Pyracantha

Pyracantha

Pyracantha berries in October

Pyracantha:  Love it or hate it.   Most of us have a strong opinion about this fast growing shrub.

We love Pyracantha  for its beautiful fall berries, more correctly called “pomes”, which turn bright red, red orange, orange, or yellow, depending on the cultivar, in autumn.  The berries are beautiful in the landscape, in cut flower arrangements and wreathes; and they attract songbirds.  Cedar waxwings, cardinals, blue jays, and many other back yard birds feast on the berries in late autumn.   Considered poisonous for humans, the berries are mildly hallucinogenic for birds.

Pyracantha

This Pyracantha shrub is over 15 feet tall and wide.

Pyracantha, closely related to Cottoneaster, is beautiful espaliered against a wall;  grown as a hedge or against a privacy fence;  or even grown as ground cover on a bank.  Its beautiful white spring flowers are an important source of nectar for bees and other nectar loving insects.  Its evergreen leaves are neat and look good year round.  Its dense, thorny habit provides great cover for birds and gives them very secure nesting sites.

These are Pyracantha’s good qualities, and reasons why I like having it in the garden.

Now, the bad:  Pyracantha is very large; is covered with very long, sharp thorns; and grows with a mind of its own.  It is a fast grower, and so may need trimming back several times in a season to keep it in check if grown near your home.  Since it blooms and sets fruit on old wood, hard pruning may mean sacrificing the berry crop for the coming year.  Once pruned, it sends up new growth in many directions at once.  You almost need “staff” to look after it properly if you want to keep it manicured.  Some varieties will reseed around the garden.  If grown near pathways, its thorns may reach out to grab you, which brings us back to its positive qualities.

October 17 2013 monarch bf 014Those same thorns which make it difficult to prune, also make it an excellent hedging plant.  If you want extra security around the perimeter of your property, Pyracantha is an excellent choice.  I once had a garden which backed along a busy neighborhood thoroughfare.  Although I had an 8′ privacy fence, I also planted shrubs on both the inner and outer sides of that fence.  Azaleas and Camellias went on the outside visible from the street, but I  grew some Pyracantha on the inside where it might be tempting to climb across.  Pyracantha grown along fences and property lines can reinforce boundaries against humans, deer, neighborhood dogs, and others you might want to discourage.

Hardy in Zones 5-9, Pyracantha grows well in a variety of soils and in anything from full sun to partial shade.  There is more berry production in good sunlight, but the plant tolerates a wide range of conditions.  Native to parts of Europe and Asia, Pyracantha is definitely an import in the United States.  It is one of those plants where many hybrids and cultivars are available to suit your need for size, growth habit, and berry color.  Once it is established, it’s drought tolerant and hardy, with few problems from disease or insects.  It doesn’t need fertilizer or any special care.

Pyrancantha berries, just beginning to turn color.

Pyrancantha berries, just beginning to turn color.

One of the nicest things is the ease with which Pyracantha roots.  I’ve taken stem cuttings in late spring (also called “prunings”), dipped the lower cut into rooting hormone, and simply stuck them a few inches into the soil where I wanted a new shrub to grow.   This is how I cultivated a hedge along that privacy fence.  After watering them in, I just kept an eye on them until new growth appeared.  Not every cutting rooted, but enough did that the purpose was served.   Keep in mind that most commonly available cultivars will grow to between 10′ and 20′ tall within five years.  If left alone, most will also get quite wide.  In fact, I am planning to take cuttings from my current plants, and hope to establish a lovely thorny hedge in the areas of the garden where the Bambis still try to penetrate our barriers.  Pyracantha is one of those shrubs we haven’t seen them grazing.

So we choose to love Pyracantha, but also keep a healthy distance from it.  I’m not a native plant purist, and so appreciate its benefits in a wildlife friendly forest garden.  We love its beautiful berries, and we love seeing the crazed antics of the birds eating them.  It is an utterly undemanding, unfussy, dependable shrub; and it shines in autumn when its berries brighten and its green leaves hang on tight into the winter.

A branch of Pyracantha berries which will ripen for the birds and turn orange in late October.

A branch of Pyracantha berries in mid-summer.

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

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Orange in October

This Monarch spent the entire day feasting on Lantana nectar in our garden.

This Monarch spent the entire day feasting on Lantana nectar in our garden.

Orange takes on a special glow in October as the season draws to its holiday bedazzled close.

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Whether seen against a dazzling clear sapphire sky, or against the low grey clouds if autumn’s grey days, Orange jumps to the foreground, its warm optimism radiating confidence that good things are close at hand.

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October, in Eastern Virginia, is the last month of summer.

