If trees are the anchor, than shrubs are the backbone of most wildlife gardens.
Trees are high rise condos that offer dramatic vertical layering, while bushes are the primary way us gardeners can diversify our gardens horizontally.
They also provide food and cover for more wildlife at a smaller scale, often down to and below ground level.
You might say that smaller plants are like urban sprawl, offering a wide variety of dwelling places, places to hang out and restaurants that offer a variety of foods.
Certain plantings also allow wildlife closer to homes and outdoor living space.
Bushes offer blossoms for pollinators as well as for our enjoyment.
They also offer up seeds and fruits for birds and other forms of wildlife.
Certain plants like Spicebush (Lindera benzion) are key hosts plants for the Spicebush swallowtail butterfly.
Some bushes like Highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) and Smooth sumac (Rhus globra) display brilliant red fall colors as well as fruits.
All Kinds of Cover:
Besides aesthetic value and offering food, shrubs also provide cover for scores of birds, butterflies and other insects.
They also offer cover and protection to animals that are a bit shy.
Remember now, cover valuable to animals may defy conventions of what you may consider a properly groomed garden.
Wildlife gardens are nice in this way as well, there is less grooming and maintaining to do.
Allow your plantings to grow more natural, hide the pruning shears. Prune only when needed to thin out and cut off dead wood. Prune back some when they get to big.
Know your plants, some species like hollies need a male and female bush to pollinate. With Viburnum, Blueberries and others you need more than one for successful pollination.
All in all, that's not so bad, by planting in groupings it gives you more of a natural look and feel.
Take a walk on the wild side:
Notice along woods edge how things transform from woods, to bushes, small trees, thickets and finally grasses.
It is in this area where you will find more birds and other forms of wildlife.
If possible, you want to simulate this soft edge in your wildlife gardens.
Plant bushes in groups, don't scatter on e here and one way over there.
By copying "Nature", you will entice birds, butterflies and small creatures to your backyard habitats.
Shrubs also offer shade for other smaller plants to grow and thrive. Under and within this undergrowth, certain birds scratch out a living while even more wildlife likes toads, salamanders and other forms of life call home.
If you have children or grandchildren, Planting trees and shrubs can bring your youngsters
close to nature.
There is something special when a child spots his/her first nest, can chase a butterfly or picks up a little tree frog.
Can you imagine all of this in your wildlife gardens?
It Happens everyday my friend.
It is important to understand your topography.
Do you live in the suburbs or the country?
Are you in the deep south or the Midwest?
Atlantic coast or Pacific coast?
While some wildlife may be the same, others are quite regional. The same goes for native shrubs.
If you aren't going completely native, fear not. Several native shrubs have been introduced throughout North America and still a few alien non invasive species have been introduced.
Shrubs can be as tall as 20 feet or as short as 1 foot. Staggering and layering offers much for your eye appeal and for wildlife.
Hedgerows made of various plants can offer a wind break, a friendly fence, protection for wildlife, a place to call home and food sources.
You should offer conifers as well as deciduous bushes in your yard and gardens.
If you are just getting started in your wildlife gardens, Make sure you draw out a workable plan. Design things the proper format or scaled proportions. Graph paper is handy for this.
If you are having your yard designed by someone else, be sure to let them know what you have in mind. There are companies that specialize in natural landscapes.
Shrubs and trees should be drawn in at mature size. This minimizes you having to dig or replant in later years.
Make sure there aren't buried cables or sewer pipes to worry about.
Once you are done planting, you may want to fill the voids with annuals and perennials that attract birds and insects.
It is of great importance that you too enjoy your wildlife gardens. Plan your gardens and art with your personality.
Keep some favorites, I do!
Be sure to offer fresh water and some bird feeders.
If possible, place a bench or a patio table where you can sit quietly and enjoy the wildlife near some special shrubs or under the shade of a nice tree. A nice hand tuned wind chime works too.
As a Wildlife Habitat Naturalist, I have speaking engagements from time to time. With shrinking natural habitats, it is becoming more important that we show stewardship.
Planning and planting for wildlife helps out wildlife, helps out you and future generations.
One Last Thought:
Studies show that native insects rarely eat nonnative plants. They don't have the enzymes required to digest the leaves of exotics. When out-of-control alien shrubs and other plant obliterate native plants, insects lose their food sources and their numbers drop.
Since many birds feed on insects and feed insects or insect larvae to their young,.............when insects decline, so do the birds."
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Gardens, Birds, Butterflies and Much more.
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