Gardening for the Birds
There’s a rush of wingbeats, and you look up to see a flock of birds soaring past. It’s a busy time for birds both local and migratory as they prepare for winter, and a reminder to bird-lovers everywhere of the beauty and entertainment they can bring to the backyard. Attracting birds to your garden is a wonderful way to enliven your landscape with color, chatter and song, especially during the colder months.
If you want to attract birds to your yard, hanging a bird-feeder is obviously a tried-and-true way of getting visitors, but there are also many unique ways you can plan your garden to encourage birds of all types to come around! Many of the plants that make up a classic birdseed mix are also beautiful in the garden, and watching the birds forage on the fresh seed-heads makes for great entertainment (and if you’re skilled with a camera, great photographs!) Sunflowers, millet, amaranth, quinoa and the many varieties of buckwheat are excellent bird attractants. This purple millet above (sold in nurseries as ‘Purple Majesty’) is a show-stopping annual addition to the garden or to a container. A variety of grasses, including Schizachyrium (Bluestem cultivars) and Festuca glauca (Blue Fescue), also have seeds that are favored by songbirds.
Trees and shrubs with berries also become hubs of activity when their fruit is ripe. Crabapples (Malus) and Serviceberries (Amelanchier) are real favorites, as are Russian Olive (Eleagnus), our native Coffeberry (Frangula) and the hundreds of varieties of Manzanita (Arctostaphylos). Grackles, Jays, Crows and Towhees love berries, and are funny to watch chattering away as they stuff themselves! If you have a shady landscape, Viburnum and Elderberry offer tempting treats for birds. Planting even a few attractants can bring feathery diners to your landscape, and occasionally can generate some interest in your backyard real estate!
Follow this link for more information on California Native plants for birds from the Audubon Society
As Landscape Architects, we appreciate the value of good design and ingenuity. The stunning nest in the title photo is lined with the downy seeds of this Clematis above, offering bird-lovers yet another reason to grow this beautiful vine. Other nest-building landscape plants include fine-textured ornamental grasses, soft groundcovers (like Lamb’s Ear), and pine trees for their needles. Lawn clippings are also a big favorite! Even if they don’t nest in your yard, growing the building materials is a sure way to get to watch some birds harvesting in early Spring. Birds can be quite selective of their nest sites, so if your yard is chosen, you can feel lucky! Just be sure to leave them in peace while they nest, then take a peek after they’ve left and see what they used to build their perfectly-designed homes.
Do you see the adorable sparrow in this image above? OK, neither do we really, since she’s shaking off vigorously after her bath on the top tier of this J. Montgomery-installed fountain. This is why we aren’t wildlife photographers… and yet, this picture shows that water is an often-overlooked attractant for birds. Fountains, especially shallow ones, offer birds a drink and an opportunity for a bath. Of course, you can also get a birdbath, but we find that flowing water tends to stay cleaner longer. Depending on where you live, a water feature can also attract some unexpected but entertaining guests. One of our clients reported a gang of local turkeys who frequented her fountain in the colder months. Talk about a sight on Thanksgiving Day!
Here at J. Montgomery Designs, we want to wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving! We are beyond thankful for our awesome line of work, for our fabulous team, and of course for all of our amazing clients, past, present, and future. Thank you.