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WDFW LogoLiving with Wildlife

For more information on the Living With Wildlife series, contact the WDFW Wildlife Program



Figure 6.
Design with Bubble Diagrams
Landscape design example
Click to enlarge
Experiment with different designs using bubble diagrams. Testing ideas on paper is easier than rearranging plants in the yard. Try to develop several alternative designs.

Design Ideas

Begin designing a site plan by drawing out your ideas on bubble diagrams using photocopies or tracing paper laid over your base map. Don’t worry at first about how workable your ideas are; get them down on paper and fine-tune later. Decide where spaces and features will go and experiment with reshaping, reducing, enlarging, relocation, or adding features to fit your needs and goals. Draw bubbles around areas where you want activities, such as children’s play, entertainment, or wildlife observation. Use circles, x’s or other symbols for features such as a birdbath or bench. Draw arrows where you want views and dotted lines for potential pathways.

Note the types of plants you want to put in, such as conifers, low deciduous shrubs, or tall evergreen hedges. It may be helpful to write in some of your ideas and objectives, such as building a deck around this tree, keep view of pond from living room, or relocate barbecue to patio. (See Fig. 6.)

Your final plan will be most successful if you develop several of these bubble diagrams. For example, you may have a “Plan A” that gives over more space to wildlife, and “Plan B” that gives more space to human activities. Or you may develop three different plans that range from highest to lowest cost or most change to least change. The more experimenting you do on paper, the more likely you will avoid future problems when implementing your final plan. There is no one best answer, everyone’s habitat will be different, and you may come up with more than one good plan for you own.

Design Principles

Maximize undisturbed areas
As much as possible, provide large areas without buildings, pavings, or paths. Provide some “undisturbed” sanctuaries and safe travel corridors for sensitive wildlife.

Concentrate and contain human activity areas
Disturbance to wildlife can be lessened if areas with busy human activity are close together and kept as small as possible. Avoid placing busy areas in good existing wildlife habitat.

Preserve existing trees
Old well-established trees or ones that form clumps are especially valuable. Avoid putting new features or structures where they will damage existing tree. Remember that a tree’s roots grow far out from its trunk, and construction too close to the roosts may affect the tree.

Provide opportunities for viewing wildlife
Locate and shape human activity areas, such as patios and decks, so that wildlife can be viewed from inside the house.

Gray squirrelRespect the wisdom and logic of nature
Nature is the best model for a healthy and valuable wildlife habitat. In nature, things are the way they are and where they are because of complex ecological relationships. Nature understands this perfectly, while we have only incomplete knowledge. For some ideas of how nature provides for wildlife, look at the arrangements of plants along a stream or pond, around a meadow, or in a forest. The amount and arrangement of plants in a good backyard habitat should be similar to these natural areas. Let the natural world be your best teacher.