garden Tours with CU Maurice River have filled up quickly.  Please RSVP as soon as possible to be guaranteed a spot.

Registration required:
Cost: $30 for CU Maurice River members / $40 for non-members.
Morning Tour (sign up HERE)*
Afternoon Tour (sign up HERE)*
*the same gardens will be visited on each tour
Call CU Maurice River at (856) 300-5331 for more information

Pat Sutton lives near Cape May, New Jersey. She has been a working naturalist since 1977, first for the Cape May Point State Park and then for 21 years with New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, where she was the Naturalist and Program Director (1986 to 2007). Pat has a Masters Degree from Rowan University in Environmental Education and an undergraduate degree in Literature from the State University of New York at Oneonta.

Today, Pat is a free-lance writer, photographer, naturalist, educator, lecturer, tour leader, and wildlife habitat/conservation gardening educator.

Pat is a passionate wildlife habitat gardener and advocate for butterflies, moths, bees (all pollinators), birds, dragonflies, frogs, toads, and other critters. Pat has taught about wildlife-friendly and native plant gardening for over 40 years. Her own wildlife area is a “teaching garden” featured in many programs, workshops,  garden tours, and some books.

The Unfolding of Pat Sutton’s 44-year-old Wildlife Garden

The Unfolding of a Wildlife Garden, One Year in the Sutton Garden

I will be presenting (in person) the “Unfolding Wildlife Garden” Episode for the first time on February 20, 2023 for the Southeast Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey at Stockton University, Room 246, Unified Science Building, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

I presented the 1st draft 1 1/2 hour program (virtually) on February 17, 2022 for CU Maurice River.  Unbeknownst to Ben Werner and I, the Zoom platform had issues with video and apparently viewers watched a jumpy picture during portions of the presentation.  We have still not learned of a solution on the Zoom platform.

About the presentation:   Ben Werner and I worked on this project all of 2021 (getting video footage and stills) and since then have put in 100s and 100s of hours pulling together some of the stories that unfolded in the garden.  So far we have completed two episodes.  There are many more stories (Episodes) to be told.

“UNFOLDING WILDLIFE GARDEN” EPISODE

The 55-minute “UNFOLDING WILDLIFE GARDEN” episode (blending video and stills) includes all four seasons in Pat Sutton’s 44-year-old wildlife garden (as of 2021).  This episode showcases Chocolate Cake native nectar plants month-by-month, nearly all of which are also host plants.  Spring nectar offerings begin in Pat’s woods, a third of their property that they recovered from invasives in 2009.  Summer nectar offerings occur throughout the property, but largely in their sunny perennial garden, which sits entirely on their septic field.

Pat’s study of native pollinators (bees, ornately-patterned flies, wasps, beetles, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds) is woven throughout this episode.  Pat has studied life cycles and life histories of butterflies and moths for the past 40+ years (and more recently those of bees, flies, wasps, and beetles).  Life cycles occur on a daily basis in this wildlife garden.  The knowledge Pat has gained from life cycles she’s witnessed has greatly influenced how she maintains her wildlife garden.  The fragility of insects in all stages of their life cycle is at the heart of Pat’s “hands off” approach.  She sees her garden as a safe supermarket and nursery for pollinators.  In fussed over gardens (think dead heading, cutting spent stems and seed heads, etc.) the very pollinators drawn in are likely to find themselves in a dead end death trap, where their eggs laid, or feeding caterpillars, or fragile chrysalids are tossed into the  trash or brush pile with clipped plant stems and seed heads  . . . and none of us want that!  A hands off approach leaves more time for study, learning, and joy.

The transition of “Cover” provided in this wildlife garden will be showcased, from brush piles in late fall through winter, to robust stands of perennials, trees, shrubs, and vines, including a number of native evergreens.  The film will showcase busy water features which draw wintering birds to heated bird baths, and migrants and nesting birds to a whole array of warm-season water features (from misters to fountains to bird baths).  The Sutton’s bird feeder array is showcased in conjunction with the fact that they’ve documented over 213 bird species in their yard in the past 40+ years.  Viewers will also see how Pat addressed “Privacy LOST” after a neighbor took down a hedgerow of invasives.

