The more I hear from people regarding their garden needs and wants and the more I research gardening for my newsletter and my gardening radio show, the more I realize that gardens are not just about plants. Birds, bees and other pollinators really should be an important part of the plan. I always say that great gardens start with a plan and I really believe that. So we need to consider these beneficial critters as part of the plan. The birds and bees are affected by the environment in ways we cannot directly control but we can help by adding things to our gardens for them.
I have already discussed the importance of helping the bees as much as we can in a past article as well as my chats with bee keeper Steve Lawrence (Part 1 and Part 2) on my radio show. I know that bird feeders may not be for everyone or every garden but I think every garden can have a few trees or shrubs that make the birds happy without sacrificing the design or low maintenance aspect that many of us prefer.
Here are some of my suggestions. In most cases these shrubs are native plants and in addition to producing berries that the birds love, they have spring flowers and fall colour making them truly great all season shrubs. I promise they are not messy.
One of my favorites is the Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis). It is available in tree or shrub form and is very versatile in that it can be planted in sun or shade.
Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) is a large shrub that can be pruned to stay as a shrub or left to grow into a wide multi-stemmed tree.
Winter Beauty Dogwood
These medium size shrubs are a good option for the back of a garden. They have interesting berries but have more natural forms.
Winter Beauty Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘ Winter Beauty) has nice pink berries but is really a showstopper in the winter with its bright orangey red stems.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera) flowers, berries and fragrance make it another nice addition to the garden, there are larger varieties but here is a picture of a dwarf variety.
I have fond childhood memories of my grandmother’s Elderberry jelly and pies. Both the taste of it and the purple stain that lasted on her hands. Very tiny, seedy berries cover this shrub.
Again it can grow quite large if it has the space and will look best at the back of the garden. If you are ambitious you can also collect the berries to make jelly but you will have to be ahead of the birds. One day the shrub will be filled with berries but the birds will strip it in a day.
Compact Highbush Cranberry
For those of us with small spaces there is also a great choice. Compact Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum opulus Compactum) is a smaller compact shrub that provides berries for the birds while still providing the spring flower and fall colour that I love to have in a garden.
I hope one or more of these plants has piqued your interest and you will consider adding them to your garden. If you need help choosing the plant and the location, give me a call.