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The equinox a few weeks ago was only one of the markers along the path from high summer to Winter Solstice.   Each week of October eases the transition a little more here, near the coast.

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Even as daytime temps flirt with the eighties, the night time lows dip closer and closer to the 40s.  We are all on notice that the first frost is close at hand.

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And so the garden turns up the volume on orange.

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Pyracantha, just beginning to turn color from summer green to autumn orange.

Pyracantha berries, green all summer, brighten; like little light bulbs screwed in until the juice flows and electrifies them.

Pyracantha

Pyracantha

Flowers intensify their hues, like Kool Aide mix left undissolved in the bottom of a pitcher.

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Monarchs and Painted Lady butterflies have taken over the Lantana beds from the Swallowtails, who have gone elsewhere.

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More leaves each day crumple into brown.  Powdery mildew claimed the Ageratum during our week of rain turning blue and green to brown and grey.   Skeletons of trees are left behind where leaves take flight in the wind.

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Orange shines in the landscape like a beacon shines across a field at night.

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  It calls us deeper into Autumn comfort.  It calls us to drink cider; roast sweet potatoes; pile pumpkins on our porches; fill tired pots of annuals with fresh, crisp chrysanthemums.

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It invites us to plan weekend walks in the woods, or drives to the mountains to enjoy the brilliant autumn color.

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Samhain beckons.  Orange pumpkins, waiting to be carved and lit, tempt us at every grocery store and roadside stand.

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Celebrate October, and embrace every shade and hue of orange.

Bringing Birds To the Garden

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Do you feed the birds?  Most of us gardeners do.  Unless you are protecting a crop of blueberries or blackberries, you probably enjoy the energy and joy birds bring to the garden with their antics and songs.

Birds also vacuum up thousands of flying, crawling, and burrowing insects.  Even hummingbirds eat an enormous number of insects as they fly around from blossom to blossom seeking sweet nectar.  Birds are an important part of a balanced garden community.

We have everything from owls and red tailed hawks to hummingbirds visiting our garden, and we enjoy the occasional brood of chicks raised in shrubs near the house. There is an extended family of red “guard-inals” who keep a vigilant watch on our coming and goings and all of the activities of the garden.  There are tufted titmice who pull apart the coco liners in our hanging baskets to build their nests.

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Mistletoe, growing in many trees, produces winter berries enjoyed by many birds. But it also offers sheltered areas for nesting, collects water when it rains and attracts a variety of insects.

Mistletoe, growing in many hard wood trees, produces winter berries enjoyed by many birds. But it also offers sheltered areas for nesting, collects water when it rains and attracts a variety of insects.

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A forest garden welcomes many types of birds.  During the frozen months especially, a lawn full of robins proves endlessly entertaining.  The bright yellow flash of goldfinches brightens the dullest winter day.  Some birds make our garden their year round home, others come and go with the seasons.

There was a time when I kept feeders stocked with seed during much of the year.  I felt a sense of obligation, almost, to provide for the back yard flock.  What a mess!

As much as I love watching the endless parade of birds and food tray drama, There was always the pile of empty sunflower husks and spilled millet seed, and the rodents it attracts.  Our first winter or two in this particular garden I put out pounds and pounds of food in the deep winter.  Many times we watched as huge flocks of grackles swooped down, and  emptied our feeders  in less than half a day.

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Well, grackles weren’t what we had hoped to attract.  We were looking for the cute and colorful birds who eat a little at a time, and chirp their appreciation on the shrubs by the windows.

That brought some rather brutal soul searching about the true nature of generosity.  Did it really matter whether one type of bird or another ate the seeds I freely offered?  Did it matter how many came at once, or whether the life-giving seeds were consumed by bird or squirrel?  Or a raccoon at night?

It did matter.  I mattered to me, and to those who share the garden, the birds, and the bill for the bird feeder with me.

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bird feeder

A sack of Niger seed and a tube of seed  hang in a Hazelnut shrub to attract finches, cardinals, and other small colorful birds. Squirrels soon learned to tear into both feeders to liberate the seed for themselves.

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So, I tried a different approach;  I targeted my offerings to those birds I most wanted to attract.  We bought skinny stockings full of Niger seed.  Niger seed attracts goldfinches, purple finches, tufted titmice, and cardinals.

After the first frost or two, when the garden was largely empty of other food, we hung the Niger seed feeders in a shrubby Hazel near the living room window where we would see them easily.

This worked beautifully, until the very hungry and very determined squirrels learned to tear holes in the feeder bags and gobble up the seed like it was Chicklets gum.  After a year or so of making repairs and frequent re-filling,  I finally realized the birds were living in the garden whether my little offering of purchased seed was there, or not.

