Attract more birds with the right plantings

When planning your landscaping project, don’t forget the birds! There are tons of plants that are not only attractive but also attract a large variety of birds. When attracting birds to your garden or lawn, Make sure you consider three things:  Food, water, and shelter. With these three elements in place, you will be able to attract plenty of birds to satisfy your birdwatching needs.

American Goldfinch


Fruiting shrubs,  flowers that produce nectar, and even plants that attract insects can be a valuable source of food. Don’t forget to include plants that have persistent fruit that hangs on in the winter, such as Highbush American Cranberry and some varieties of crabapple with smaller fruits. Keep in mind that sometimes a few the plants may drop some of their fruit before the birds get to them, so be sure to plant them in a location where they will not create a mess on your sidewalk, driveway or places where people walk. Plant enough varieties of shrubs so you can have have a succession of fruiting times, to keep food available throughout the year.


Don’t forget that birds need water in the winter too!  A bird bath water heater will keep the water open during the cold weather  will attract more birds.  And your feathered friends will sure appreciate it!


Birds need shelter for protection from the weather, predators, (like the neighborhood cat) and nesting habitat. Evergreen trees  (spruce, pine, Canadian hemlock, arborvitae, and fir) make a great shelter,  in addition to screening them from predators. Thickly branched trees or shrubs or even a tangle of vines or shrubs also work well. Placed properly, they  make a great place to enjoy watching the birds (like finches and the chickadees) perch on a branch while they crack open a sunflower seed and flit back to the feeder for another treat.

Mourning dove

In realty, most plants that produce fruit will be attractive to a wide variety of birds.  Many plants will provide can even provide more than one of the above elements throughout the year.  Here are some of the plantings that I would recommend to give you a great start:


Summer — Black Raspberry, Red Raspberry, Elderberry,  Barberry, Wild Raspberrys, Currant Gooseberry,    Strawberry

Fall –Red and gray dogwood, Winterberry, Gray Dogwood, Juniper,  Cotoneaster, viburnum, rugosa rose

Winter — American Highbush Cranberry and all viburnums, Black Chokeberry, Northern Bayberry, Sumacs,   Red Chokeberry, Snowberry, Coralberry, shrub rosee



Birch, chokecherry, Blue Beech, Catalpa, Hackberry, Pine, Sugar Maple, Willow, Mountain Ash, Mulberry, Wild black Cherry, serviceberry,  plum, dogwood, crabapple,  amur maple, hawthorn, Russian olive


Honeysuckle, Bittersweet, Grape, hydrangea (marginally hardy) virginia creeper


Aster,  Coreopsis, Conflower (Echinaceae), Globe thistle, Helianthus (False sunflower), Black eyed susan (Rudbeckiia) Goldenrod, Perennial grasses (big bluestem, little bluestem, and sideoats gramma are but a few the many varieties that will work well).

Peg’s Pond Part II

Last time I wrote an entry (Peg’s Pond) about building a pond for my sDSCF0068.JPGister-in-law Peg. A planting season has gone by, and as you can see by the pictures, the place has changed quite a bit! Peg now has some Koi and a few goldfish, and they have taken a real liking to their new home. Peg has really done something right, because they have started breeding, and she saw her first batch of Koi hatch-lings last Spring, with more hatching throughout the summer. The pond plants have done well, and combined with the fish, she has achieved a good biological balance to keep her pond healthy, and created a nice aquatic ecosystem.

Part of the design process of determining the location of the pond was preserving the great view from inside the house. There is a wetland DSCF0043.JPGarea behind her home, and we wanted to incorporate the pond with the view. Now with plants maturing, they help make a smooth transition from the house to the pond to the wetlands. We used mostly perennials and grasses, many of which were native to the area. The photo at the left shows the main waterfall feeding one of the two streams we constructed. That’s Joe Pye plant and Back-eyed Susan around the waterfall.

Even though the picture
doesn’t show it, the stream in the photo is one of two streams. It exits in to a small upper pond, which in turn cascades into the main pond. Peg told me she even saw some baby Koi in the upper pond!

The view from her picture window has now becomeDSCF0073.JPG a real focal point in her home. Peg does a lot of work out of her home for people that have mind-body coordination issues (she uses a process called Brain Gym therapy), and the view of the pond and waterfall provides a very relaxing atmosphere for her clients.

The two streams have been a real nice touch. They have created more interest, and the sound of the two streams adds DSCF0055.JPGa lot of dimension to the sound of the water. The photo to the left shows the other, larger stream headed down to the main pond.

Peg has really done a great job on her pond. I’m looking forward to watching it grow and mature.”Hey Peg… I could use some Koi for my pond, and I see that you have a few to spare…..”





Building a Butterfly Garden Part II

There are two types if plants that attract butterflies. They are 1) a nectar source for the butterfly, and 2) a food source for the larvae to feed on. The more you have of each, the better your chances are of attracting a wide variety of butterflies to your garden. You should also include a variety butterfly6[1].jpgof plants that have different bloom periods to extend the season of bloom. Butterflies in general like plants that have large or flat flower clusters. Remember not to use insecticides on your garden! (For obvious reasons) Photo at left: Monarch an a Yarrow plant

Tip: Try keeping a butterfly journal. Keep a record of what kinds of butterflies visit your garden, and their favorite plants. Which flowers attract the most variety of butterflies? What time of day do most of them come to your garden? This would make a great 4 H project!


