Thursday, March 1, 2012

Plants for birds

'Iroquois Beauty' Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

March is here! Now is the time to think about ways to attract and sustain the birds that visit our gardens. For several years I have been planting native shrubs that bear fruit in my wildlife garden. For example, the Red Berried Elderberry is a very important food source for a wide variety of birds, and produces clusters of red fruit that ripen just about the same time that baby birds need them in late June and early July. Other varieties of elderberry ripen in late summer. I grow both to keep food available during nesting season and to help birds during migration.

This year I am planting a chokeberry called 'Iroquis Beauty' that is noteworthy for its compact growth and smaller size, growing only to three-feet tall. The fruit is very attractive to birds throughout the winter and especially in the spring during migration when there is very little else for birds to eat.

Aronia has three-season interest that begins in the spring with loads of white flowers followed by clusters of dark-blue fruit that last all winter. In the fall, the glossy-green foliage turns a wine-red color. This shrub is very adaptable and grows in wet or dry conditions, and in full sun or shade. Another plus is the fact that it's self pollinating.

When you visit your local nursery this spring, ask about native plants for birds and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the nice selection of shrubs you'll find. When you plant these shrubs in your garden you provide places for birds to rest, perch and hide from predators; nest and raise their young; and find shelter from the weather.

Help fight habitat loss and the effects of global warming; create a wildlife haven in your backyard this year!

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