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A symbol of beauty transformed from humble beginnings, butterflies are one of the few insects who garner near universal appreciation.

Animal
Hummingbird stopping at a flower to eat

The distant view from Kelly Brenner’s Seattle living room was enviable, a testament to the engineering marvels of modern human habitat. But much closer to home were sights even more spectacular than the Space Needle rising hundreds of feet in front of the Olympic Mountains. Against the backdrop of...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
fat caterpillar curled on a leaf stalk

As my beloved seedlings languished untouched on the display table, I improved my sales pitch: “Would you like a late-flowering thoroughwort to help migrating butterflies refuel? What about an aster that’s the only pollen source for some bee species?” But unlike the animals who would devour these...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
hummingbirds sipping nectar from bright red flowers

It’s a peculiar rite of modern homeownership: Plant a tulip bulb in autumn, cage or spray it to deter nibblers, admire its fleeting blooms a few months later, let it rot in soil ill-suited to its needs and repeat the whole cycle again the following year.

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
DIY painted bird baths made from clay pots

As a new homeowner susceptible to sales pitches from the garden industrial complex, I spent my early planting years salivating over glossy magazine spreads exploding with color and texture and promises of endless summers. “Flower porn” was how my husband described those lushly photographed...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
woodpecker on persimmon tree

As my neighbors and I stood 10 feet apart and swapped tips for scavenging kitchen staples this spring, the wilder residents of our community shared no such concerns. Squirrels twirled maple seed clusters like bouquets to reach every tidbit. Bumblebees made a mockery of social distancing in their...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Photograph showing wildlife-friendly plantings in Janet and Jeff Crouch’s yard

The delegate seemed ready to pick a fight, already having mocked a proposed plastic bag ban and other pro-environment bills on the day’s agenda. As I finished my testimony in support of wildlife-friendly plantings, I steeled myself for a heated debate. But on that gray afternoon in February 2020...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
A frog jumps to safety out of a pool using a ramp to rejoin the other frogs on the safety of the grass

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Buy a house with a two-acre property, let our energetic herding dog have the run of the place and spend blissful summer days digging side by side in the dirt with her. And it was blissful, watching Mattie carve out her napping spots behind the ferns and tall...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
a small bird eats seeds from a hanging bird feeder

Of all the surprising twists and turns my venture into the world of wildlife gardening has taken, the one that stands out most is the day I learned about the dark side of my favorite symbol of hope and summer: the sunflower. It was in the early 2000s and the fledgling gardens at my new home were...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
brown rabbit in the grass

Somewhere between childhood and middle age, people’s natural affinity for wildlife often melts away, overtaken by exaggerated fears of marauding armies of deer, insects and raccoons intent on invading our gardens and homes. Scorn for rabbits, the sensitive stars of many a bedtime story, is...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
Photo illustration of a dim light bulb with illustrated butterflies

On summer evenings, my husband and I head to the darkest spot of our property to look for the light—in the form of fireflies rising from meadow grasses and twinkling their way into the trees. As the tulip poplars behind this spectacular display settle in for slumber, white yucca flowers open their...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
closeup of a bee on a large yellow flower

In a few short months, the sweet scent of thawing soil will have me searching under trees, by streams and in gardens for new life peeking into the frosty air. During winter’s dark days, it’s hard to imagine anyone more excited about spring’s brave first blooms. But just below ground, creatures on a...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
a bluebird sits on a tree with a loud weed whacker in background

Sitting on her porch in the desert one afternoon while recovering from surgery, Christine Hass closed her eyes. The operation to fix her detached retina had been difficult, and she sought respite from the lingering pain. “Suddenly I could hear all the birds singing. It was March—the migrants were...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
native seed packets

They were like moths to a flame or, more accurately, butterflies to a native plant. No sooner had I unloaded two joe-pye weed perennials from my car last August than three tiger swallowtails dive-bombed the pots, as if to validate my purchase. If only my fellow shoppers knew what they were missing...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
monarch butterfly on a milkweed flower

Much of what we do in the name of aesthetics comes at a cost to our overall well-being. From fad diets to chemical peels to cosmetic surgeries, beauty routines attempt to squash what’s natural in favor of an unattainable and short-lived “otherness.” The mindset isn’t limited to the treatment of our...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
overhead view of a woman tending her garden

Walk into a roadside restaurant after a long day on the highway, and you can practically taste your meal before sitting down. The familiar smells of fresh-baked pie and salty fries need little introduction en route to your belly. That sensory experience is similar for wildlife coming upon lush...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener

This holiday season, the Humane Society of the United States is urging people to celebrate humanely—with gift-giving and festivities that make a difference for animals and the environment. Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “The holiday season is an...

Press Release
Illustration of a mole peeking out of a burrow

While soaking her raised beds in preparation for tomato planting last summer, Gail Goldman was startled to see a tiny, waterlogged creature pop up out of the soil. Later another one briefly poked out his head. “Basically, I was watering shrews,” the Seattle gardener says of her foiled vegetable...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
woodchuck in the grass

It starts out mildly enough: Heading to work on the subway, you realize you forgot your wallet. No big deal, you think. I’ll borrow money to get home. Soon the lights go out and the train hurtles toward the sky, speeding through the atmosphere. Time passes—it’s hard to tell how long. The subway is...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener