Wednesday Vignette: Defiant Compassion

College Creek

College Creek


“Your Garden is Defiant Compassion

Your garden is a protest. It is a place of defiant compassion.

That space is one to help sustain wildlife and ecosystem function while providing an aesthetic response that moves you.

For you, beauty isn’t petal deep, but goes down into the soil, further down into the aquifer, and back up into the air and for miles around on the backs and legs of insects.

You don’t have to see soil microbes in action, birds eating seeds, butterflies laying eggs, ants farming aphids –

– just knowing it’s possible in your garden thrills you,

it’s like faith, and it frees you to live life more authentically.

Your garden is a protest

for all the ways in which we deny our life

by denying other lives.

Go plant some natives. Be defiantly compassionate.    “


Benjamin Vogt:    The Deep Middle


The cardinals feast on Wax Myrtle berries in our 'biohedge' all winter long.

The cardinals feast on Wax Myrtle berries in our ‘biohedge’ all winter long.


Benjamin Vogt visited Forest Garden this morning, and left a link to his “Defiant Compassion” post in a comment on my review of Ken Druse’s The Natural Habitat Garden.  Benjamin writes, speaks, designs native plant gardens, and maintains his own 2000 square foot prairie style garden in Nebraska.  I’m honored that he visited Forest Garden and left a comment and link to share his site.

His words move me, as I hope they move you.  He has cut through all of the chatter and spoken truth:

“- just knowing it’s possible in your garden thrills you,

it’s like faith, and it frees you to live life more authentically.”

Just knowing that it is possible to help sustain the food chain, the ecosystem, and the planet through our own small efforts on our own bit of land speaks to a powerful realization.  Each of us, through our own consistent choices and efforts may contribute to the great work.  We don’t need 100 acres and conservancy status to make a difference.  We can make a difference even in our small suburban yards.

And even better, when we can enlist the participation of a friend or two, together we have a far greater impact.  This awareness spreads from person to person, heart to heart, and garden to garden.


February 16,2016 sunset 022


This morning, I finally made the time to visit the National Wildlife Foundation’s website to register our garden as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.  This is something I’ve intended to do for months now.  I don’t know why I thought it would be a time consuming project.  It was really very simple, and took less than 10 minutes to complete.

To certify, you need to provide sources of food and water for wildlife, cover, safe areas to raise their young, and a healthy environment.  The website asks specific questions in all of these areas.  When you can certify that your garden provides the resources wildlife need to live, you qualify as an official habitat.

A minimal donation of $20.00  also brings membership in the National Wildlife Federation, its newsletters and magazines.

It is a symbolic step, you realize, but we are very happy to have become a part of this growing movement to support habitat and wildlife.

I intend to encourage my gardening friends, and maybe you, too, to certify your own garden as a Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation.

It shows our commitment.  But it also shows our intent to work together with others to preserve native plants, native habitat, and the myriad creatures who share our gardens with us.  It is too great a task for any  of us to accomplish alone.  But in fellowship with others of like mind, we can make a significant impact.

~ September 4, 2015 garden 018


When I finished registering, the National Wildlife Federation kindly sent me a press release which we could forward on to our local newspaper.  Here is part of what it says:

“We are so excited to have another passionate wildlife gardener join us and create a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Over the last 40 years, nearly 200,000 wildlife gardeners have joined NWF’s Garden for Wildlife movement and helped restore wildlife habitat right in their own yards and neighborhoods,” said David Mizejewski, naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. “Whether you garden in a suburban yard, an apartment balcony or a 10-acre farm, a schoolyard or a business park, or anything in between, everyone can create a home for local wildlife.  Turning your space into a Certified Wildlife Habitat is fun, easy and makes a big difference for neighborhood wildlife,” he added.

NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program encourages responsible gardening that helps pollinators and other wildlife thrive. It encourages planting with native species like milkweed and discouraging chemical pesticide use. With nearly 200,000 locations and growing, NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitats and Community Wildlife Habitats recognize individuals, schools, groups and whole communities committed to providing habitat for wildlife, including pollinators.

Each of the nearly 200,000 certified locations provides food, water, cover and places to raise young. This makes yards, schools, businesses, places of worship, campuses, parks, farms and other community-based landscapes into wildlife sanctuaries. For more information on gardening for wildlife and details on how an entire community can become certified, visit or call 1-800-822-9919.  For more National Wildlife Federation news, visit:


September 30, 2015 Parkway 016


Don’t you want to be a part of this, too?  Please leave a comment if you already have a certified Wildlife Habitat.  And please also leave a comment if you decide to certify your yard as a habitat.  The process is structured to be feasible for gardeners in all sorts of living situations.  The Federation’s website offers many helpful resources to get started.


July 20, 2015 garden 005


Here are some resources from Forest Garden which might prove helpful, too:

Bringing Birds to the Garden

Butterfly and Hummingbird Gardens

Native Plants


August 29, 2015 turtle 004


“Wildness is the preservation of the World.”


Henry David Thoreau


July 1, 2015


“The Holy Land is everywhere”


Black Elk




February 16,2016 sunset 055~

Woodland Gnome 2016


About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

19 responses to “Wednesday Vignette: Defiant Compassion

  1. Tess

    Always happy to help a fellow gardener!!

