About five years ago, the backyard of Anne Goodman and Jim Farrelly’s Rockville home was all grass.
Now, both the front and backyards are a lush, slightly overgrown jungle of plants, grasses and bushes sprouting up along their quiet suburban street.
More importantly for Goodman and Farrelly, the area is crawling with life.
Various types of bees buzz around goldenrod plants, while orange and yellow milkweed beetles form a cluster on the bottom of a butterfly milkweed plant.
Goodman is happy to see very few berries on an elderberry bush, a sign that they’ve been eaten by birds or other animals.
Many of the plants in Goodman and Farrelly’s gardens are native, an effort to provide cover and food for a variety of insects and animals.
Goodman and Farrelly’s yards are part of their efforts to get Rockville recognized by the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program.
For that to happen, they need to get 23 more homes certified to reach the necessary total of 200, as well as create habitats at a number of schools, parks and other places in the city.
To get a location certified, volunteers must provide sources of food, water cover and a place for animals and insects to raise their young, plus practice sustainable gardening techniques such as eliminating pesticides, conserving water and planting native species.
The city’s certification would mostly be a public relations thing, but with the benefit of providing insects and animals with places to live, Goodman said.
She and Farrelly are passionate about providing habitats with native, noninvasive plants that can support a variety of local wildlife.
Non-native plants aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as they’re not invasive, Farrelly said.
The problem comes when non-native invasive plants crowd out other species and won’t let them grow, Goodman said.
Both retired — Goodman from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Farrelly from the Food and Drug Administration — they were looking for something to do to keep active when a friend suggested volunteering at a county greenhouse.
The county has made an effort to have more native species in its parks, Goodman said.
One of the nice things about the work is that it’s something they can do together, Goodman said.
Since then, they’ve learned much about how to identify plants, and planted many varieties at their home.
Goodman said at one time they had nearly 100 varieties of plants at their home, with more now.
Large sunflowers droop over a narrow stone path, near where the milkweed beetles are hanging out on a warm summer afternoon.
Creating habitats isn’t as intimidating or involved as some people seem to think it is, Goodman said.
It’s more a matter of thinking, “What can I do to go beyond what I have now?” she said.