Garden Photo of the Day

Elin’s Downtown Wilderness

Wildlife abounds even in town

We’re off to East Tennessee today to visit with Elin Johnson.

There is a gate in the fence in the backyard of my condo in downtown Farragut, Tennessee. Walk through it and you can enter a wilderness you might not expect to find there. There is a pathway behind the fence belonging to the homeowners association, and then the land falls off sharply to a little stream that flows below.

When I moved here five years ago, the stream was small, but one summer it began to get larger. Its banks finally reached the size of a pond. Someone told me beavers had built a dam and the water was backing up, but I didn’t believe them.

Then I noticed something nearby that convinced me. Only beavers could have done this. This place is proof of the resiliency of nature, and I’d like to show you more things I have experienced here that convinces me of this. My condo is so close to the interstate highway that I can hear the traffic, and I can see a major highway when I walk my dog. I can see the signs of a big hotel and the Cracker Barrel from here. But wildlife is not only occasional here but lives here in abundance.

In the summer of 2023 my friend Larry built a flowerbed for me along the bank down to the water. I planted flowers for the bees and butterflies that live there. But some things I planted will not return this year—bunnies and deer enjoyed eating them. (Apparently they don’t like marigolds.) But I’ll try again.

Many dragonflies fly about. Butterflies are also numerous here. One fall a couple of years ago there were a lot of monarch butterflies that were flying south. I counted 13 one afternoon. (I need to plant some milkweed down by the creek.) This black swallowtail is perched on a Verbena bonariensis (Zones 7–9 or as an annual) flower.

Birds are numerous—many types. I have thought for many years that I-75 is a north-to-south migratory route for the birds, and living this close has confirmed that. This winter I have observed many warblers that have come to Tennessee for the winter. And other birds can be observed in spring and fall making their way back and forth. There are bluebirds, towhees, cardinals, chickadees, and Carolina wrens that live here year-round. And then there are the hawks who take advantage of this abundance. They hunt regularly in the wilderness.

Spring is nearly here!

It’s March now, and the progression is beginning.

Life in my downtown wilderness is beginning to flourish! I wonder what my beautiful natural world will display this year. Every year brings more surprises.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 03/13/2024

    A wonderful journey and exploration of local nature and its inhabitants.

  2. User avater
    musabasjoosue 03/13/2024

    What a delightful bonus space! I'm sure your neighbors enjoy it as well.

  3. MohawkValley 03/13/2024

    Very nice . One's view doesn't have to be astounding , by any means . One only need to look and have the acute awareness that there's beauty everywhere that one cannot see buildings and structures . You captured that quite well and also convey your personal take on how everything is there for us to enjoy AND preserve .

  4. User avater
    user-7007816 03/13/2024

    What a wonderful space you have particularly compared to I-75 in your front yard.
    Thanks for creating and sharing your space.

  5. nicki_s 03/13/2024

    I love the wild places! I can never resist those openings into the unseen. Thanks for sharing yours. I can imagine the sense of peace you must get when you walk into it.

  6. User avater
    simplesue 03/13/2024

    I really enjoyed your story about the wildlife and how they have a low profile and go mostly unnoticed- but if you look around nature is there! I sure hope you post again to show us what you plant next to attract pollinators. I've read that there are some people planting wild meadows because they have mostly vanished. This link I'm sharing with you is nice, it has a map to select your area:
    Thanks for a beautiful post!

  7. barbmrgich 03/13/2024

    Elin, This is my favorite entry in a long time! You are such a good writer and a wonderful photographer! I love your appreciation of all wildlife, and your observations. Nature really is just amazing in its resiliency and beauty!

  8. User avater
    treasuresmom 03/13/2024

    What a wonderful thing to do.

  9. btucker9675 03/13/2024

    Thank you for this terrific post! Behind our property is a protected watershed so it is all woods and nothing can be built there. Yesterday I was clearing out an old compost heap and it was so wonderful to be trundling the stuff out my back gate into the woods. The birds were singing and the trees are just beginning to bud. When we clear things from our property, we use the branches, etc., to make a brush pile back in the woods - the birds and other little creatures love it for a hiding place. We created a path back to the brush pile using fallen tree trunks. Gardens and wild places feed our souls!

  10. user-7821942 03/14/2024

    I agree; your post is unique and compelling. Nature truly is resilient and brings us much wonder if we look for it. Living with nature does bring its share of challenges such as you encountered with the deer snacking on the flowers but I appreciate how you are focusing on the more positive aspects. Is sounds as if your neighborhood is contributing to the concept of "homegrown national parks." Inspiring.

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