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A Yard That Became a Backyard Habitat

Doug, Cindy and Madeleine Brownfield have transformed their backyard into a relaxing place for them and a haven for wildlife.
When Doug and Cindy Brownfield moved into their home in the heart of St. Louis, the yard was like most others in their neighborhood: a vast expanse of grass. In fact it was worse; it was choked with weeds and unruly raspberry bushes.

So each night after work, Doug Brownfield pulled weeds and saplings and dug out sod as Cindy planned the yard's transformation. Now, two years later, the yard is abuzz with the sounds and sights of wildlife.

"We get tons of butterflies and a lot of birds, including interesting stuff like mockingbirds and hummingbirds," Doug Brownfield said.

The Brownfields are part of a national movement to garden not just for personal pleasure, but also for birds, bees, butterflies, frogs and other living creatures.

The Brownfields have focused on using plants that butterflies like. Their perennial beds include butterfly bush and purple coneflower, which adult butterflies love. They have also built a pond, which is surrounded by plants. In the pond, there are goldfish, frogs and aquatic insects. Within the flower beds, the Brownfields have installed houses and feeders to help provide food and shelter to their visitors.

Butterfly bush
Butterflies are drawn to the yard with well-chosen plants, such as butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii).
Doug Brownfield said one of the best things about their new wildlife habitat is the experience it provides their daughter.

"She just loves it. She helps us do everything, like weed and water and she lets the fish nibble at her fingers," he said, adding jokingly: "but I haven't taught her to cut sod yet."

The Brownfields moved to St. Louis from St. Charles, a booming suburb. "St. Louis, like a lot of other cities, has had a hard time, but a lot of young people and families are moving back into the city," Doug said.

Ironically, moving into the city has brought the family closer to nature. Because they have found that by looking closely at the small things, such as insects and amphibians. They have found there is more wildlife in the city than they had realized.

"Now we know the wildlife is out there and we want to provide some habitat and bring them into our yard," Doug said.

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Last updated: 10/24/15