Monarch Episode

The 45-minute MONARCH EPISODE  (blending video and stills) came about because 2021 was a very good year for Monarchs in Pat Sutton’s native plant wildlife garden (and hopefully your garden too).  She had Monarchs in the garden daily from mid-June on. She found lots and lots of eggs and caterpillars from June through late fall.  She watched and filmed a Monarch caterpillar going into it’s chrysalis in the garden (a happenstance gift that she was at the right spot with her camera when that five-minute transformation occurred). She discovered five different chrysalids in her garden, and watched and filmed the adult Monarch emerging from two of them. So of course, the Monarch’s story had to be told so she could share this priceless footage.  This episode covers the many native Chocolate Cake nectar plants month-by-month that draw in and benefit Monarchs, in addition to the native Milkweeds they need for egg laying.  It showcases the many predators that target Monarchs (at all stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult) and other butterflies and moths.  And finally this episode conveys that each Monarch that survives to adulthood and begins its journey to their winter roost sites in the mountains of Mexico,  is not only a survivor, but a miracle!

Consider booking one or both of these episodes for your group!

Hopefully each episode will be as riveting to viewers as it was to Ben and me as we put it together. We had such fun with these episodes that many more episodes will follow focusing on different aspects of wildlife gardening!

Pat hopes these presentations will convert attendees to her wildlife-friendly garden methods as she showcases discoveries she made that would not have survived in more heavily tended, fussed-over gardens.

Through the early years of Covid, an unsettling and uncertain time, the Sutton’s wildlife garden soothed the soul, entertained, and educated. In this wildlife habitat so much happens right before your eyes, with layer upon layer of nature unfolding. Migrant and nesting birds find countless caterpillars and other juicy treats, as well as plentiful fruits and seed heads. Varied and beautiful pollinators benefit from native perennials, trees, shrubs, and vines that offer a cascade of blooms from early spring until blooming shuts down with late fall’s first frost.

A din of calling Green Frogs on many summer nights led to their egg masses being discovered the next day.

Life cycles occur on a daily basis. The Monarch’s life cycle is fairly easy to witness in a wildlife garden.  Because of the abundance of native plants in a true wildlife garden, many other life cycles are also occurring that are rarely discovered but just as fragile!

You may want to download and print the latest update of Pat’s “Gardening for Pollinators” Handout (CLICK HERE), which includes lots of sage advice, Chocolate Cake nectar plants month-by-month, and sources of helpful signage.  It will save you from making mistakes that all of us have made and help you create a healthy and safer wildlife garden.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For twenty-three years (1991-2014), Pat Sutton led “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” in Cape May County  

Pat and Clay Sutton’s garden during the July Tour 2014

For twenty-three years (1991-2014), I led “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” in Cape May County.  I saw these tours as one of the best ways  to “grow” more wildlife gardeners.  You can see the excitement in the photo above as tour participants find, study, and share with each other butterflies, spiders, caterpillars, native bees, frogs, turtles, hummingbirds, and the beautiful nectar plants, host plants, wildlife ponds, water features, and habitats that have attracted them.

Initially I led these tours for NJ Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, where I worked as the Program Director.  Between 2007-2014 I led the tours for NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May.

Many of the owners of these beautiful, private, wildlife gardens had taken workshops with me and / or attended these tours.

Many garden owners shared with me that a personal goal was to have their own garden included on these tours.  The number of wildlife gardens grew and grew.  Eventually there were so many educational gems to share that I broke Cape May County into three regions and led back-to-back tours, covering different parts of the county each day.  I led these tours in July, August, and September so attendees could see first hand the different “Chocolate Cakes” in bloom month-by-month and the variety of wildlife attracted.

On the final tour, garden-owner Gail Fisher presented me with my very own Chocolate Cake made by her Mom (it was delicious).

And to further spoil us on that final September 2014 garden tour Gail Fisher served homemade Chocolate Cupcakes.

TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF PRIVATE WILDLIFE GARDENS

Many of the gardens that were included on the Cape May County tours can be seen in the photo galleries below.  These photos (taken over the years) truly record the evolution of these private wildlife gardens and may give you some great ideas for your own garden.

  • South Tour (Cape Island: Cape May, Cape May Point, West Cape May, and Lower Township)
  • Mid-County Tour (North Cape May, Villas, and Erma)
  • North Tour (Cape May Court House, Goshen  . . . including my own garden, Dennisville, Eldora, South Seaville, and Ocean View)

Shade Gardening in the Mid-Atlantic

For me shade gardening began after I retired and realized that we had lost our woods to  12′ high Multiflora Rose and Japanese Honeysuckle.  We reclaimed it soon after.  Simultaneously I began gardening under shade trees in our yard, White Pines and a Tulip Tree that I’d planted as tiny saplings 37 years earlier (in 1984) and a large American Holly and Georgia Hackberry that came up when we didn’t mow part of our backyard 44 years ago (in 1977) .  Our last English Setter had died and we no longer needed lawn.  I compiled a wish list of natives I wanted to plant in our newly reclaimed woods and other shady areas.  Friends generously gifted me with many divisions from plants in their yards that they had had success with.  Since then I’ve done the same for others who are embracing a more layered landscape.

I certainly don’t miss the lawn and neither does Clay who does the mowing.  In  15 minutes or less he’s easily mowed the pathways and is done.  Our shade gardening provides a great deal more habitat, so we find even more nature moments to savor.  This layering of plants has certainly increased the joy factor in our yard.  And I’ve fallen in love with many, many new-to-me shade-loving natives.  As Thomas Rainer says, “more life brings more life.”

I shared a program (via Zoom) on “Shade Gardening with Natives” for the Native Plant Society of NJ’s Southeast Chapter on Monday, November 15, 2021 at 7 pm.

To learn more about shade gardening be sure to read my  handouts below:

Pat Sutton’s Shade Gardening  Handout – Resources (Click on the underlined text to download and print)    This handout includes resources (great books that have helped me) and the many websites with “Native Plant Finder” tools to help you generate a list of plants suitable for your area and site.  It also has suggestions for sites to visit to see shade-loving natives in the landscape.

Pat Sutton’s Shade Gardening Handout – Native Plants  (Click on the underlined text to download and print)    This handout includes a list of shade-loving natives for the Mid-Atlantic, many of which I’ve planted or have growing in my woods or other shady spots on our property.

Pat Sutton’s New Jersey’s Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines That are Beneficial to Birds  (Click on the underlined text to download and print)   This list is annotated with the  number of NJ bird species that feed on fruits, seeds, cones, or catkins of each.

What’s Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard? (2021 Webinar Series)

Hi Gang,

There is so much to learn about beneficial insects. Many individuals get excited to plant native milkweeds to benefit Monarchs, then panic when Milkweed Bugs and Milkweed Beetles appear that also need Milkweed. Here is a great opportunity to add to your understanding and education — learn about beneficial insects drawn to our wildlife gardens and in need of our help.

Jersey-Friendly Yards has a terrific Line up of speakers and topics as part of their 2021 Webinar Series: “What’s Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard?” Bug experts will teach how to recognize beneficials versus pests, show how to manage pests safely using non-toxic methods, introduce attendees to the buggy relationship between plants and insects, and teach how to build a buggy web of life in your yard using native plants. I am honored to be one of the speakers along with Heather Holm, Kelly Gill, Dr. Dan Duran, and others.

The 2021 Webinars will be free and provided via WebEx Events. They will be held on the second Tuesday of the month from January to June at 7:00 pm.   The first one is coming up on January 12, 2020.  The live sessions will be an hour long with time for questions. To join the webinars, you will need either a computer, tablet, or smartphone with speakers. You must register to attend these webinars. After each webinar and with presenter permission, Jersey-Friendly Yards will add a link to a video recording of the webinar on their “What’s Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard?” website.