Maybe we don’t need to keep buying better feeders, bigger baffles, more seed, and all sorts of other gizmos to invite birds into our garden.  In fact, biologists tell us that birds need insects in their diets much more than they need seeds and the other treats we like to offer.

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the ravine in fall

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Bringing birds to the garden, and keeping them as residents, simply requires providing for their needs.

Birds chiefly need shelter, safe perches, varied food sources, and water to choose a garden as their home.  They also like their privacy.  A feeder rig out in a lawn, without shrubbery and trees nearby, actually makes the  birds vulnerable to all sorts of predators and competitors while they eat.

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Trees

A Magnolia tree, a gift from my neighbor’s garden, will offer abundant food and shelter to birds in years to come. Planted here near a Red Cedar and a Mimosa.

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Begin by considering which birds you most want to attract, learn their preferences, and then provide those things in the garden.

For example, large predatory birds, like hawks and owls, like to perch in the branches of large trees, well off the ground.  They prefer to eat small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.  By leaving areas of old forest with tall trees intact, and wild areas where the small animals they hunt can live, we have families of these beautiful birds living around us.  We hear the hawks calling to one another by day, and the owls by night.

Cardinals, robins, and grosbeaks come for the many berries provided by our shrubs; and goldfinches appear in late summer to feed on ripening seeds of Basil, Echinacea, and Rudbeckia.

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Pokeweed

American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, is a shrubby herbaceous perennial which grows to 8′ in our garden.  Birds love its nutritious berries, which ripen over several months.

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A forest garden is built in layers.  There are the tall pines and hardwoods, the shorter under story trees, various shrubs, annual and perennial herbaceous plants, grasses and finally ground covers.  Each of these layers has something to offer to wildlife, whether food, shelter, nesting areas, perches or playgrounds.

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Barmboo, technically a grass, not a tree, attracts huge numbers of birds to live in the shelter it provides.

Bamboo, technically a grass, not a tree, attracts huge numbers of birds to live in the shelter it provides. American Beautyberry shrubs grow nearby.

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The trick then, to attracting birds to the garden, is simply to cultivate plants which not only meet the needs of the gardener, but also meet the needs of the gardener’s favorite avian companions.

To bring colorful finches up close, leave some flowers to go to seed, and they will swoop in for the feast.  Expect  Dogwood trees to fill with a variety of birds in the autumn when their berries ripen, and the Pyracantha will lure cardinals and grosbeaks a few weeks later when their berries are ready for harvest.

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Eastern Redbud produces abundant, nutritious seeds. They may be eaten while still green like peas, or left to feed birds and other wildlife as they ripen.

Eastern Redbud produces abundant, nutritious seeds. Their pods may be eaten while still green like peas, or left to feed birds and other wildlife as they ripen.

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Beginning with whatever trees or shrubs already grow in your garden, plant additional useful varieties, keeping an eye to what is best suited to your climate.  Plan mixed borders where  species of different heights, textures, colors and forms blend together.

Just as most people are happiest among friends and family, most trees and shrubs enjoy growing in community with others.  This is how they grow in natural areas.

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Provide shelter, water, food, and nesting areas and birds will make your garden their home.

Provide shelter, water, food, and nesting areas and many different birds will make your garden their home.

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Avian visitors actually help spread seeds of the fruits and berries they love from one garden to another.   Over time, seedlings  pop up in odd spots, and you can encourage the ones you want, and remove the rest.   The more different species your garden offers, the more interest it will hold for you, and the birds you welcome to your garden.

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Flowers have grown into seeds on this butterfly tree.

Butterfly tree, Clerodendrum trichotomum, attracts many butterflies when in bloom, but feeds the birds as its berries ripen.  This small tree has naturalized in our neighborhood.

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Here is a list of trees, and a few shrubs, native or naturalized in Eastern Virginia (Zone 7B), which attract multiple species of birds.  Although those shrubs and  trees listed below are either native, or naturalized, in Eastern Virginia;  most grow throughout much of North America. They are specifically chosen for this list because they attract birds to the garden.

They all provide food in one form or another, in addition to the myriad insects crawling and buzzing around them.  But trees and shrubs offer so much more than just food.  They provide shade, privacy, perches and nesting spots.  They allow birds to move about the garden safely in short swoops from one to the next.

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Dogwood berries feed many species of song birds.

Dogwood berries feed many species of song birds.

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The Devil’s Walking Stick, Aralia spinosa Deciduous native shrub with a very thorny trunk, crowns itself with a huge spray of flowers each summer, quickly followed by inky purple berries. 

This plant spreads with runners and readily self-seeds.  It grows along the edges of roads where it leans in to the sun.  It is striking when in bloom in berry, but grows best in low-traffic areas where the gardener won’t get caught on its thorns!  Long compound leaves give this tree a tropical appearance.

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"The Devil's Walking Stick" berries ripen at the end of summer.

“The Devil’s Walking Stick” berries ripen at the end of summer.

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Beautyberry Callicarpa americana Deciduous ornamental shrub to around 8′ which blooms through the summer months, with small berries quickly following each blossom.  The berries turn an unusual shade of violet as they ripen.  Native to the Southeastern United states, it forms clumps and thickets and easily spreads from dropped seeds.

Beautyberry attracts nectar loving insects all summer.  Birds enjoy this shrub for its ready food supply and dense growth, which gives them cover.  Berries persist for many weeds, even after the leaves fall after frost.  This shrub responds well to hard pruning in late winter.

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Beauty berry grows like the native (weed?) it is. These self-seed around the garden, and never suffer from hungry deer. Our birds take great delight in the berries as they ripen.

Beauty berry grows like the native (weed?) it is. These self-seed around the garden, and never suffer from hungry deer. Our birds take great delight in the berries as they ripen.

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Butterfly Tree Clerodendrum trichotomum Deciduous ornamental shrub to 30’ which blooms with clusters of white flowers July-September and forms bright seeds well into the autumn.  Native to Asia, naturalized in our area.

Butterfly tree attracts butterflies and other nectar loving insects.  Many birds are attracted to Butterfly tree for the dense shade and shelter provided by its huge, heart shaped leaves, the insects it attracts, and its berries in autumn.

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Butterfly Tree

Butterfly Tree

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Red Buckeye, Firecracker Plant Aesculus pavia Dedicous ornamental shrub or tree to 30’ which produces clusters of red flowers in spring important as a food source for hummingbirds and bees, and seeds in the fall.

Red Buckeye attracts hummingbirds and nectar loving insects when in bloom.  Many species of birds are attracted to feed on the insects, nest, find shelter under its large leaves, and eat its seeds.

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Ligustrum

Ligustrum produces abundant dark purple berries, which feed birds through the coldest months of winter and into early spring.

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 Birch Betula species Deciduous, beautiful bark, grows to 80’ depending on variety

Birch attracts many different birds who nest, eat its seeds and buds, or eat insects in its foliage or bark.  Incl. dark eyed juncos, blue jays, pine siskins, titmice, chickadees, cedar waxwings, goldfinches, purple finches, towhees, bobwhites, wood ducks, orioles, vireos, warblers, grouse.

Catalpa Catalpa speciosa, deciduous ornamental tree to 100’ or more with very showy spring flowers important as a food source for hummingbirds and bees.

Catalpa provides secure nesting and roosting sites for many birds, shade and shelter under its large leaves, nectar in spring for hummingbirds, and a huge variety of insects for other birds throughout the season.  In fall its seeds are produced in long “cigar like” pods which are an important source of food for many species of birds and other wildlife. 

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Birds enjoy the Euonymus berries, and we enjoy its scarlet leaves.

Many different birds enjoy these Euonymus berries, and we enjoy its scarlet leaves.  This shrub earns its name, ‘Burning Bush’ when it turns bright scarlet each autumn.

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Burning Bush Euonymus americanus, Euonymus alatus Deciduous ornamental shrub which turns scarlet in early autumn before dropping its leaves to reveal highly textured bark and scarlet red berries. It may grow wider than it is tall, and the native species can top out around 20′.  Dwarf varieties are widely available.

This shrub, whether the native species or a hybrid, feeds and shelters wildlife while remaining highly prized by gardeners  for its stunning fall foliage.

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White Crepe Myrtle tree is a popular spot for birds to rest, and provides seeds all winter.

White Crepe Myrtle tree is a popular spot for birds to rest, and provides seeds all winter.

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Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia indica Deciduous ornamental tree or shrub to 30’ but most smaller, cultivated for its bright flowers in shades of red, pink, lavender, and white which last approximately 100 days from July through September.  Crepe Myrtle was brought to North America from Asia in 1790, and has been widely grown ever since.

Crepe Myrtle flowers attract hummingbirds, as well as insects which hummingbirds and other birds eat.  Many different birds eat the seeds which remain available all winter. Birds use Crepe Myrtles for shelter and nesting.

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Catalpa, or Monkey Cigar tree, on the Palace Green at Colonial Williamsburg. The lawn is lined with Catalpa trees of various ages, and they are absolutely stunning when in bloom.

Catalpa, or Monkey Cigar tree, on the Palace Green at Colonial Williamsburg. The lawn is lined with Catalpa trees of various ages, and they are absolutely stunning when in bloom.

