Lots of people complain and worry about mankind’s impact on wildlife, and some people want more government protect it. But if you own property, you can do far more good by making a private wildlife haven. That’s what I have done with my yard. When I first moved in, the grass grew up to the house, and I barely saw a bird or butterfly. With lots of digging and effort, my yard is now a destination for myriad butterflies, bumblebees, and bugs I can’t even name. It’s also a favorite destination for all kinds of birds, from hummingbirds to finches and mockingbirds to crows and mourning doves. I even periodically see a crazy beautiful moth called the clearwing hummingbird moth. This amazing little creature really does look like a hummingbird! The feeders in the backyard attract a wide array of birds as well, but we will save that for another day.
Here I share some of my favorite wildlife plants that thrive in my Virginia clay-ridden front garden (note: I did substantial amending of the soil when I dug these beds). All photos are from my garden this year and prior years as well. If you live nearby, many of my plants make babies, i.e., volunteers, that I can share with clients—past, present, and future. I note below which ones produce volunteers.
|Inkberry Holly: These are not the most beautiful plants, but they have berries (not really visible) that feed the birds in the winter, and they are evergreen. Spring and sometimes fall pruning keep them full shaped. You need to make sure you have male and female versions to get the berries.|
|Purple Cone Flower: If you love the sweet and beautiful American goldfinch, plant this flower and let it go to seed. These birds will feed on it into the winter. I have tried planting the white ones too, but with less luck. I may have some volunteers.|
|Shasta Daisy: Here we have simple beauty with easy care. I had two varieties and one has outlived the other. I think mine is called “Becky.”|
|Lacecap Hydrangia: These add a little pop to those shady areas of the yard, and they bloom all summer without any effort on your part—other than a little fertilizer.|
|Butterfly Bush: The name says it all! No plant I have brings as many butterflies, and I have lots of volunteers. Mine are all purple, and you can see from the photo that this one has just started to bloom.|
|Bee Balm: I started these from seeds in the house a couple of years ago, and they reward me every year with lots of flowers that the bees and butterflies just love.|
|Catmint: Billowy and blue, this is easy to start from seed indoors before spring.|
|Salvia Farinacea: These are annual plants bloom all summer and into the fall without need for any “deadheading,” or much of anything other than water. I picked these up this year at Walmart in affordable six-packs.|
|False Indigo: This is one surprised me with its elegance and beauty. It looks like asparagus when it comes up in the spring, then grows into a 3-4 foot bouquet of total bliss that looks like it’s sitting in a vase. The rest of the summer it’s a round beautiful green plant about 3 feet high.|
|Foxglove: These spring show stoppers will bloom the second year after planting and will reseed. I planted some years ago and they have continued to reseed and send me flowers every spring, usually near—but not exactly—in the same places. The leaves are large and lettuce-like, so they are easy to differentiate from weeds. Note, these are poisonous, so don’t let your dog eat them.|
|Hummingbird Plant: I picked these up at a nursery a few years back, and they proved to be a great annual for constant color all summer. For the past several years, these plants have re-seeded, so I just move them to my desired locations once they start to emerge.|
|Miss Kim Lilac: These lilacs are designed for smaller spaces, but mine got pretty big. I had to cut it back and hope it returns. It’s beautiful and fragrant in the spring and green all summer. I discovered that she did produce a few volunteers, but these have already been claimed!|
|Jackmanii Clematis: Perfect for the picket fence! Lots of blooms.|
|Foster Holly, Eastern Red Cedar/Juniper, and other Evergreens: Birds need evergreens to hide in and to keep warm in winter, and some produce berries, such as junipers, that provide winter food. My junipers produce volunteers that have I have a hard time pulling up because they are such beautiful trees. I recommend foster hollies because they produce prolific berries, but I also periodically find volunteer American Hollies. So if you want a juniper or American Holly, let me know. I also have Green Giant Arborvitae, which can actually be rooted from clippings.|
|I also plant roses, but these can be a prickly, painful chore. If you want easy-care roses, try knockout varieties and Carefree Beauty available from Spring Valley Roses, which also has many great shrubs and plants that are excellent for bird gardens.|
These are not the only garden plants I recommend, but its a start. This year I am trying a few new plants: white black-eyed Susan vines, and two kinds of passion flowers, and some white day lilies. I can report later in the year on how they do.
In addition to helping the birds and the bees, another benefit of a wildlife garden is how it transforms the way your home looks. See my before and after shots below.