A backyard in Anchorage makes a refuge for birds

Bonnie Lembo and her husband have spent 21 years welcoming birds to the gardens around their blue house in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.

A front-yard grove of spruce with understory cotoneasters hides a brush pile where birds take shelter. Native plants such as high-bush cranberries and nagoon berries make a ground cover. There are raspberries and black currants, mountain ash for winter berries and lilacs for their seeds.

The couple left seed-bearing plants standing in autumn. They put swallow houses high under the eaves on their home's sheltered south side and watched swallows plummet from them into the back yard to scoop up mosquitoes by the thousands.

It wasn't always so. In 1984, the couple moved into a small Anchorage downtown house with a chain-link fence, stiff lawns, and trees and shrubs clawing one another for light and food. For three years they toed the conventional yard-care line of killing and poisoning, eradicating, mowing and edging, but then "I got sick of putting poison on stuff and went cold-turkey organic," Lembo says.

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