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Eastern Cottonwood Populus deltoids Deciduous landscape tree to 100’ or more

Cottonwood attracts birds who nest, find shelter, eat its seeds, and eat the insects in its bark Incl. goldfinches, grosbeaks, grouse, and great blue herons

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Holly

Holly provides high-value nesting sites for many birds, including our cardinals who remain in the garden through the winter.

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Crab Apple Malus species Deciduous ornamental tree or shrub with spring blossoms, colorful fruit, and fall color to 30’

Crab Apple provides secure nesting and roosting sites for many birds, nectar in spring for a variety of insects, including bees, and fruit for many species of birds. Incl. cedar waxwing, robin, mockingbird, finches, bobwhite, woodpecker, flicker, grosbeak

Dogwood Cornus florida Deciduous ornamental spring blooming tree with colorful fall foliage and berries to 40’

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Dogwoods, scarlet in November, frame a view of the ravine.

Dogwoods, scarlet in November, frame a view of the ravine.

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Dogwood attracts many different types of birds who nest, eat its berries, or eat insects from the bark. 98 different species of birds eat Dogwood berries incl. flickers, tanagers, woodpeckers, catbird, thrashers, bluebirds, cardinals,

 Hawthorn Crataegus crus-galli A deciduous ornamental spreading tree with spines which produces beautiful berries. Grows to 30’

Hawthorn attracts over 39 different types of birds who nest, eat its fruit, or eat insects from its foliage.  Incl. robin, purple finch, several different grosbeaks, cedar waxwing, blue jay, mockingbird, chickadees, warblers, cardinals, and hummingbirds.

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Perennial Lantana, 'Miss Huff'

Perennial Lantana, ‘Miss Huff’

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Lantana camara  Lantana may be sold as an annual in our area, but often survives winter and grow into a 6’+ tall perennial shrub.  Its summer blooms feed pollinators, but tiny green berries follow each flower to the delight of a wide variety of birds.

Frost kills its flowers and leaves, but the berries last for many months on Lantana’s woody branches.  Small birds take shelter in these branches through the winter. Certain cultivars, like L. ‘Miss Huff’ and related varieties, have proven hardy through our Zone 7 winters.  Cut this plant back in late winter, and it will leaf out and begin its new season of growth by May.

 Ligustrum japonicum An evergreen shrub or small tree which covers itself with white flowers each spring, and produces abundant purple berries each autumn.  This tough shrub forms a good windbreak.  It self-seeds easily to the point it is considered invasive in some areas.

Ligustrum provides secure shelter nesting and a steady supply of food for many species of song birds.  It is strong enough to support vines such as honeysuckle, grape and Virginia creeper, which also produce berries. 

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American Holly trees come male and female. Both are required for the female to produce red berries. This seedling is only a few years old.

American Holly trees come male and female. Both are required for the female to produce red berries. This seedling, one of many volunteers in our garden,  is only a few years old.

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Maple Acer rubrum or A. saccharum Deciduous landscape tree, grows to 70’

Maple attracts many different types of birds who nest, eat its seeds, or eat insects from the bark. Incl: grosbeaks, finches, pine siskins, cardinals, nuthatches, bobwhites, orioles, wrens, warblers, chickadees Excellent shade tree.

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Maple

Maple

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 Mulberry Morus Rubra Deciduous ornamental tree which produces edible berries to 60’

Leaves are valuable food for caterpillars, including silk worm caterpillars.  Fruits are delicious in pies and over ice cream.  Mulberry attracts many different birds who nest, 59 species who eat its berries and others who eat insects on its bark.  Incl. bluebird, cedar waxwing, orioles, cardinal, blue jay, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, yellow billed cuckoo, kingbird, warblers, robin, titmouse, and mockingbird

Holly Ilex opaca and other species  Evergreen, grows to 50’, covered in red berries in winter.

Holly provides shelter during bad weather and protected nesting sites for many birds.  Over 49 species enjoy its fruits.  Incl. cardinal, mockingbird, catbird, brown thrasher, bluebirds, cedar waxwing, and robin

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Live Oak

Live Oak on the banks of the York River.  This Southeastern native tree grows to huge proportions and remains evergreen, producing abundant acorns.

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 Oak Quercus species Decidous or evergreen landscape trees to 100’ or more depending on species

Oak is one of the most important wildlife and landscape trees.  It attracts birds who nest, find shelter, eat its acorns, and eat insects in its bark and foliage Incl. woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, flickers, grouse, blue jays, meadowlarks, nuthatches, doves, thrushes, ducks, bobwhites, quail, grosbeaks, and scarlet tanagers

 Oregon Grape Holly Mahonia aquifolium Ornamental evergreen shrub to 5’

Mahonia offers flowers for nectar loving insects and hummingbirds and dark purple clusters of berries. Its dense cover, when established, offers shelter from the weather and protected nesting areas.  Mahonia has naturalized in central and eastern Virginia.

