Gardening Can Be For The Birds!

May 14th, 2015

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.

Serviceberry

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.

 

Serviceberry shrub

Serviceberry shrub

Serviceberry tree

Serviceberry tree

Pagoda Dogwood

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.

Pagoda Dogwood

Here is a close up of Pagoda Dogwood flowers

Pagoda Dogwood

Here is my own Pagoda Dogwood that is thriving on the east side of my house

Pagoda Dogwood tree

A more mature Pagoda Dogwood tree with a nice layered branching form

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

Winter Beauty Dogwood

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.

Winter Beauty Dogwood in winter

Winter Beauty Dogwood in winter

Honeysuckle

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.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteoides ‘Clavey’s Dwarf’)

Elderberry

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.

American Elder berries

American Elder berries

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.

American Elder shrub

American Elder shrub

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.

Compact Highbush Cranberry

Compact Highbush Cranberry

Compact Highbush Cranberry fall colour

Compact Highbush Cranberry fall colour

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.

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