Birdfeeders are one of the most common ways we attract birds to our yards, but did you know there’s another way? It includes improving your yard’s “nature” potential and all you have to do is plant a native garden. Native plants offer a lot more than just birds. They are an integral component to a healthy functioning ecosystem.
Plant it and They Will Come
Birds and plants have evolved together over eons. This co-evolution is so integral to their lives that migratory bird and insect patterns follow one another. And even those birds that stick around year-long need more than just birdfeeders to make it through the cold winters. Come spring, protein is on the menu and the best protein for birds is in the form of insects. That’s where native plants come in … they enhance local bugs, the lifeblood for birds, especially in spring.
You Don’t Have to Compromise
We know we create and design gardens for our pleasure and this design is often after “a certain look”. We’re here to say that you don’t have to compromise! You can have beauty and substance in the form of a garden that contributes to a healthy ecosystem. Once maligned, plants like milkweed are now sought after for not only their unique beauty, but for the ecosystem benefits they provide. And what gets more exciting in our gardens than wildlife? Among the hundreds of species to pick from – you’re bound to find something.
Native Plants Outperform
Planting native species turns your garden into a supermarket for birds. Whether it’s the berries or the nectar of the flowers or the way these species are an integrated part of our local food webs, native plants belong with us, not just “out there”. As a bonus for busy gardeners, they typically take less water and fuss. Pro-tip: don’t be swayed by cultivated or hybridized varieties when choosing plants. Remember to check the straight native species by paying attention to the botanical name. This ensures maximum benefits to wildlife.
This time of year, when the leaves are dropping, can be especially important as migrating bird flying south are looking for fat and nutrient-dense berries to get them ready for long journeys. Researchers have found that the fruits of native plants are more nutritional than alternatives, packing in a fat punch for long hauls.
Timing is everything
Fall is the best time of year to plant berry-producing shrubs. They continue developing their roots until the deep freeze settles in. Come spring, they’ll be ready to flush out and provide shelter and food to the wildlife you love.
Here are 3 stunning shrubs, and who they entice, to get you going:
- Bright orange fall foliage, fruit that gets devoured quickly, and hardy to many conditions. The Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) will entice Cardinals, Scarlet Tanagers, Orioles, Jays and more.
- The deep red of the Nannyberry’s (Viburnum lentago) leaves in the fall eventually reveal dark purple berries loved by Cedar Waxwings, Bluebirds, the Brown Thrasher and more.
- What breaks up the grey and white of the months ahead? The bright red branches of the Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) who’s berries will easily feed Vireos, Juncos, Warblers and other migratory birds.
We Offer Project Funding for Native Gardens
If you’re thinking of a landscape project that helps our feathery friends with their needs to eat, drink, shelter and raise their young, contact us. We offer funding of up to $1,000 for projects with these goals. This grant covers garden design plans, the purchase of native plants and the implementation work. Make sure to reach out before any work gets initiated.
Photo credit: Emily Fikkert.
Attract Cedar waxwings by planting a berryproducing shrub. They are frugivores – fruit specialists – and rarely visit bird feeders.
Tell us and Win!
Share with us your favourite native bird or plant and why it’s your favourite for a chance to win a copy of the book “Nature’s Best Hope, by bestselling author Doug Tallamy. In it, Tallamy encourages us to combine forces to create more nature, one yard at a time. Submit your answer by October 15, 2020 to participate in the draw.
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