Pine Pinus strobus Evergreen tree to 100’ or more which produces seeds in large cones.

Pine attracts birds to nest, roost, eat its seeds, and even eat its needles.  Birds also eat the many insects attracted to pine trees.  Pine is one of the most important trees for wildlife.  Species attracted Incl. woodpeckers, chickadees, grosbeaks, nuthatches, jays, dark eyed juncos, pine siskins, meadowlarks, woodpeckers, thrashers, warblers, grouse, robins, doves, cardinals, and finches.

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Mahonia blooming in January. Each golden flower grows into a deep purple, edible berry. Evergreen leaves sometimes turn yellow or red in the cold.

Mahonia blooming in January. Each golden flower grows into a deep purple, edible berry. Evergreen leaves sometimes turn yellow or red in the cold.

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 Prunus various species including plums and cherries Deciduous ornamental trees to 30’ grown for beautiful flowers in spring and edible fruit in summer

Cherries and plums attract 84 species of birds to nest, eat insects, and eat their fruits Incl. grosbeaks, cedar waxwing, finches, blackbirds, jays, orioles, robins, bluebirds, woodpeckers, catbirds, sparrows, mockingbirds, cardinals, and  thrushes.

Pyracantha various species and hybrids (Firethorn) Thorn covered evergreen shrub to 20’ native to Europe and Asia, and now naturalized across large areas of the US grown for its white spring flowers and abundant red or orange berries in autumn.

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Pyracantha berries

Pyracantha berries turn bright orange in October.

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Pyracantha shrubs attract many species of birds to nest, roost, eat its berries in early winter and eat the insects living in and around it year round.  It is an important source of nectar for bees and other nectar loving insects in spring Incl. bluebird, cedar waxwing, orioles, cardinal, blue jay, grosbeaks, warblers, robin, titmouse, and mockingbird

 Red Cedar Juniperus virginiana Evergreen tree to 50’ with aromatic leaves and blue berries.  Foliage is good for holiday decorations and its aromatic wood for storing clothing.

Cedar provides shelter during bad weather, protected nesting and roosting sites for many birds, and over 54 species eat its fruit. Incl. cedar waxwing, purple finch, robin, evening grosbeak, warblers, flickers, mockingbird, bluebird, bobwhite, swallows, eastern kingbirds, jays, and cardinals.

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Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

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Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus, Deciduous ornamental shrub or tree growing to 12’ with large flowers which attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and nectar loving insects

Rose of Sharon provides nectar for hummingbirds and attracts insects eaten by many species of birds.  Capsules of seeds  feed many species of birds all winter.   More information on Hibiscus here

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Sumac

Sumac

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 Sumac Rhus species Deciduous shrub or tree to 30’ with brilliant fall foliage and abundant berries. 

Sumac trees are an important winter food source for nearly a hundred species of birds.

 American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis Deciduous landscape tree to over 100’ with excellent fall color

American Sycamore provides shelter during bad weather, protected nesting and roosting sites, and seeds and insects for many bird species

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Trees

Tree on the far right is the beautiful Tulip Poplar, a very important tree for wildlife. Bees need it as an early, reliable source for nectar.  Dogwood grows to the left, with Ligustrum taking center stage in this mixed woody border.

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Tulip Poplar Liriodendron tulipifera Deciduous landscape tree to well over 100’ tall.  Its spring blossoms are an important source of nectar for bees.  This is an especially beautiful tree with interest year round.

Tulip Poplar provides shelter during bad weather, protected nesting and roosting sites for many birds, and many species eat its seeds and the insects living in it.  Hummingbirds use it as a nectar source in spring.

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Evergreen Wax Myrtle provides dense cover as well as fall berries loved by many species of birds.

Evergreen Wax Myrtle provides dense cover as well as fall berries loved by many species of birds.

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Wax Myrtle Myrica cerifera and M. pensylvanica Evergreen shrub to 40’ with small blue berries covered in wax.  Small flowers in spring attract nectar loving insects.

Wax Myrtle berries are eaten by 86 species of birds Incl. robins, tufted titmouse, finches, chickadee, bluebirds, bobwhite, swallow, woodpeckers, cardinals, and finches

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Woody perennial vines

 Virginia Creeper

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2016

For more detailed information, especially on the habits of many much loved “backyard birds”, see Birdscaping Your Garden: A Practical Guide to Backyard Birds and the Plants That Attract Them by George Adams,  Rodale Press 1994

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American Holly

American Holly growing among mature pines

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Deer Resistant Plants Which Grow Well In Our Neighborhood- Revised and Improved

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This Lady Fern has grown on the bank for years, never bothered by the deer. It is deciduous, but returns each spring larger than the year before.

