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A Backyard Journey

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

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I’ve always been a gardener in my heart though not always in practice. More than one unlucky houseplant has met its sad fate at my hands, a habit I’ve thankfully unlearned. I’ve always felt charmed by spaces that exist somewhere between cultivation and wild thicket. Couple that with a lifelong dedication to environmentalism and the next logical step of course would be a garden that supports butterflies, bees and birds.

Last fall I embarked on my full blown hobby as a birder. The year before I had subscribed to several internet video channels live streaming raptor nests. The one I watched most was the nesting pair of Great Horned Owls in The Presidio. After seeing the magic of the owls relationship and existence through the cam, I began to notice and watch birds on my walks and hikes. I was hooked. One pair of binoculars, two bird books, and one wildflower book later, and I’m a card carrying member of the Audubon Society & California Native Plant Society.

I live in a rental in a small multi-unit apartment building. The small backyard garden is not mine alone. There are a few other units in my building and each has its own relationship with our shared outdoor space—and their own ideas about how to use the space, and its functionality and appearance. One unit rarely uses the space. The occupant of another unit used to landscape the backyard extensively with an emphasis on exotic non-native plants, but now rarely uses the space. Another unit enjoys the outdoor space and also lets their dog use it as a bathroom. (I totally get it! But, dog pee is toxic to plants.) I take that into consideration for location of plantings and how to protect them.