A catbird watching me as I garden in the Herb Garden – waiting to eat the raspberries nearby.
“No One Can Garden Alone”
Quote by Elizabeth Lawrence
There is a lovely gardening quote by one of my gardening heroines, Elizabeth Lawrence. She says in the preface of ‘The Little Bulbs’ – “No one can garden alone”. If you are not gardening alone – who do you share your garden with?
Obviously your family and friends are part of your gardening life. But who else? In this halloween month there are no zombies or ghouls in my garden as far as I have seen. No ghosts – maybe? But as I garden, I hear and see, and sometimes smell other creatures that give me clues that I am not gardening alone.
So many rabbits inhabit my garden this year.
The Year of the Rabbit
This year has been the year of the rabbit in my garden. To say that there was a population explosion does not even begin to cover it. They ate my zinnias, marigolds, dahlias, yarrow, parsley – the list goes on and on. While I might have had bad thoughts about the cute bunnies there is one group of animals that I am always ready to welcome to the garden – birds.
A bird feasts on my aster seeds – I am not an expert, but maybe a common chaffinch.
Plants as Natural Bird Feeders
Over my years of gardening I have gravitated towards plants that act as natural bird feeders. They might be seed producers like asters or sunflowers or they could be fruit and berry producers. I do have bird feeders up where I put out food for the birds but nothing that I can buy matches the volume and variety found on my trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
I choose my plants to feed the birds and leave seed heads on plants like aster rather than cutting them down as soon as they have finished flowering.
Flowering Dogwood fruit – Cornus florida – a fall food favored by many birds.
Think of the number of dogwood fruit on a tree, or the sunflower seeds packed into a seed head and you can imagine how a whole garden can feed many birds. The key is to pay attention to what the birds in your neighborhood are eating. If you are not sure what to plant for them look for native plants that produce fruits or seeds that are liked by birds.
An Energy Bar for Migrating Birds
One of my favorite bird-feeding plants is the East Coast native flowering dogwood. Each red fruit is packed with goodness that is a sought after food source for both resident small birds and those migrating back to warmer climates for the winter. I refer to it as an energy bar for birds with plenty of fat and protein to keep them flying hundreds or thousands of miles.
Good Bird-Feeding Plants
Deciduous holly has berries on the female plants that are readily eaten by many birds – Ilex verticillata.
Holly trees and shrubs are a great choice. There are male and female plants. The female plants bear berries that are a favorite treat for many bird species.
Sunflowers are fabulous pollinator plants and easy to grow from spring-sown seeds.
Sunflowers are another great choice to feed the birds. The flowers are wonderful for pollinators and then the seeds are loved by birds like goldfinches.
As the sunflowers fade the seeds develop.
Find the goldfinch eating the sunflower seeds. They are very skittish and so are hard to photograph. The garden sculpture is my ‘Tin Man’
Final Thoughts – Bunnies Versus Birds
Enjoy the other creatures that live in your garden. Work out whether you can feed some of them naturally. I concentrate on providing fruit, berry, and seed-producing trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants to feed the birds. I do try to keep rabbits out of a few garden areas but fail most of the time. I also wish that the bunnies had not eaten so many of my baby sunflower seedlings that I planted to feed the birds!
Bye for now gardening friends
Jenny Rose Carey