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Best Friend of Urban Wildlife 

click to enlarge DREW WYETH
  • Drew Wyeth

Dana Seelye, Hillside Gardens, 1006 S. Institute St., 520-9463

Dana Seelye makes gardens and teaches others how to make gardens. At Hillside Gardens, formerly the site of an industrial dairy, Seelye has helped design, plant and build an urban oasis that's a refuge for raccoons, birds, butterflies, bull snakes and other wildlife, earning recognition from the National Wildlife Federation as an official NWF Backyard Wildlife Habitat. He also directs the landscaping program at Pikes Peak Community College and works as an independent landscaping consultant.

A series of ponds using recirculated water gurgle and bubble beneath the trees at Hillside Gardens on a fine autumn day. Seelye kneels over and plucks a handful of water hyacinth from the water's surface.

"Sometimes we come out and find the leaves laid out here," says Seelye, gesturing to a small stone bench. "The raccoons like to eat the knobby stems, but they strip the leaves and leave them here." Buddleia or butterfly bush, lacy strands of dill and milkweed sway in the butterfly garden where larvae are laid and hatched. Rotting logs are left where they fall to shelter small rodents.

"We don't really like to see them, since we're a plant nursery, but we've had deer in the garden," says Seelye. "You can't choose which wildlife come to your habitat, but we don't mind."

Seelye and some 33,000 others in the United States and around the world believe that creating urban wildlife habitats is an essential, even critical aspect of gardening as cities expand into natural habitats, displacing wildlife.

"We're paving every square inch," he says, gesturing at the highway in the distance. "An urban oasis like this is not just good for wildlife; it's good for people."

-- story by Kathryn Eastburn, photo by Drew Wyeth

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