  2. Tess

    My yard has been certified for about five years now. I’m in Virginia too so I’m enjoying your stories of the trials and tribulations involving the deer (I thankfully don’t have a problem with them) and the voles (which I have been fighting for 17 years now). I started making hardware cloth cages to plant everything in. Means I have to dig holes way bigger than I normally would but it has saved many many plants.

    • Thank you for visiting, Tess! Your hardware cloth cages to protect the roots of young plants certainly would qualify for ‘defiant compassion’ as well, on so many levels! It certainly gives your new plants a chance to get established and plenty of room for root development. We had a herd of more than a dozen deer running through the ravine yesterday, out beyond our fencing. Would be nice if they stayed there…. I’m so happy to know you have certified your garden as well. Where in Virginia do you garden? Best wishes to you! ❤ ❤ ❤ WG

      • Tess

        I’m in Chester just south of Richmond. We moved into this house with a one acre lot 17 years ago and I had no experience with voles. Never had them in all of my gardening years. After they ate all of the hosta I brought from my previous yard I declared war! I’m constantly searching for plants that are poison so I can plant without the cages but they truly have been the best deterrent so far. I even tried permatil and they managed to get through a thick barrier of that. It’s so frustrating.

        • Tess, my heart goes out to you and those poor sweet Hostas. We had a similiar experience with the Hydrangeas I rooted to move here from our last garden. Heartbreaking! Here is a link to a post called “Pick Your Poison,” which has a list of plants you might try to foil the voles. Do you make your own planting cages? What an investment of time and energy to protect each new addition to your garden! I’ve tried raised beds with landscape fabric at the base. They still sometimes find a way in! I know your area well. Beautiful country, and a great climate! I fought with waterlogged clay soil in Brandermill decades ago, but ended up with a great fern garden there! Good luck with your spring planting, ❤ ❤ ❤ WG

          • Tess

            I do make them with my Dads old wire cutters and gardening gloves for the bigger things. I did find some wire wastebaskets at the dollar tree that are plastic coated that I’ve used a few times for bulbs and smaller perennials. Definitely worth all the trouble though. Thanks, I’ll look for “pick your poison”!!!

            • What a great idea to use wire wastebaskets! I’ll take a look for those at the Dollar Tree. I have some shrubs in pots I’ve been afraid to plant out. You may have just offered me a solution! Thank you! ❤ ❤ ❤

  3. I am so excited to see you getting on board and passionate about native planting and habitat preservation. Registering our wetland restoration property three years ago with NWF was one of the first steps that led to me organizing a friends group for a sub watershed of the river system where we live… Friends of Glencoe Swale… Part of the Tualatin River watershed in northeast section of Oregon. We are picking up over sixty native plants tomorrow to plant in the riparian zone as part of a citizen science project sponsored by our Clean Water Services agency.

    Fantastic post!

    • Thank you, Jane. What you are doing for the Tualatin River, and your community, is fabulous. What fun you’ll have planting together! We have so many passionate gardeners, animal lovers, and naturalists in our community that i hope to move this on towards certifying our neighborhood over the next few months. We are also in a very sensitive environmental niche as part of the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. Not only are we bounded by large creeks flowing into the James River, we also have freshwater lakes within our neighborhood and extensive wetlands owned by individuals. I’m guessing that the relationships you’ve formed through your Friends group has enriched your life tremendously, too. Thank you for reading and for leaving this beautiful comment, Jane. ❤

      • For you to have impact on preserving the Chesapeake Bay watershed is very significant! I’m very excited for you and the possibilities you have in mind.

        • Thank you, Jane. There are huge efforts to clean up and preserve the Chesapeake Bay, ongoing for several decades. We have a former professor from VIMS in the community so there is already awareness here, especially among the older residents- We aren’t looking at initiating anything as ‘hands on’ with the wetlands as what you are doing for the Tualatin- but every tiny effort helps along the way-

  4. I certainly have the habitat and all the requirements, but never felt the need to be ‘certified.’ I looked into it when I was making the Monarch garden at school, but they required too much info from school officials that are already strapped for time. I figured as long as the wildlife knows where it is, the rest doesn’t matter! 🙂

    • I’ve struggled with this same issue, Eliza. But I finally decided to go ahead with the certification. The $20 contribution goes to a good cause, and I’m now plugged in to the NWF publications and information. I didn’t go for the sign, but plan to get the advanced certification as a bird sanctuary/habitat as well. It is good to be included in the count of backyard habitats, and I hope at some point our whole neighborhood will undertake the process. We already harbor so many species…. it is just a matter of documenting what we already have and do here. It matters, especially when you consider the subtle influence of a critical mass ❤ ❤ ❤

      • I think it is terrific for showing suburbanites the potential for creating wildlife habitat, so huge when you think that the US has 49,000 sq. miles of lawn that could be converted for use of wildlife. Where I live it is practically ALL wild. A huge blessing, but I think that’s why there isn’t the interest in certification.
        Another program that I think is awesome is YardMap. They rely heavily on citizen science and the collective data really helps scientists with their studies.

  5. farseems

    Thanks for the links Elizabeth, and wildlife, here I come!

    • You have done everything already and welcome so many creatures…. wanted and not…. to your beautiful garden. Why not join and make yours a certified habitat as well? ❤ ❤ ❤ and M, too? I'm dreaming of wild ferns tonight….

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