Setting the Stage

Today is the first of March and around here that means that the nurseries are opening back up. Like most gardeners, that means we have a list and we intend to use it!

Our wet winter has claimed one casualty--an American Holly that hadn't prospered, despite the investment made in it. Too much competition? Girdled roots? Too wet? All possibilities. Regardless, its loss means a new opening for a different species, since we will not replace it with new version of itself.

This year will bring some fairly major restructuring at the back of the house as we deal with the lack of installed drainage--pipe and stone will need to go in to direct water away from the house. While that will make a big mess, it will also provide us with the opportunity to restructure the landscape in such a way that new planting spots will be opened up. The loss of the holly means that we need to look into replacement evergreens--shelter during winter months for all kinds of wildlife. And we need to look again at the food sources offered in the yard and what they will support. Since our space is limited, it makes sense to invest in plants that will give us a lot of value for many different species.

Audubon Magazine is an excellent, well-researched resource at any time. This old page of theirs gives a terrific "short list" of some things that ought to be considered regardless of east/west location in the U.S. When planting for wildlife, try your best to include more than a single specimen of shrub or flower species. Groups of three will have a good design balance and have the benefit of providing enough of a resource that they can actually support attendance by birds and/or butterflies. A single specimen may not have enough fruit or cover to do the job.

In our evergreen quest, we need to find a match for a shrub or small tree that won't be too large, but will provide good, dense cover and some berries for our birds. Given that ilex tends to be walnut intolerant, we will probably be looking at some form of juniperus virginiana. We also hope to add some elderberry and spicebush (lindera benzoin) to the mix. Providing these fruiting shrubs can be an absolute riot when the migrating hordes come to town--in South Georgia, we watched flocks of cedar waxwings get drunk on holly berries. Provided hours of entertainment!

So think in thickets--where can you squeeze one in? What critter species do you want to see? What do they eat? Don't know? Give us a holler here at nativebackyard in the comments and if we don't know, we'll find out for you.

Thanks for reading!

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