Home of the Wild

A month ago, Carrie Seltzer (@carrieseltzer) created the “Home Projects” iNaturalist Umbrella Project – a Project of Projects – for “personal” Projects of people’s homes, gardens, or yards:

As we all more closely inspect our immediate surroundings as of April 2020, it seemed like a good time to pull together some projects that capture biodiversity in homes around the world.

Carrie Seltzer on iNaturalist

Growth of a Garden

I’ve been gardening in New York City for four decades, over four different gardens. I’ve incorporated native plants in each garden, though my knowledge, understanding, and focus, has shifted and grown over time.
Bombus citrinus, lemon cuckoo bumble bee, on Helianthus in my front yard, August 2018

Since I started this, my fourth garden, in 2005, native plants have been a significant focus. From the beginning, I envisioned the backyard as an entirely native plant garden.
Final rendering, backyard garden design

Over the years, the native plant portion of the garden embraced more and more species, and covered more ground, escaping the confines of the backyard. As the garden matured, and its diversity increased, I saw a huge increase in the number and diversity of insects visiting the garden. 

The Backyard viewed from the Aerie, April 2020

I found online communities to help me identify what I was finding. My first submission to BugGuide was in 2007. My first submitted iNaturalist Observation came a decade later.

Since I had already established the conditions in my garden, I chose to register it with organizations promoting conservation at home. In 2011, I registered my garden with the National Wildlife Federation as Backyard Wildlife Habitat #141173. A year later, I registered with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation as a Pollinator Habitat. And in 2017, having established milkweeds in my garden, I registered with the North American Butterfly Association as a Butterfly and Monarch Garden.

Habitat Signs displayed in my front yard, October 2017

Flatbush Gardener’s Garden

Two years ago, I created an iNaturalist Project for my home and garden: Flatbush Gardener’s Garden. My initial goal in creating a Place and Project on iNaturalist for my home garden was to make it stand out as a biodiversity hotspot. With over 320 Taxa recorded so far, I have succeeded in that goal. As of today, I’ve recorded 40 species of bees alone!

So far I've found 40 Bee species in my garden

Mine was one of the first Projects to be added to “Home Projects” after its launch. As of today, there are 19 Projects from four continents.

Umbrella Projects come with some cool features, including automatic “Leaderboards” which rank constituent Projects by their numbers of Observations, Species, and Observers. At the moment, Flatbush Gardener’s Garden is in first place for number of Observers! Granted, there are only 19 Projects so far, but many of them are large. My garden is roughly 2200 square feet/200 square meters, of plantable area. So, I’m pleased with my garden’s showing, placing 4th in Observations, and 6th in Species!
iNaturalist Home Projects Leaderboard: Flatbush Gardener's Garden is #1 for Observers!

My garden has been on tours. I use it to conduct lectures, workshops, and pollinator safaris. It’s a field site for my observations, a demonstration garden, a laboratory, a classroom.
Me hosting the NYCWW Pollinator Week Safari in my Front Yard. Photo: Alan Riback

Last year, I held a hands-on iNaturalist training in my garden. This was followed by one of my popular Pollinator Safaris so folks could practice right away, get real-time help and guidance, and ongoing feedback trough iNaturalist.
Gardening for Wildlife, and Birds, brochures, and magnifiers, generously provided by Jen Kepler of NY Aquarium

Each of those who attended, as well as past Observations from other friends and colleagues, automagically becomes an Observer on my home project. Which is how Flatbush Gardener’s Garden comes to rank high in number of Observers for a Home Project.

This time of year, I would be opening my garden for tours, hosting workshops, or talks on gardening for habitat. I’m missing that, and hope to find ways to do some of it online.

Until then, stay safe, take care, and find peace in nature nearby.
NYC-native Rhododendron periclymenoides blooming in my backyard

Related Content

This blog post started as a brief “News” post on Flatbush Gardener’s Garden. Later that day, I expanded it into a thread on Twitter.

Blog Posts


All my iNaturalist Observations (not just from my garden)

All my BugGuide photos (BugGuide provides no way to link to “Observations”)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *