By Julie Martens
Adding a birdbath is one way to beckon birds to set up housekeeping in your yard. Plantings are also key to creating an avian oasis. As in the photo above I often use alpine strawberries as a bed edging. I love the sweet berries and happily share some with fruit-eating birds, like robins.
Berries are just one plant-based food source for hungry birds. Perennials, like anise hyssop, coneflower and gaillardia - if not deadheaded and allowed to ripen seeds - provide beak-pleasing treats for goldfinches, juncos and finches. Other perennials, such as daylilies, ferns and daisies, offer forage for birds, which hop under and around leaves searching for insects.
Annuals also contribute to the bird-friendly buffet. Some gardening friends, Cal and Kathleen Flynn, plant annual cypress vine along an entry trellis to fuel hummingbirds that frequent their garden.
Cypress vine frequently self-seeds, but I sow a few seeds each year just to be sure. Soak seeds overnight before planting.
Other annuals I grow to lure hummers include fuchsia, Salvia coccinea, blue anise salvia, petunia and four-o'clocks.
Fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, like crabapple and viburnum, are songster favorites.
Densely branched evergreens, such as conifers and holly, befriend birds with refuge and nesting habitat in my yard.
I also let some autumn leaves accumulate beneath shrubs as insect shelter. I'm rewarded with mockingbirds, wrens and thrashers flipping leaves searching for insects.
Last year I was surprised by small bird species - goldfinches, pine siskins and titmice - taking shelter in red-leafed 65-inch-tall cannas I planted along the vegetable garden. I received the tubers for these giant cannas from the Flynns, who use them in their garden to disguise a fence.
In my garden, birds perched in these plants for shelter and even sipped water that collected where leaves joined stems.
Roll out the welcome mat for birds in your yard by adding plants that offer food or shelter.
Photos of cypress vine and cannas courtesy of Cal Flynn, Grimes, Iowa.
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