When I suggest welcoming wildlife to your yard, I am really talking about attracting “welcome” wildlife because we obviously don’t want rats, mice, skunks, raccoons and bears hanging about for any extended time. They are fine if they are just “passing through”. The creatures that most of us want to attract are the friendly birds (hummingbirds, chickadees, robins, wrens, and the like), squirrels, bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects. I will just let you know what some of my favorite wildlife attracting plants and tricks are.
I have 6 Red Flowering Currents (Ribes Sanguineum King Edward VII) in my yard. They are lovely plants in early spring with flowers a gorgeous shade of dark pink. As soon as the flowers slightly open, the hummingbirds arrive in full force and dart in and out of the bushes for weeks! I would say these bushes are their all-time favorite food source and you can feel good knowing you are not feeding them food color or sugar water. These plants are very easy to propagate. Just cut off a branch or two in the fall on a wet day and stick into fertile ground. I did that with many branches thinking that only a few would root successfully. When spring arrived, I had too many plants so I ending up having to compost a few of the new shrubs. The reason I mention this is that these are great plants in moderation for spring enjoyment, but they aren’t too exciting for the rest of the year. They are somewhat scraggly and have no fall colour. It is best to plant them with other flowering shrubs and in the back of the border.
Maples! Yes, vine maples and Japanese maples actually have little flowers in the spring. In fact, my vine maples have lovely little pink flowers that dangle down that the hummingbirds enjoy drinking from. These plants will also be attracting squirrels later in the year.
Boxwood is also a food source for my hummingbirds. They have tiny little flowers that you can’t see unless you are up close but the hummers seem to find them just fine. I don’t prune my boxwood as I love the free flowing look (like my grey hair) and I only prune wayward branches so the flowers are not affected.
Chickadees, Robins, Flickas, Bluejays, and other Birds:
Chickadees love little seeds. If you have any Black-eyed Susans, don’t cut them back in the fall. Leave them until the late winter and then you will have flocks of chickadees hanging off the stems, often upside down, and hopping about on the ground eating those delicious little seeds. Many grasses and other perennials with seed heads often attract birds.
Chickadees are also lovers of birdbaths! I have 2 birdbaths on the go that I have to clean sometimes twice a day because there are bird line-ups waiting for a splash or a drink. The robins tend to let their bullying instincts come out here, and I have seen them sometimes hog a bath by spreading their wings and just sitting there with the chickadees looking dejected (reason for 2 birdbaths). DON’T USE A BIRDFEEDER IF YOU HAVE BEARS AND RATS IN THE AREA! Birdbaths are just as popular and a lot cleaner and wildlife friendly.
Robins love blueberry and chokeberry bushes and all berry producing shrubs and small trees. Remember to plant at least 2 types of blueberry bushes to ensure prolific fruiting. I have Reka, Chandler, Bluecrop, Blue Gold, and Chippewa. These are lovely in the spring with their white flowers and stunning in the fall with the vibrant red of their leaves. I also have 2 Aronia Melanocarpas (Autumn Magic Black Chokeberries) planted in a soggy clay part of my yard. These are gorgeous in the spring and fall as well, and their huge black berries are beautiful and chock full of antioxidants. They are not the tastiest,however, but throwing some in a sauteed pear or applesauce adds sweetness. The robins seem to hold off on them as well until late October when they will spend an entire day gorging on them until the bush is stripped.
All the birds seem to love my Amelanchier Grandiflora, including myself. This is a spectacular tree in the spring with its profusion of white fluffy blossoms and then come the berries, almost as good as blueberries, and then fantastic yellow and orange foliage in the fall. What a beautiful tree. I am tempted to take out some of my other trees just so I can plant some more!
Squirrels really love the little maple winged seeds called samaras. These busy little rodents will visit your Vine maples and Japanese maples all fall and winter until every seed has been eaten. They are so fun to watch as they try to go out onto a very thin stem and reach for the samara at the very tip! Lots of hanging upside down while eating and so cute!
Bees and Butterflies:
You definitely need Lavender. Not only are these plants beautiful, you are entertained with all the butterflies and bees visiting them. Other favorites are Butterfly Bush, California Lilac, Common Lilac, Sedum, Rhododendron, Azalea, Flowering Cherries, Crabapples, Black-Eyed Susans, Yarrow, Bee Balm, Roses, Viburnum, Red and Black Chokeberries, and Osmanthus. In fact, most flowering perennials, shrubs, and trees will be attractive.