The plants in the following list are mostly ignored  by our herd of deer.  They are well suited to our Williamsburg, Virginia Zone 7B climate and our soil.  Some  gardening friends and I have been compiling this list over the last few years.

We have observed that plants which grow extremely well in some of our gardens, such as Camellias and Hydrangea macrophylla, also called mophead Hydrangea; get eaten in others.  Our mature Camellia shrubs are left alone, but I’ve had tremendous damage done to some, but not all, newly planted Camellias.   Even newly planted oakleaf Hydrangeas have been stripped of their leaves during the last few weeks.

In fact,  newly planted trees and shrubs are the most vulnerable because they are rich in the nitrogen based fertilizers growers lavish on them.  They taste salty and delicious to deer, like salted French fries for us.  Plants which have been in the garden a while tend to have less nitrogen in their leaves and so aren’t as tasty.  When considering how much extra fertilizer to spread around your shrubs and trees, if any, this is an important consideration.  Growing your garden on the lean side might offer additional protection from grazing.

Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower, is a favorite of nectar loving insects. A perennial, it is rarely touched by deer and grows more vigorous each year.

Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower, is a favorite of nectar loving insects. A perennial, it is rarely touched by deer and grows more vigorous each year.

Key to symbols:

a native plant in our area

# attracts birds with berries, fruit, nuts, or seeds

a nectar producing plant which attracts butterflies and other pollinating insects

+ a nectar producing plant which attracts hummingbirds

Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Bamboo provides cover for nesting birds, shelter from the weather, and a steady supply of insects to eat. Deer never touch it.

Bamboo provides cover for nesting birds, shelter from the weather, and a steady supply of insects to eat. Deer never touch it.

# * + Althea, Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus

! #   Bayberry, or Wax Myrtle Myrica cerifera

! # * Beautyberry Bush Callicarpa americana

# *   Boxwood Buxus sempervirens

! # * + Butterfly Bush Buddleia (various species)

# * + Butterfly Tree or Glory Tree  Clerodendrum trichotomum

Camellia C. japonica and C. sasanqua

# * +Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia

! # * Dogwood Cornus florida

# * English Laurel Prunus laurocerasus

Mountain Laurel blooms in early May in our neighborhood.

Mountain Laurel blooms in early May in our neighborhood.

# Fig  Ficus carica

* Forsythia

! # * Fringe Tree Chionanthus virginicus

! * Hydrangea arborescens

Japanese Maple Acer palmatum

* +Lilac Syringa vulgaris

# * Mahonia Mahonia aquifolium

"Josee" re-blooming lilac, in its second flush of bloom in late June, is appreciated by all the nectar lovers in the garden.

“Josee” re-blooming Lilac, in its second flush of bloom in late June, is appreciated by all the nectar lovers in the garden.

! Mountain Laurel Kalmia latifolia (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

! # *Magnolia virginiana and other species

Fall blooming Camellia extends the months of bloom well into early winter. Deer don’t graze established shrubs.

# *Heavenly Bamboo Nandina domestica (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

! * Native Holly Ilex opaca

! # Oakleaf Hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia

# * Fire Thorn Pyracantha (various species)

! # * +Red Bud Cercis canadensis

# * +  Silk Tree or Mimosa Albizia julibrissin

# * St. John’s Wort Hypericum

! # Southern Wax Myrtle  Myrica cerifera

! # + Red Buckeye Aesculus pavia

! #* Adam’s Needle Yucca filamentosa and other species

Perennials and Bulbs

Alocosia ( various species)

! # * + Butterfly Weed Asclepias species

* Caladium

July 17 hibiscus 007

Rose Mallow, Lavender, Artemesia and Dusty Miller hold no attraction for hungry deer.

* + Canna Lily Canna

*  Centaurea ( various species)

! # * Coreopsis ( various species)

 * + Crocosmia ( various species) 

* Daffodil Narcissus ( various species)

! # * Daisy Asteraceae ( various species)

# * Dianthus ( various species)

! # * Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea

* Euphorbia ( various species)

# * Fall Anemones A. hupehensis

Fern   (click for detailed information)

Autumn Brilliance fern produces coppery colored new leaves throughout the season. Here, trying to protect a little Hosta.

Autumn Brilliance fern produces coppery colored new leaves throughout the season. Here, trying to protect a little Hosta.

# * + Gaillardia ( various species)

The Passion Fruit vine can grow up to 50' a year and produces edible fruit. Grown throughout warm climates, this perennial vine is beautiful and productive.

