Creating a landscape that supports wildlife, or at least attracts songbirds and butterflies, is something most gardeners can agree is a positive move. Outdoor spaces that benefit local wildlife make the time you and your family spend interacting with outdoor areas more beneficial as well.
So let’s look at the basics of designing landscapes with wildlife in mind, starting with food sources. Whether you are drawn to nectar-lovers like butterflies and hummingbirds or you’re keen to provide berries for the birds, planting for a season of sustenance is essential. To create an all-you-can-eat buffet for your favorite winged creatures, be sure there is something in bloom from summer into fall and that you include shrubs or trees with persistent fruit.
Bring on the berries
Roses, crabapple trees and chokeberry, and viburnum shrubs will produce summer fruits that delight songbirds. Brandywine™ Viburnum nudum delivers loads of breathtaking berries without the need for another pollinator nearby. The fruit transforms from green to shades of vivid pink and blue on a 5-6’ tall/wide habit with showy glossy leaves that change to dark maroon-red in autumn. Brandywine™ viburnum is deer resistant and hardy in USDA zones 5-9.
Nectar feeders will be attracted to butterfly bush (Buddleia), bluebeard (Caryopteris), and a new shrub called Chitalpa. El Niño™ Chitalpa, or desert orchid, is an intergeneric hybrid of desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) and catalpa (Catalpa sp.) El Niño™ Chitalpa will grow to 5-8’ tall/4-6’ wide and is hardy in USDA zones 6-9, and hummingbirds love its trumpet-shaped flowers. Like butterfly bush and bluebeard, it’s deer resistant and will tolerate dry conditions.
Rain garden renovation
If you have an area in the landscape where water accumulates in rainstorms, you’ve got the perfect conditions for a rain garden. Plants can support clean water sources for wildlife by redirecting storm water runoff. However, using the right plants in the right places is the key to rain garden success.
Choose native species that provide bank stabilization, like Red-twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera), which also offers summer fruit for birds. Arctic Fire® Red and Arctic Fire® Yellow Cornus are up to the task and make a striking display when planted en masse. Both are hardy in USDA zones 2-7 and will mature to 4-6’ size range.
Give me shelter
Shelter is an element that doesn’t get the attention that showier flowers and fruit do. The borders of your property can be landscaped to create valuable spaces for shelter and breeding. A windbreak of evergreens can help wildlife survive harsh weather. Mix in tall and short evergreens and deciduous plants; it’s a great place to show your skill at combining textures and colors.
Juniper is a beautiful, deer-resistant choice with good hardiness. Plus, they produce colorful blue berries, which are actually modified cones. Those berries are very attractive to birds and other wildlife, and it’s what gives gin its characteristic flavor. Some species can become quite large, maxing out at 40-50’, but Gin Fizz® Juniper chinensis produces loads of berries on a compact, easy-to-site, 10-18’ conical habit.
If all your efforts to welcome in birds, bees, and butterflies are also bringing in unwanted guests like deer and rabbits, you can choose plants that are unappealing to them while also supporting pollinators. A good deer-proof plant reference is Rutgers University.
If you’re in a heavily populated area, you might also consider using repellants around anything that is newly planted, as well as at the start of the season. With deer, if you can change their regular browsing path early on, you can head off damage down the road.
Even if you find a few nibbles here and there, thoughtful landscaping planning always pays off. With smart shrub placement, you’ll create a strong framework for a glorious garden that will keep you and the local wildlife happy for many seasons to come.