As land caretakers we can do just about everything when it comes to plants. We can water, fertilize, and maintain. The one thing we can’t do is pollinate. For that we need a little help from the insect, bird, and even mammal communities.
Bees can get a bad rap. But not all bees are bad! In fact, without them our beautiful lawns and flowers, not to mention our food supply, would be in serious jeopardy. When it comes to pollination and food, the gentle honeybees and bumblebees of our area are looking for native plants. They also love yellow, white, blue, and purple flowers, but don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to those colors. Flowers that bees love include asters, crocuses, marigolds, poppies, roses, and sunflowers.
Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds
When planting flowers in the late spring, consider including flowers which attract butterflies or hummingbirds. Not only are butterflies and hummingbirds great pollinators, they are beautiful to watch and will put a smile on your face whenever one visits your flowerbed. Butterflies like many of the same flowers that bees enjoy, while also enjoying others like cosmos, zinnia, coneflower, and black-eyed susans. Hummingbirds on the other hand prefer tubular flowers that are red or orange including salvia, lobelia, bleeding heart, bee balm, and columbine.
In order to attract birds or other wildlife to your landscape, three essential needs should be provided – water, shelter, and food.
- Water can be provided in any number of ways from a pond or pool to a pie pan on a stump. There are three important facts to keep in mind:
First, running water is more attractive than still water. You can do this by hanging a pail with a slow drip over the water. If you want a better appearance, and are willing to spend more, you can purchase a pump and set up a small waterfall.
Second, most commercial bird baths are too deep for most birds to bathe in. You should not fill the bath with more than 2 inches of water. A gradual slope to the deepest part of the bath also helps.
Third, it is very important to keep the water clean. If you notice a lot of algae growth, drain the container and wash with a solution of one tablespoon of bleach to one half-gallon of water. Keeping the water in a shady spot will also help retard algae growth.
- Shelter can be provided by putting up nest boxes. These need to have the proper size entrance holes and dimensions for the bird desired. Remember, not all birds nest in nest boxes. To provide shelter for birds who nest on branches, plant evergreens or thorny plants. Evergreens will also give birds cover from the weather during the winter months. Thorny plants such as Multiflora Rose and Barberry will protect nests from predators. If you have a large property, you can plant a thicket of Wild Grape Vines or Virginia Creeper among some Multiflora Roses. This will grow into an impenetrable tange which will keep any bird safe
- Food is the final requirement. You should provide a variety of foods for the greatest variety of birds. This is because not all birds eat the same foods. Putting out feeders is great for luring some birds, but there are many birds that won’t touch seed. The variety of birds that use your landscape as food can be increased by planting trees and shrubs that produce fruits and berries. When deciding which plants to install, try to pick types that fruit at different times so that food is available over the longest time. Plants, like Winter Berry, whose fruits stay on during the winter are especially valuable. Remember to do your research when planting trees and shrubs that have fruit or berries as some of these can be toxic or poisonous to your pets.