green roof

Photo: Courtesy Meghan Fuller

Garden designers Marina Wynton and Mike Pajunas’s garden is a hotbed for insects and birds, with a green roof planted with four types of sedum, a nature frame (insect habitat), and a moisture-loving mixed hedge of native spiraea, goatsbeard, and Pacific wax myrtle.

Make a Habitat


Photo: Courtesy Josh Mccullough

Tualatin garden writer Lisa Albert’s birdhouse features an entry hole sized perfectly for wrens.

GO MULTISPECIES. Why should only humans admire your garden? The best home for birds and pollinators is a diverse one. Plant in layers, with open patches of soil for ground-foraging birds, knee-high perennial flowers for seed head and perches (the flexible, wandlike stems of lilies seem to be favorites), and shoulder-level thickets of shrubs with an open habitat (not tightly clipped) for cover and nesting. Grow trees for absolutely everything. You can even get official with a Backyard Habitat Certification from the Audubon Society of Portland.

FEED YOUR FRIENDS.Grow plants that provide seeds (asters) and nectar (fuchsia) for a more eclectic set of neighbors. Plant old-fashioned echinacea and sunflower, and birds will pick seed right off the plant. Native fruiting shrubs like snowberry and huckleberry provide birds with a buffet. Plant nectar-rich red flowering currant for spring, Phygelius for summer, fuchsia for fall, and winter-flowering mahonia if you want the hummingbirds around all year long.

LEAVE A MESS. Repress your inner neatnik and don’t clean up your garden until late January. By holding off on cutting back dead lily stalks and scruffy fuchsia stems, you’re providing shelter and perches for winter birds, as well as habitat for insects (high-protein bird chow). Consider making a loose brush pile in an out-of-the-way spot to offer shelter and nesting for smaller birds.


Photo: Courtesy Josh Mccullough

Blueberries provide food for people and birds, and habitat for the Pacific tree frog. Hardy geranium ‘Rozanne’ winds through these Sunshine Blue blueberries.

SUPERCHARGE THE BUFFET. Recent studies at Oregon State University suggest “superfood” plants best draw insects and pollinators: asters, alyssum, basil, cilantro, cosmos, fuchsia, nasturtiums, sedum, and sunflowers, as well as such trees as dogwood, fruit trees, and willow.

ADD A BIRDHOUSE. Head over to the Portland Audubon Society or to the Backyard Bird Shop to find the specific kind of bird feeders and nesting boxes that will attract the species you want hanging out in your yard.

CREATE A BUZZ. Even if you don’t have the time and money to commit to beekeeping, you still can provide habitat for nonaggressive, ground-dwelling solitary types like the industrious orchard mason bee. These and other solitary bees pollinate fruit trees, small fruit, and vegetables, thereby improving yields. You can buy or make nesting cubes, or simply leave dry, sunny banks of soil free of vegetation. For more information, consult the Xerces Society website (

Expert Tips

Marina Wynton | Garden designer, Olivine Landscape Design

marina wynton
Image: Thomas Cobb

After I was in architecture school, I saw that something had to be done about the environmental problems we were facing. At the time, I was sitting in front of a computer in an office all day. I wanted to do more. So I started to work with people to solve environmental problems in their own spaces.

“Naturescaping” is a way of designing a garden to support wildlife. We select plants to provide habitat for insects, which will then draw native birds, frogs, snakes, and other creatures. Why snakes and frogs? They keep mosquitoes down. And frogs sound great!

Each project gives me a chance to educate people on what they can do environmentally in their own yards. Naturescaping is not necessarily low-maintenance, although it can be. But it is a step toward repairing the environmental problems we face as a society.


Learn: View a PDF of Portland’s Native Plants at Choose the right natives for your neighborhood and attract the native creatures specific to the habitat you’re rebuilding.
Plant:Opt for natives in groups of 3 to 5 for each variety. For the choices best suited for your neighborhood, visit portland? and consult the Portland Plant List.