Last post, we finished up by adding the rest of the trees to the backyard design for bird watchers. Today, we will add the shrubs.
Shrubs not only provide birds food, a lot of birds make nests in shrubs. This includes common birds like the robin, mourning dove, blue jay, and catbird. It also includes less common ones like yellow warbler and indigo bunting.
Adding an Evergreen shrub
Lets start with some evergreens to fill out our yard in the winter. It will also add some structure to our design.
We will go with an old standby, the good old yew. Yes, I know if you were like me and bought a house with overgrown yews as foundations plants, this sounds as exciting as dirt.
Yews may not be exciting, but they are reliable. Especially, if you pick the right one.
I am picking the Taunton yew (Taxus x-media ‘Tauntonii’) as it proved to be cold hardy in Northern Illinois during last year’s awful winter.
Several groups of Taunton yews will be added where an evergreen element is needed in our design.
We will place the yews pretty evenly throughout the design to help assure that it feels balanced. Too much evergreen foliage in one side of the yard can make a garden feel a little lopsided in the winter months.
The evergreen yews will provide spots for birds to shelter in the winter, but more importantly they will help the yard look good in four seasons.
Shrubs for Fall Fruit
Now lets add some shrubs that provide food to attract birds to the yard.
The service berry trees provide fruit in early summer. The Crabapple provides persistent fruit in the Winter. So, lets concentrate on late summer and fall fruit for our backyard’s shrubs.
Our first shrub is a good one. The arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) is a nice landscape plant that is native to large portions of the southeastern US.
In late summer and early fall the fruits are eaten by many species of birds, including cardinals and cedar waxwing.
We will be adding two different Arrowwood viburnum for variety and to cross pollinate for more fruit. They are the Blue Muffin® Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum ‘Christom’) and the Chicago Lustre® Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum ‘Synnesvedt’).
There is an invasive pest that does loves these as well as most other native viburnums, Viburnum Leaf Beetle. Unfortunately it has been found in the Chicago area but is not a major problem in my area. Don’t panic. It can be managed with two very safe pesticides, horticultural oil and insecticidal soap. For more information see managing the Viburnum leaf beetle.
If you are in an area where this pest already is a problem, I would probably replace this plant with another species or a non native viburnum like a Koreanspice viburnum (V. carlesii).
This smaller growing non-native viburnum is not bothered by the viburnum leaf beetle and actually is a pretty decent plant for wildlife. It attracts butterflies and bees to it’s very fragrant flowers, birds to it’s fruits, and it is even a host plant to that same native caterpillar that likes our Redbud leaves (Spring Azure). The arrowwood is overall better for attracting birds though.
Lets add one more native viburnum to our design. This time it will be a Nannyberry (V. lentago). Some of the birds that feed on it’s late fall / early winter fruit are Gray Catbird, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, and Cedar Waxwing. The viburnum beetle does not like this one as much as the arrowwood but does still eat it.
We could substitute a Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) if we were in a leaf beetle infested area or just wanted something different. It does grow larger than our nanny berry, so it will eventually need some regular pruning to keep fitting in it’s spot. The birds love it’s late summer fruit just as much as the Nannyberry, but it’s fruit ripen earlier.
We will add our Nannyberry (or Dogwood) in the bed at the back of the yard.
Plants for the people
Now lets add some shrubs for the people who will be using the yard instead of the birds. This time it will be one of my favorites, the oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Click here to see a past post on it. I really love it’s big bold leaf texture, long lasting flower heads, and reddish to purple fall color. We will pick whatever dwarf variety is available at our local nursery, so we won’t have to worry about pruning it.
Although this plant is a native to the southeast of the US, it adds little wildlife value to our garden. I have seen sources that say that humming birds do feed on the flowers, but I have not seen this. We are adding this strictly because it is an outstanding ornamental.
Lets add another plant for people as well as the birds, the Mount Airy Fothergilla (Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’). While butterflies and hummingbirds flock to the blooms, other birds mostly use it for the cover of its blue-green foliage.
Besides the wildlife value, we are adding it for it’s fragrant white spring flowers, nice clean blue-green summer foliage and it’s great yellow to reddish orange Fall color. This is another outstanding ornamental shrub that we are planting more to make our design then just to attract birds.
We are adding groups of both of these plants. Two groups of the Oakleaf hydrangea and one group of the Fothergilla. Here is how these look on the design.
One more shrub for the birds
Lets wrap up our shrubs by adding one more shrub to attract birds to our yard with long lasting berries in the Fall, The Irouqois Beauty black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa ‘Morton’). The berries are edible but need sugar added as they as so bitter that they will “cause you to choke”, hence it’s name.
The black berries are one of the highest sources for the antioxidant anthocyanin available. These powerful compounds may help prevent Cardiovascular disease and cancer and boost cognitive function. Many people grow them not for bird’s benefit, but for their own health.
The black chokeberry does not seem to be bothered by rabbits, which tend to decimate the Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) in my area. Besides the black fruit, the black chokeberry has excellent red fall color. The Iroquis Beauty is more compact and less leggy then the species. Click here to learn more about it.
Here is how our design will end today with this final shrub added.
On my next post, we wrap up our design by adding some perennials. We will pick ones that both help how our design looks as well as attract more birds to watch. See you then.