Returning to a Natural Area in Springfield

Can I get a refill?

Next month, volunteers will be planting trees, shrubs, and understory near a major intersection on the Bob Straub Parkway in Springfield. But they won’t be starting from scratch—this location has already been the site for four planting events in the past six years. You’ve heard us say it before at Friends of Trees, we don’t just plant and walk away. But what exactly does that mean? It means post-planting care, stewardship training, and in the case of many natural area plantings like this one, it means infill planting.

Infilling is sort of like refilling, not that this site is empty. Thanks to enthusiastic past volunteers who planted it and neighbors of the planting site who have protected it, it’s already a beautiful spot.

“This is one of our most successful Green Space plantings,” says Eugene Director Erik Burke. “It’s in the floodplain, and it has really good soil. Overall, things are growing really well.”

That doesn’t mean that the site isn’t worthy of some replanting. At natural area plantings like this one, we plant in pods that have multiple levels: trees, shrubs, and herbaceous understory with things like milkweed and camas. At the Bob Straub planting site, a few trees need to be replaced and some of the shrubs and flowers could use some support.

“We really want to create a rich, robust planting area,” Erik says. “It’s so satisfying to create these dense clusters of plants.”

We plant these pods similar to the Miyawaki Method, which aims to mimic how a forest would rebuild itself if people stepped away. It’s all about establishing a community of trees and plants, which is fitting because a community of people plant it, care for it, and benefit from it.

“Like with all of our plantings, it’s important to make sure that they have a lasting impact,” Erik says. “That’s why we return.”

5 Questions About Backyard Habitats

Gaylen Beatty
Gaylen Beatty, Certifer

So many of our Treemail readers were interested in our Backyard Certification, we wanted to offer more information about how to get certified. Fortunately, we were able to catch up with Gaylen Beatty, who founded the program in 2006 while working for Columbia Land Trust, today works closely with their partner, Audubon Society of Portland to assist the 2,700+ participants in the program.   Gaylen was kind enough to go into greater detail via email about the certification process.

How long does the certification process take?

On average, it takes someone a year from the initial site visit to achieve certification. Though we support the participant for however long it takes them to achieve certification. We have many participants, who have some more difficult properties (erosion, a complex mix of invasive plants, large property) that take years to achieve certification. We have over 60% of those properties once they initially enroll that stick with the program and process to make certification.

How much does the certification process cost?

Feb 1st, we’re increasing the site visit fee to $35. That fee pays for the entire process and for the length of the time the property is within Backyard. No renewal fee for any follow up visits (certification or recertification).

What is the advantage of backyard certification?

Research is showing that even small urban lots can provide a great habitat and support biodiversity in our region. Did you know of the 500 bird species found in Oregon, 209 of those are found in the Portland-Metropolitan area for some portion of their lifecycle? Many of our participants also have some sort of food production in their garden, from vegetables to fruit trees. Providing native plants that support our native pollinators can help increase food production, even on a small lot. Having a Backyard sign in your garden, teaches neighbors, friends, etc. that you can have a beautiful garden that creates a healthy urban landscape, for people and wildlife.

How do certifications help individuals?

Our participants share stories with us almost daily on the change they’ve seen in their backyard, by making small changes in their garden to support wildlife. Here’s a quote from an email that came in earlier this week from a gold certified homeowner, “This past weekend I was in our kitchen and noticed a small creature rummaging around in the backyard in some bushes under our pine tree and Ribes. I thought at first it was just a squirrel then I noticed a bright flash of orange. I ran and got our binoculars. It was a new bird to me! I looked it up and found out it is a Varied Thrush. True it may be a common bird, but not to me. I have always maintained to more of a plant person than a bird person in my habitat work. However, the feeling of discovering a new, exciting bird in my yard gave me such a thrill. I was so proud of active “Backyard Habitat”! Just thought I’d share.”

There are over 1,000 certified homes in the Portland area, how common is it for a business to get certified? 

There are 14 commercial spaces that are enrolled in Backyard Habitat. We only have four properties that are Platinum certified. Those include Green Zebra grocery store in Kenton, EMSWCD office, Apex Wellness Center and Friends Of Trees. You all fall into a small, exclusive group that showcase how an urban commercial lot can be beautiful and SO valuable for wildlife.  I’d strongly encourage commercial spaces to challenge themselves to look beyond the common ornamental landscapes and become a model for what our small handful of commercial spaces have already done.

Staff Christmas Trees

Mid-January really isn’t the best time to show off staff Christmas Trees…CTT 011415 4 Crew Ready to Toss

Except we’re the type of people who possibly get more excited about the trees’ second life as a refuge for salmonids in the Columbia Slough than we do when the tree is all gussied up with lights and decorations.

CTT 011415 3 Ramsey Before 1

After consulting with local agencies, FoT’s Logan Lauvray and Katie Farmer took on the task of rounding up 16 used pines to create a habitat.CTT 011415 5 Crew In Action

The trees will form a barrier, protecting the fish from predators, offering a water break to keep the fish from getting pushed out of their homes by increased spring water flow and offering a habitat. After reading about how trees, free of tinsel, spray ‘snow’ and paint can be used as a natural refuge for salmonids— a general term for members of the salmon family—our Green Space team first worked on with a local boy scout troop on a similar project and repeated the activity this year.

F0T staff and volunteers sunk 13 trees, left 3 as floating barriers and because we don’t do things half way, fished out a few tires from the slough.

Way to regift.

CTT 011415 10 Installed Trees 3CTT 011415 8 Installed Trees 1






Local artist makes ‘Friends of Trees’ print


A local artist is selling a screen-print called “Friends of Trees” online.

Dan Stiles said there is no direct connection to Friends of Trees, the famous Northeast Portland nonprofit organization that is replanting Portland’s urban forest.

Despite the lack of direct affiliation, the image does represent multiple trees (canopy) and a friendly interaction between a bird and a tree (habitat), both initiatives Friends of Trees works to achieve.

Any other connections?

This 18×20-inch piece sells for $50 at

–Toshio Suzuki