The Passionflower vine can grow up to 50′ a year and produces edible fruit. Grown throughout warm climates, this perennial vine is beautiful and productive.

* Geranium ( various species)

St. John's Wort

St. John’s Wort

* + Ginger Lily Hedychium ( various species)

! * Goatsbeard Aruncus dioicus

* Goldenrod Solidago rugosa

* Lenten Rose Hellebore ( various species) (note, this plant is highly poisonous)

* Dutch Hyacinth Hyacinthus orientalis

 * #  Iris (Bearded, Dutch, Louisiana, Siberian, etc.)

Re-blooming irises will bloom again in late summer, and then continue throwing out blooms through December. They need to grow in an area of full sun to continue blooming.

Re-blooming Irises will bloom again in late summer, and then continue throwing out blooms through December. They need to grow in an area of full sun to continue blooming.

# Ivy

! # * + Rose Mallow Hibiscus moscheutos

! * +Joe Pye Weed  Eutrochium ( various species)

# * Lambs Ears Stychys Byzantina

* + Mexican (Bush) Sage (Salvia leucantha) or Salvia Mexicana

* Muscari ( various species)

* Pelargonium ( various species)

* Peony Paeonia ( various species)

* + Red Hot Poker Kniphofia ( various species)

! # * Black Eyed Susans  Rudbeckia ( various species)

 

Butterflies enjoy Echinacea growing here with Gaillardia, Comfrey, Pentas, and other herbs.

Butterflies enjoy Echinacea growing here with Gaillardia, Comfrey, Pentas, and other herbs.

Gaillardia, gift from a friend's garden, growing here with Comfrey.

Gaillardia, gift from a friend’s garden, growing here with Comfrey.

Purple ruffles basil is one of he most beautiful.

Purple Ruffles Basil is one of he most beautiful.

Herbs

* Artemisia

# * Basil

* Comfrey

* Curry

# * Dill

* Fennel

* Germander

* + Lavender

* Mint

Pineapple sage blooming in late October is a favorite food source for butterflies still in the garden

Pineapple Sage blooming in late October is a favorite food source for butterflies still in the garden

Pineapple Mint with Lavender

Pineapple Mint with Lavender

!# *+ Monarda

* Oregano

# * Parsley

* + Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans

Rosemary

* Sage Salvia species

Annuals and Biennials

* Angelonia

Castor Bean (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

Ginger Lily, hardy in Zone 7

Ginger Lily, hardy in Zone 7

# *+Spider Flower Cleome hassleriana

Spiderflower, or Cleome, is beautiful in the garden and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Spider Flower, or Cleome, is beautiful in the garden and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.  Seen here with Lamb’s Ears and Coneflowers

* Dusty Miller Centaurea cineraria

Star Jasmine, also known as Confederate Jasmine, is evergreen, fragrant, and a magnet for butterflies. Very hardy, it grows enthusiastically.

Star Jasmine, also known as Confederate Jasmine, is evergreen, fragrant, and a magnet for butterflies. Very hardy, it grows enthusiastically.

Yucca in bloom

Yucca filamentosa  in bloom in partial shade.

# * + Foxglove Digitalis purpurea

# * + Lantana or Shrub Verbena Lantana camara

* + Mandevilla sanderi

* Mexican Heather Cuphea hyssopifolia

* New Guinea Impatiens Impatiens hawkeri

Persian Shield Strobilanthes dyerianus

Persian Shield

Persian Shield

* + Pentas ( various species)

* Plectranthus ( various species)

* Purple Heart Tradescantia pallida

# * + Zinnia elegans

Vines

! * + Trumpet Creeper Campsis radicans

! * + Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens

Purple Heart, Sage, and purple Pentas are safe from deer grazing.

Purple Heart, Sage, and purple Pentas are safe from deer grazing.

! # * + Passionflower Passiflora incarnata

*  Periwinkle Vinca major & V. minor

# * Star Jasmine Trachelospermum jasminoides

! # * + Virginia Creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Grasses

Bamboo (various species)

Miscanthus

Plants that will need extraordinary measures to protect in a forest garden include: 

Azaleas, Hostas, daylilies, lilies, roses, impatiens, some Sedums, Tomatoes, squashes, sweet potato vines, cucumbers, beans, and mophead Hydrangeas.

All photos by Woodland Gnome.

Virginia Creeper is growing up this dead Black Locust tree, delighting all hummingbirds and butterflies in the garden with its huge orange blossoms.

Virginia Creeper is growing up this dead Black Locust tree, delighting all hummingbirds and butterflies in the garden with its huge orange blossoms.

 

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