Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife

Quite unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to enjoy Kelly Conrad Bender's Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (Texas A&M University Press, 2009). Bender, an urban wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has definitely done her homework, for what began as a series of pamphlets has become an extensive guide into transforming your property into a wildlife habitat.

Don't have 1000 or even 100 acres? It doesn't matter, a series of "wildscapes" throughout a neighborhood can still create a sanctuary for an amazing variety of plant and animal life. Similar to other contemporary authors like Heather Flores (Food Not Lawns), Bender challenges us to rethink sprawling suburbia and gives us all the tools to do it!

Of course, first thing's first - Texas actually has 10 ecological regions, each vast and varied as to rainfall, temperature, and plant/wildlife. Bender describes each one, helping you determine in which you live and what plant and animal life naturally thrives there.

Next, the sky's the limit. Bender takes you through step-by-step instructions on designing your own wildscape, from mapping your property to prepping your soil to building a backyard pond, and of course includes the most important features of your wildscape - food, water, and cover.

The book concludes it's final chapters describing the native wildlife of Texas (including birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians, insects, and spiders), how to attract them to your wildscape, and how to keep unwanted pests out. And if you still can't get enough, attached to the inside back cover of the book is a DVD that includes more extensive brochures on Texas wildlife.

To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect when I first laid eyes on Texas Wildscapes. It wouldn't have been something I would have picked up on my own. But I was quickly entranced by this alternative to the standard lawn, the opportunity to lighten our ecological footprint by truly sharing our living space with the nature suburbia seems so intent on pushing out. Not to mention, I could immediately think of quite a few friends and family that would love to get their hands on a copy of this book. And hey, the holidays are coming, so check it out!

Rated: 5 out of 5 stars
Recommended: to the naturalist or environmentalist (or both) interested in rethinking lawn space
NOTE: In compliance with FTC regulation, I disclose that I received this book free of charge from the publisher as a review copy. However, this review is my own evaluation of the material, with no influence by the publisher or author.

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