Vol. 5 Issue 2, Spring 2000
By Patty Selly
Spring is here! With the snow gone, the days warming, and the amount of sunlight increasing, it is especially refreshing to get outside and get your hands dirty working in the garden. This season, why not think about adding a few colorful plants to your garden plot to attract more wildlife to your yard?
It is a welcome pleasure to find birds and butterflies visiting the garden, and with some thought and care, you can plan some additions which will make your garden more inviting to these delightful visitors. Most of these plants are sun-loving and require little care. They are perennials, which means they are self-seeding and return year after year, growing more lush and full with each season. Most, though not all, of the plants listed here are native to this region.
Hummingbirds and butterflies share many of the same favorites, including the monardas (also known as bee balm and bergamot.) and members of the phlox family such as smooth phlox and sweet william phlox. Hummingbirds also like trumpet vine, be sure to get the native variety, Campsis radicans. Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadense) is also a hit with hummers, producing beautiful drooping red blooms.
Our native butterflies will frequent plants such as the aptly named butterfly bush (Buddlea davidii) any of the asters, milkweed (Asclepias spp.) and lantana. If you have particularly moist soil or are fortunate enough to live near a stream or river, try some bright red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Bumblebees also will visit many of these nectar-rich beauties.
Songbirds will appreciate such flowers as thistle (Cirsium spp.), goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), sunflower (Helianthus annuus), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), asters (Aster spp.), and black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta) all of which produce a lovely, nutrient-packed seedhead as they die back.
A few things to consider when planning your garden: First, the height of your plants. It is pleasing to the eye as well as practical to select plants of different heights. Space your plants randomly and use different heights throughout the garden patch. This way, you will be able to enjoy blooms at different levels (making cutting much easier), and the birds and butterflies will have space around them as they perch or hover. Consider also the blooming time for each variety.
Again, there are benefits for us as well as the wildlife when we have plants that will bloom continuously throughout the season. A third consideration is color. Although hummingbirds are generally said to prefer red blossoms, they will be attracted to flowers of other colors as well. You can easily create a beautiful garden with lots of color by including a variety of plants that are attractive to songbirds, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
When it comes to wildlife gardening, you may notice visitors right away, or it may take a few seasons for the birds and others to “get used to it.” The plants, shrubs and trees you add now will grow more full with the seasons, and the wildlife will visit, eventually. Be patient! As the saying goes (sort of!) “If you plant it, they will come.”
To find native plants and the species that benefit from them, check out our Gardening for Wildlife Plant List.