For full details and to register go to the Jersey-Friendly Yards 2021 Webinar Series: “What’s Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard?” Website HERE

(While you are on the Jersey-Friendly Yards Website, be sure to explore all the wonderful resources to help you create a healthy, native, wildlife-friendly landscape)

Here are the 2021 Webinar dates, topics, and presenters:

January 12, 2021 — Getting to Know the Good Guys: Beneficial Insects in the Landscape — Not all bugs are bad, so let’s meet the beneficial insects in your backyard. Predators, parasites, and pollinators—learn about how to recognize these good guys, their biology, and how to keep them happy in your yard. Presenter: Sabrina Tirpak, Principal Laboratory Technician, Rutgers University Plant Diagnostic Laboratory.

February 9, 2021 — Myth Busters: The Truth About What’s Bugging You — Insects are the most diverse group of animals on Earth. With over 1 million described species, insects account for about 75% of all animal species. Insect diversity is essential in maintaining functional ecosystems, productive natural areas and working lands, and overall biodiversity. However, human perceptions of insects are often negative resulting in insects being misunderstood, underappreciated, and in some cases, unnecessarily feared. This session will cover a variety of “insect myths vs. truths” with the goal of reversing common misconceptions. Presenter: Kelly Gill, Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; Partner Biologist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mid-Atlantic / Northeast Region.

March 9, 2021 — Cultivating Respect for Insects: An Overview of the Ecosystem Services That Insects Provide — Simply put: all life on earth depends on insects, for more reasons than most people realize. This talk will explore some of the immeasurably important ways that insects keep ecosystems functioning, including nutrient recycling, pollination services, and trophic interactions. It will also cover ways in which we can conserve much-needed insect diversity in our own yards. Presenter: Dr. Dan Duran, Assistant Professor, Rowan University Department of Environmental Science.

April 13, 2021 — What Lurks Above and Below: Spotted Lanternfly and Crazy Worms — The invasion has begun! Two non-native species: spotted lanternfly and Asian crazy-worms have already made it into New Jersey’s agriculture, yards, gardens, and forests. Learn the tools to how you can fight back, including their identification, biology, impacts, research, and control measures. The talk will also include how non-native pests have a serious negative impact on ecosystems and their health. Presenter: Paul Kurtz, Entomologist, NJ Department of Agriculture

May 11, 2021 — Attracting Bees and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants — Most insects have a positive impact in our landscapes. Native plants can be selected to attract specific bees and beneficial insects including predatory and parasitic wasps, beetles, flies, true bugs, and lacewings. Learn about the predator-prey relationships of these flower-visiting beneficial insects and how they help keep problem insect populations in balance. The life cycles, diversity, and nesting habitat of native bees will also be discussed along with examples of native plants for different site conditions. Presenter: Heather Holms, Author of the books Native Plants for Pollinators and Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide.

June 8, 2021 — Ferocious Dragons and Dainty Damsels — This primer to the winged jewels known as dragonflies and damselflies will cover the most common species, their natural history (life cycle, seasonality, what they prey on, and who preys on them), and how to identify one from another. Sutton, a long-time successful wildlife gardener, will share how to lure these ferocious mosquito predators into your own yard by creating a no-fuss wildlife pond. Presenter: Pat Sutton, Educator, Naturalist, Author

I know I’ll be virtually attending every single Webinar. “See” you there?

Happy Wildlife Gardening,

Pat

2020 VIRTUAL Tours of Pat Sutton’s Private Wildlife Garden

2020 VIRTUAL Tours of Pat Sutton’s Private Wildlife Garden (43 Years in the Making)

Our wildlife garden has evolved over the last 43 years from a lawn and very few plantings (a Lilac bush and Day Lilies) to probably 100+ native plants and many different components (perennial garden, pocket meadow, shade trees and gardens, wildlife ponds, native woodland, living fences, etc.)  that all lure in and benefit wildlife.  Read this brief history to learn more.

This was the 4th year I led tours of my wildlife garden for CU Maurice River, a non-profit organization doing great work in South Jersey.  With Covid-19, the 2020 Tour was filmed on July 2nd and folks could join the tour VIRTUALLY on Tues., July 14, 2020.

