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Gainesville man's garden earns wildlife habitat certification
George Roshau turned a small piece of his property into a place for birds, bees and butterflies
George Roshau trims his roses from a bush in his garden. The Gainesville man's garden recently was certified by the National Wildlife Federation as an official wildlife habitat.

For more pictures of George Roshau's garden, check out this slideshow.

Standing in George Roshau’s garden, a steady sound of birds can be heard happily chirping.

But it’s not just birds that are drawn to Roshau’s garden. Various types of bees and butterflies are regularly found there, as well as the fish who call its pond home.

The animals that live there are not the only ones to take notice of the gardens at 3248 Mountain View Road in Gainesville. Roshau’s garden was recently certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat.

To have his garden nationally recognized, Roshau had to submit an application to the National Wildlife Federation. That application showed the garden met a set of habitat essentials requirements such as food, water, cover, places to raise young and sustainable practices.

“I was kind of excited when I got it, because I really didn’t expect it because I was so small,” Roshau said of his garden. “They said it really didn’t make any difference as long as you had something for the bees and the insect population and didn’t use too many insecticides.”

While his garden is not open to the public, Roshau hopes to encourage others to seek wildlife habitat certifications.

“Whether you garden in a suburban yard, an apartment balcony, a 10-acre farm, a schoolyard or a business park, or anything in between, everyone can create a home for local wildlife,” said David Mizejewski, naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. “Turning your space into a certified wildlife habitat is fun, easy and makes a big difference for neighborhood wildlife.”

Roshau hopes to lead by example and show others a lot of space isn’t required to become a certified habitat. It’s more about the content of the garden than its size.

Roshau encourages prospective gardeners to start out small and keep adding to their spaces.

“When you start out too big, you get discouraged,” he said. “So if you start out small and it looks good, you can add to it.”

In fact, it took Roshau several years to build the gardens on his property.

Five years ago, he added a pond to his property, which now houses two koi fish and several large goldfish.

“I put a turtle in there, he decided he didn’t like it and left,” he said. “Usually I have some bullfrogs take up residence. I’ve had them in there where they croak and carry on at night.”

Two years ago when a large tree and its stump were removed, the garden that is now the habitat area was created.

“It got interesting because I had birds and bees and everything else come in there,” he said.

Since then Roshau has continued to add to his garden and he is not finished. He plans to keep expanding his garden by adding plants and attractions for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. For example, he has butterfly weed and cone flowers in the garden to draw various insects and butterflies.

He also follows requirements to keep his wildlife habitat certification. One requirement is to maintain landscape in a “sustainable, environmentally friendly way,” which includes eliminating chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

“On this stuff I just don’t use any insecticides,” Roshau said of the habitat area. “I just let them (insects) do their thing. I figure if they chew it up that’s what they’re supposed to do.”

During the past 40 years, nearly 200,000 wildlife gardeners have joined NWF’s Garden for Wildlife movement and helped restore wildlife habitat in yards and neighborhoods.

“We are so excited to have another passionate wildlife gardener join us and create a Certified Wildlife Habitat,” Mizejewski said in a news release.

In the meantime, Roshau consistently maintains his garden. When it’s cooler, he spends three to four hours a day in the garden. During the hotter months, he said he goes out for a few minutes and comes back inside to cool off.

Roshau has had an interest in gardening from a young age.

“Oh, I love gardening,” said the man who was raised on a farm in North Dakota. “My work ethic came from early morning chores on the farm, milking cows and going to school and then coming home and feeding the cattle and feeding the animals and such. We basically lived off the farm. Most of our food came off the farm. It was in me, but I just didn’t use it for awhile.”

Roshau moved to Georgia after coming back from Korea in 1959. He then spent 34 years working for the Department of Agriculture.

Gardening, however, wasn’t a hobby Roshau regularly practiced until he moved to Gainesville around 1975. He grows vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, and corn on his property in addition to his certified wildlife habitat. He said getting food from his plants is one of his favorite parts of gardening.