Shrubs Viburnum, Chokeberry, Lilac, Spirea, Butterfly bush, Spirea, Mock orange, Red leafed cherry, Potentilla (yellow), Weigela

Annuals Ageratum, Nasturtium, Salvia, Petunia, Snapdragon, Alyssum.

Perennials (some of my favorites, there are more): Columbine (below right), Black-eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower, Liatris, Joe-Pye weed, Milkweed (below left), Sedum (tall varieties), Shasta daisy, Yarrow, Fall-blooming butterfly1[1].jpgAster, Butterfly weed, Daylily, Scabiosa.

Click here to view part I of this post


Building a Butterfly Garden

Building a Butterfly Garden: First Things First!

Along with the increased interest in the use of native plants for landscaping, butterfly watching has come right alongside it and has become a popular pastime. By choosing the right plants, anyone can create a butterfly garden, whether it be in a space as small as an apartment window box or a large garden that will attract a wide variety of butterflies. (Among other friendly creatures!)

Before planting the garden it is best to educate yourself about the life cycle of the butterfly, the conditions it likes best, the food that it likes and the best location for your garden.

Life cycle Butterflies go through 3 life stages (egg, caterpillar, and cocoon) before they reach the 4th, or adult stage. monarc1[1].jpg Eggs are usually laid on the host ( food source) plant and will hatch in as little as a few days or as long as 2-3 weeks. The larvae (see Monarch larvae at left) hatches out of the egg and begins to feed on the host plant. The larvae (caterpillar) will continue to feed on the host plant, shedding its skin as it grows to full size. When full size is reached, it begins to pupate, or form a cocoon. It may hang by what appears to be a small thread, or it can attach itself to a small branch or leaf.monarch_pupa[1].jpg

Location It is best to select a sunny location with well drained soil that will support a variety of plants. It also gives an opportunity for the butterflies to sun themselves. Try to keep it out of the wind. Find some large stones or a flat-shaped fieldstone boulder (you may need help getting it there!) that will provide a good basking spot, and will also hold heat when it starts to cool down later in the day. If you can, provide a water source for them. Something as simple as moist earth or a mud puddle works great. You can buy a piece of drip irrigation line and attach it to your hose to keep the ground moist with a slow dripping action.


Look for our next post to see a list of the plants you can use to create a your own butterfly garden!

How to keep Deer away from your plants

If you have deer in your neighborhood, chances are that you have seen them taking a lunch break on in your yard, enjoying one of the new shrubs (or perennials) that you just purchased. And you thought it was just the right plant for the right space. It looks like the deer agree with you, because they are enjoying it, too!

I wish that there was such a thing as deer-proof plants, but unfortunately, such a thing just doesn’t exist. However, there are some things you can do to discourage them from deciding to stop by for a visit and have lunch while they’re at it.

1) Erect a physical barrier. If you are up against a large population of deer, and you have large amounts of valuable plants a fence can be one way to go. To be effective it needs to be 7 feet tall, or more. It is only practical if and you want to go to the effort and expense of erecting a fence. Another way to make a barrier is s to cover your plants with chicken wire or welded wire mesh formed to a cone or dome and staked to the ground.

2) Deer repellent. They are available commercially. Hinder, and Deer-away are two brands that are available. It will usually be a trial and error process to find out which one works the best. Or, you can make your own. Some do-it-yourselfers will use 3-4 rotten eggs mixed with a quart of sour milk, putting the mixture in a spray bottle and applying it to the plants. You will need to reapply it after a rain. Another inexpensive treatment is to get a bag of Milorganite fertilizer and sprinkle it around the plants. Both of these treatments repel by smell. Milorganite is sewage sludge that is dried, bagged and sold as organic fertilizer. Both commercial repellents and homemade recipes have had mixed results. It really boils down to how hungry the deer are!

3) Experiment with deer resistant plants. And I do mean experiment! There are several lists of resistant that you will find, but it’s best to use one that is put out by someone in your area, like the University extension service. Another place to contact is to is a local grower of the plants you are interested in.
No plant is guaranteed, but some have been reported to be more resistant than others.There has been no “scientific” tests that I am aware of, because there are too many variables involved in what the deer will eat. The local deer population and competition, amount of snow cover if winter feeding is a problem, other available food sources, and how used they are to being around humans to name a few. I suspect there may even be regional differences in taste, just like there are with us. All of the lists that I am aware of are based merely on observation.

Anyway, there are some plants that seem to appear on multiple lists. In general, deer will avoid plants that have a strong odor or taste to them, such as yarrow, any of the mint family (such as bee balm, cat mint, and spearmint), Russian sage, and Sumac, to name a few. Also, plants with thorns are naturally avoided. Other plants that have made the list:

Perennials: Salvia, Astilbe, Artemesia, Foxglove, Monkshood, Russian sage, Joe Pye plant, Bleeding heart, Flowering onion, Yarrow (Achillea), Most fern varieties, Globe thistle(Echinops), Coneflower (Rudbeckia), Most ornamental grasses, Butterfly weed (Asclepias),  Beebalm (monarda) and other mints

Ground covers: Ajuga, Vinca, Pachysandra, Lily of the valley

Trees and shrubs: Elm, Ginkgo, Magnolia,  Coffeetree, Hawthorne,   Some Pines, Honeylocus, Canadian Hemlock, Juniper (Eastern Red Cedar)Lilac, Roses, Sumac, Juniper, Potentilla, Barberry,, Smokebush, ,Honeysuckle, Ash leaf spirea, Bush honeysuckle.