If you missed this garden tour, there is a 2nd opportunity to join me for this Virtual Tour.  It will be one of many fun offerings as part of the 2020 Wheaton Arts Virtual ECO WEEK.  Details follow:

2020 Wheaton Arts Virtual ECO WEEK
includes

WHAT
VIRTUAL GARDEN TOUR
of Pat Sutton’s Private Wildlife Garden
40+ Years in the Making

WHEN
Friday, August 21, 2020
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

WHERE
From the comfort of your home

Registration for this event is FREE!   But you need to click on the Registration Link HERE.  This Virtual Tour (a narrated video tour) will be followed by a Live Q & A session and is sponsored by CU Maurice River.

After you register, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining this selected Zoom webinar. Participants may join and rejoin the webinar at any time during the scheduled presentation.

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About the VIRTUAL Tour of Pat Sutton’s Private Wildlife Garden in Goshen, NJ (Cape May Co.), largely a NATIVE PLANT OASIS (filmed on July 2, 2020)

I’ll bet many of us have gardened more than normal this year, the year of Covid-19. Our wildlife garden and working in it has kept me sane during these uncertain times. I must give some credit for my sanity too to all the garden visitors I’ve discovered, learned about, and enjoyed this year. There have been so many fun sightings perhaps because we’ve been home a lot, out in the garden more, and savoring more. I hope this has been the case for you too.

I enjoyed sharing my garden with CU Maurice River on July 14th and am looking forward to sharing it again during the Wheaton Arts ECO WEEK.  If you should join me and see the footage, keep in mind it hasn’t always looked like it does now. Like each and every one of us, I have made some serious mistakes over the years and paid dearly for them. I love sharing my garden, not only because it is packed with Nature Happenings, but also because in doing so, I might help save others some of the angst and frustration I went through. I love sharing my garden also because I have learned so much about wildlife gardening and how wildlife responds to habitat. Truly, create it and they will come!

We see so much in our little 1/2 acre for many reasons. We barely have any grass left to mow. There are robust native perennials and understory trees and shrubs under all of our trees, not lawn. Rather than fight their thugishness, I am thrilled when shade-loving perennials I’ve planted like Common Blue Wood Aster seed further and further out into the lawn each year. More native plants and less lawn equals more habitat. One section of what had been lawn is an itty bitty meadow instead (12 feet x 12 feet). The meadow of native grasses and perennials compliments the formal perennial garden and hosts nectaring and egg-laying butterflies and other pollinators, nesting Box Turtles, and more! Our woods take up about one-third of our property and are filled with native trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, grasses, a sizable brush pile and many smaller brush piles, a butterfly house (made of overlapping branches with roofing shingles in between to keep weather out), and a seating area that is always cooler than the garden and overlooks a busy Hummingbird feeder (Meghan got footage of a hungry female during our virtual tour from this seating area). Many of the butterflies that nectar in our garden lay their eggs on native trees, shrubs, grasses, and vines in our woods. The woods were an impenetrable wall of Multiflora Rose until 2009 when we reclaimed them, so many of the native trees and shrubs are eleven years old. In ridding the woods of invasives the seed bank of natives had a chance. The transformation has been complete, but does take routine vigilance because the very birds we attract are eating invasives elsewhere and sprinkling seeds of those invasives in our woods and elsewhere on our property.

So, join me if you can for this 2nd airing of a 2020 Virtual Tour of my Private Wildlife Garden. CUMR’s Meghan Thompson did the filming.  I’ll be narrating the garden tour, which will include some of my favorite garden still shots from this spring and past magic moments. This virtual presentation will showcase many of the pollinators and sights from this season.

You may also want to download and print the latest update of my “Gardening for Pollinators” Handout (CLICK HERE), which includes lots of sage advice, Chocolate Cake nectar plants month-by-month, and sources of helpful signage.  It will prove very helpful during the Virtual Tour and afterwards!

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For twenty-three years (1991-2014), I led “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” in Cape May County  

Pat and Clay Sutton’s garden during the July Tour 2014

For twenty-three years (1991-2014), I led “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” in Cape May County.  I saw these tours as one of the best ways  to “grow” more wildlife gardeners.  You can see the excitement in the photo above as tour participants find, study, and share with each other butterflies, spiders, caterpillars, native bees, frogs, turtles, hummingbirds, and the beautiful nectar plants, host plants, wildlife ponds, water features, and habitats that have attracted them.

