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Holiday Lights and Wildlife-Friendly Gardening Tips at the National Zoo

Something new caught my eye during my most recent visit to the National Zoo – an exhibit called  Zoo in your Backyard – and it’s one that hits close to home for us gardeners and really, all homeowners.  It makes the important connection between exotic wildlife in a zoo and common but equally important wildlife right in our backyards, and how we can help local wildlife by how we garden.  Great idea!

The exhibit’s yard area is a study site for the Migratory Bird Center’s Neighborhood Nestwatch, a research program in which area citizens act as “backyard biologists” who help Smithsonian scientists monitor local bird nests.  A small pond provides habitat for insects, amphibians, and birds. And in the flower garden, you may see hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees feeding.

Their online resource offer these do’s and don’ts to help wildlife:


  • Plant a variety of native trees and shrubs as food and shelter for wildlife.
  • Keep pond water moving.
  • Add nest boxes in which birds can raise their young.
  • Clean and fill feeders regularly.
  • Remove insect pests by hand, or use natural predators like ladybird beetles.


  • Don’t apply fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.
  • Don’t keep yard objects that collect still water.
  • Don’t allow your cats to roam freely.


Have you gotten your backyard wildlife-certified yet?

But on a more seasonal note, now through January 1, don’t miss the FREE Zoo Lights!

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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