Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
June, 2010
Regional Report

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Salal (Gaultheria shallon) is a leathery-leaved native shrub. Bees love to visit the flowers and birds love to eat the berries.

Wildlife Friendly Landscaping

Because we garden near the forest's edge, we have quite a number of feathered and furry critters visiting our landscape. They come at all hours of the day and night, and if I'm lucky, I get to watch them. I'm not always happy with the way the furry ones rearrange or prune our plants, but I do respect their wild ways and wouldn't do anything to harm them. After all, they were here first, and I know their territory is shrinking with every new housing development.

I'm deliberately enticing wildlife by surrounding our property with a greenbelt of native plants. From a design point of view, native plants provide a nice transition from the forest to our more formally tended landscape. From a nature-enticing viewpoint, natives such as Oregon grape, evergreen huckleberry, and salal offer berries to birds and raccoons, as well as providing nesting spots or temporary shelter when the creatures feel the need to hide.

In addition to feasting on the wild berries, raccoons raid our pond and rearrange the plants, peel up the sod to collect fat, juicy grubs, and climb the trellis to eat our ripe grapes. I don't blame them for doing what comes naturally. It only takes a few minutes to right the wrongs, which I think is a pretty cheap price to pay for all the entertainment they provide.

Of all the wildlife that visits my garden, birds are the most welcome. I find their antics at the feeders amusing, and I know they're ridding my garden of hundreds of pesky insects each and every day. It's not difficult to accommodate our feathered friends; they're happy with the simple basics of food, shelter, and clean water. And no matter how small an area you have, you can turn it into a refuge for birds.

Provide Cover
Birds need shelter to protect them from the elements and allow them to hide from predators. I've found that berry-producing trees and shrubs are the most popular hangouts in my garden. Favorites include cotoneaster, holly, barberry, euonymus, dogwood, and huckleberry.

Entice with Water
Water is important and should be available throughout the year for birds. Ideally, the water source should be about 3 inches deep and 3 feet off the ground. Birds are attracted by motion and sound, so if you can include a fountain in your backyard habitat you will substantially increase the number of visiting birds.

Hang Feeders
I've found that some birds are bold and others are shy. Some birds feed on the ground, some will come to any feeder, and others prefer the seclusion of trees.

For the greatest variety and number of birds, try a variety of feeding spots, bird foods, and feeders. Start with one or two feeders and increase the number as you learn which foods and feeders the birds prefer.

If you spend a little time planning, you'll soon have birds flocking to your backyard! Then you can get out your field guide and your binoculars and join the 20 million other Americans who enjoy the rewarding hobby of bird-watching.

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