Initially I led these tours for NJ Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, where I worked as the Program Director.  Between 2007-2014 I led the tours for NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May.

Many of the owners of these beautiful, private, wildlife gardens had taken workshops with me and / or attended these tours.

Many garden owners shared with me that a personal goal was to have their own garden included on these tours.  The number of wildlife gardens grew and grew.  Eventually there were so many educational gems to share that I broke Cape May County into three regions and led back-to-back tours, covering different parts of the county each day.  I led these tours in July, August, and September so attendees could see first hand the different “Chocolate Cakes” in bloom month-by-month and the variety of wildlife attracted.

On the final tour, garden-owner Gail Fisher presented me with my very own Chocolate Cake made by her Mom (it was delicious).

And to further spoil us on that final September 2014 garden tour Gail Fisher served homemade Chocolate Cupcakes.

TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF PRIVATE WILDLIFE GARDENS

Many of the gardens that were included on the Cape May County tours can be seen in the photo galleries below.  These photos (taken over the years) truly record the evolution of these private wildlife gardens and may give you some great ideas for your own garden.

  • South Tour (Cape Island: Cape May, Cape May Point, West Cape May, and Lower Township)
  • Mid-County Tour (North Cape May, Villas, and Erma)
  • North Tour (Cape May Court House, Goshen  . . . including my own garden, Dennisville, Eldora, South Seaville, and Ocean View)

2017 Gardening for Wildlife WORKSHOP SERIES

Mistflower with Gray Hairstreak and a caterpillar. Native plants are KEY: many offer nectar and serve as important host plants for butterflies and moths

This year I’ve added two brand new topics,
so there will be 7 in-depth
“Gardening for Wildlife With Native Plants” Workshops (pdf)

on select Saturdays and Sundays
March 11 – April 1, 2017

 the perfect time to shake off winter
and begin planning and planting
(or enhancing) your property and wildlife garden

Learn to create gardens and habitats in little time.  Learn of the best plants for wildlife and sources of locally grown natives.  Learn how to save money by encouraging seed production rather than hampering it with traditional gardening practices.  See immediate results by implementing wildlife-friendly garden practices rather than traditional wildlife death-trap practices.  Benefit from maintenance tips and advice so that your habitat looks its best.

Many (1000s) have taken these workshops, been empowered, and created habitats that have given them pleasure for years to come.

If you have taken one of these workshops with me and would like to share a one-liner (or more) about them that might help others realize their value, I’d be most grateful.  Add your comment(s) in the comment section following this post (I may use your comments as I continue to promote these workshops, so THANKS).

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Shade Gardening is one of 2 new topics covered in 2017

Imagine walking out your own door into a habitat that YOU created, a habitat that fills up with wildlife visitors galore: hummingbirds, butterflies, caterpillars, chrysalises, dragonflies, ladybugs, many different native bees, beetles and other fun pollinators, songbirds, frogs, turtles, moths at night, and more!  Every walk down your garden path is full of wonder, learning, delight, awe . . . almost like traveling to an exotic land, but that exotic place is your own back (or front) yard.  There is nothing more gratifying than knowing that you provide safe haven for all these creatures.

Consider joining me for one, several, or all seven of these workshops (discounted fees when you sign up for 3 or more workshops).  Native plants and wildlife-friendly practices are the key and will be emphasized and detailed throughout.

I present a zillion one- to two-hour programs each year and maybe you’ve attended a few of these. I love teaching them, but (with only one or two hours) they are more one-sided presentations, me sharing fun natural history information and images with you, the audience.

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Prothonotary Warblers returned in 2016 to nest again in Sutton’s garden where they found a wealth of butterfly and moth caterpillars to feed two broods of young

These full-day workshops offer the opportunity to be far more in-depth and interactive and are more likely to empower you, take you to the next level.  Take advantage of this special opportunity to educate yourself.  Don’t count on landscapers or nursery owners; sadly many of them are not well informed about native plants and wildlife gardening practices.   I have heard my share of horror stories where folks have paid dearly for a butterfly garden of native plants and instead ended up with a bed of non-native invasives.

