Andrew Hoerner
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Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2007 2:33 am
Location: Oakland CA

Gardening for the birds

My brother-in-law is a major birder who recently bought a house with my sister in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. It has a back yard that is modest and now mainly grass. I would like to buy them seeds for plants -- shrubs or perennials -- that will attract birds, ideally year round but especially in winter. I don't insist that they be native, but if they are not they should not be invasive.

What plants that grow from seeds would people recommend :?: :wink:

MaineDesigner
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Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

First a couple caveats - I can give you a long list of plants but I have limited experience attempting to grow these from seed. Secondly, some plants that are native and not invasive can still be fairly aggressive spreaders.

For a start here are some native (to north central North America, not necessarily Ohio) grasses: Schizachryrium scoparium - Little Bluestem, Andropogon gerardii - Big Bluestem, Bouteloua curtipendula - Side-oats Grama, and Sorghastrum nutans - Indian Grass (big, self sows prolifically).

Sources for these and other native seeds include Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota, Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin and Ernst Conservation Seeds in Pennsylvania. I believe they all have websites.

Among perennials echinaceas, Rudbeckia maxima (native to south central U.S. but should grow in Ohio), and Ratibita pinnata (also native further south, seeds like mad in my experience) are all popular with seed eating birds but there are many more.

For shrubs and small trees viburnums, hawthorns, aronia, and crab apples are good choices. Birds love amelanchier berries but they will take them long before winter.

Newt
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Location: Maryland zone 7

Hi Andrew,

Some great advice from MaineDesigner. I'll add a bit to that with this list of Viburnum that tells which produce berries. The problem with these is the named varieties are grown from cuttings, so you might either want to skip this group or purchase nursery grown plants.
https://www.sylvannursery.com/pdf/viburnum.pdf

Holly trees are great for birds, but with the exception of Foster holly, they will need a male and female to produce berries. There are named varieties like 'Blue Boy' and 'Blue Girl'.

Many plants attract birds because they offer larval food to caterpillars and the birds will eat the caterpillars.

I would also make sure that your brother-in-law wants to grow plants from seed.

Newt

Andrew Hoerner
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Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2007 2:33 am
Location: Oakland CA

Thanks!

I'm pretty sure that my brother-in-law will do anything reasonable that gets more birds to visit his yard. I'll work with him and my sister to get stuff started. I am focusing on seeds because i can give him seeds to five or six plants. If i start with cuttings i can only afford a smaller number. Plus i need to transport them from California to Ohio.

Andrew :wink:

Newt
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Location: Maryland zone 7

Andrew, you are very welcome! I have some sites that lists trees and shrubs preferred by birds. If you would like them just lmk.

You might also like to know that cuttings and plants can be mailed across the US. I've mailed and received them from Canada, Texas, Washington and more to Maryland. When you mail them is important, but I can tell you when and how to do it if you like. You will need to wait until spring when there is no danger of freezing temps. You can send them express mail and it takes 2 or 3 days if you time it right. The trick is to mail the package before 3 or 4pm on a Monday or Tuesday so it doesn't sit in a warehouse for the weekend. It only costs about $4.00 to mail a one pound package. I even sent fresh cut lilacs overnight to my mother in Phoenix. :mrgreen:

When you mail seeds be sure they are surrounded by the small bubble wrap so they don't get squished. Which plants do you have seeds for?

Newt

MaineDesigner
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Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

I want to interject a slight cautionary note regarding many Viburnum species. In the Northeastern U.S. many species of Viburnums are being decimated by the Viburnum Leaf Beetle. This is a European native that entered the U.S. via Canada and has been spreading rapidly. It is already established as far west as Erie, PA so it will be in Ohio very soon. I have completely stopped using Viburnum dentatum and Viburnum trilobum (aka Viburnum opulus var americana) in my design practice because the beetles preferentially target these species and frequently kill them without intervention. Viburnum plicatum var tomentosum is generally not seriously attacked but these are ultimately quite large shrubs. Two other berry producing species that look like they may have some resistance are Viburnum prunifolium and Viburnum cassinoides but these are also quite large.
Berries are an extremely important food source for the fall migration and for over wintering birds. I applaud efforts to plant them.

Newt
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Posts: 1868
Joined: Wed May 26, 2004 2:44 am
Location: Maryland zone 7

Maine Designer, I didn't know this. How disturbing such a great food resource is in trouble. I guess it's just a matter of time before the beetle gets here to Maryland. I found some sites with a google search that I can save. Thanks so much for sharing this.

This site says it's already in parts of Ohio. :cry:
https://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/homehort/pest/VLB.htm

Newt

opabinia51
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Location: Victoria, BC

Wow, there is a lot of information already here for you but, hopefully this will also help.

Generally speaking to attract birds, you want to plant plants that have berries and other gruits such as small nuts. Elderberry is a good plant, currents are also nice, sunflowers are great and so on.

MaineDesigner
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Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:17 pm
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

Andrew, I forgot to mention on Genus of perennials that seed eating birds really love: Silphium. I'm fairly certain several of these should be native to Ohio as they are tall grass prairie plants. S. perfoliatum, S. laciniatum, and S. terebinthinaceum are all worth a shot provided that your brother-in-law and family like a fairly wild/naturalistic look. These are all big (often over 6' tall), rather coarse, forbs with bright yellow flowers.
They tend to prefer heavier, moist (not wet) soils and full sun. In a good site they are very long lived but difficult to move as they are tap rooted. May self sow.

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