The 5-hour format (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) allows for:

  • an interactive workshop atmosphere
  • each workshop covers a unique aspect of wildlife gardening (in-depth)
  • each workshop builds on the others, but is not repetitive (so you’ll want to try and attend all 7 to maximize your learning opportunity)
  • resources (handouts and circulated books) that are key to your learning and understanding will be shared and showcased
  • you’ll learn how to utilize these resources (find answers to burning questions you may have)
  • time for in-depth questions
  • time for in-depth answers
  • during a working lunch we’ll brainstorm (as a group) each participant’s specific challenges (you’ll draw a rough sketch of your yard and submit a photo of your sketch that I’ll  project so we can all see it for this brainstorming)
  • time to get to know one another and learn from each other (of garden triumphs and tribulations, successes and pitfalls). Nothing beats collective experience and roundtable discussion
  • each workshop will culminate in a site visit to a nearby backyard habitat (including my own and others) where wildlife-friendly practices and design and plant selections will be showcased
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Three different Green Frogs called our ponds home in 2016, along with many Leopard Frogs and Gray Tree Frogs.

Take advantage of the discount by signing up for 3 or more workshops.

So, what do you say! Will I see you in March and early April?

 

 

2017 “GARDENING FOR WILDLIFE WITH NATIVE PLANTS ” WORKSHOPS with Pat Sutton  (pdf)

for NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May
1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204 (609-427-3045)

  1. Saturday, March 11 – How to Create a Backyard Habitat
  2. Sunday, March 12 – Lose the Lawn, Create a Wildflower Meadow Instead (from small “Pocket Meadow” up to sizable meadows)
  3. Saturday, March 18 – How to Create a Pollinator Garden (to benefit Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Moths, Bees, & More) 
  4. Sunday, March 19 – Plant Wars: How to Recognize and Deal With Invasive Plant Species
  5. Saturday, March 25 — How to Create a No-Fuss Wildlife Pond
  6. Sunday, March 26 — How to Make Messy Look Good (Maintenance Tips & Advice) & Shade Gardening (2 NEW topics packed into one session)
  7. Saturday, April 1 – Landscape Design With Wildlife in Mind


Where:
 Please note that the 7 workshops in this series will be held at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center for Research & Education, 600 Rt. 47 N, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210 and not at the Nature Center of Cape May in Cape May.

Time: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm.

Limit: 20 participants;  preregistration required  (through NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May, 1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204; 609-427-3045 — if you reach the message machine, leave a message — your call will be returned).

Cost/workshop (includes handouts):
$40 member of NJ Audubon Society, $50 nonmember
Sign up for three or more workshops for a discount:
$30 each (member); $40 each (nonmember)

Sign up for five or more workshops and receive a FREE ticket to visit Sutton’s garden during peak blooming (dates to be set).

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Sutton’s garden July 9, 2016
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Sutton’s late fall garden, Nov. 14, 2016

All workshops include a site visit to a nearby wildlife garden (Sutton’s garden and others).

Garden Rant features “Tour of Private Cape May Monarch Gardens”

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Mildred Morgan sharing her cherished oasis!

Hi Gang,

I thought you would enjoy Susan Harris’ Garden Rant post, written after she attended the September 21, 2014 “South Tour of Monarch Gardens,” featuring private backyard and front yard gardens in Cape May, Lower Township, and Cape May Point:

When Wildlife Gardens Look Like Gardens
by Susan Harris
Garden Rant

As you can tell from the title, she was quite complimentary. Bravo wildlife gardeners and thank you SO MUCH for letting me share your gardens with tour participants! Keep enjoying your oases and the many wildlife visitors they attract and have fun inspiring others to do the same. If you know anyone who is ripe to be hooked on wildlife gardening, be sure they are aware of the upcoming workshops I’l be teaching: “2015 Gardening for Wildlife Workshop Series.”

Happy Gardening,
Pat