Bird Garden Plans 80ft x 25ft Border
This is a basic bird garden plan for southern, southeastern or eastern gardens. All of these plants are low maintenance in my 7b yard. While many people think of wildlife gardens as ‘wild and woolly’, you can have an attractive landscape which is also wildlife friendly. This particular garden plan is designed for property borders and edges. The plants used are native or native cultivars which are readily available in nurseries.
The trees and shrubs here will do well in a sunny location or light shade. Water requirements are medium but as is true with any plant, water deeply when young and you will develop a deeper, more drought tolerant root system. The exceptions to the sun/water will be American Beautyberry and Summersweet. These plants will need a little relief from the hot afternoon sun. Depending upon your location, the trees behind them may provide shade as they mature. American Beautyberry and Summersweet will both tolerate drying out but need more water than the other shrubs and trees.
You can plant annual flowers, perennial flowers and ground covers in the front of the border. And please, plant native. Native birds prefer native plants. If you are trying to attract birds to a backyard, the native choice is a given.
1. Crabapple – ‘Prairiefire’, Sargent 15′w. Deciduous small tree. ‘Prairiefire’ is my personal favorite, but you should be able to find either one easily. Crabapple will provide beautiful pinkish spring flowers, silver grey bark and the new foliage is a reddish green. The new spring foliage is just stunning and makes crabapple stand out in a landscape design. The fruit is a winter food source for birds and the tree will provide nesting sites when it matures.
2. Holly – hybrids ‘Acadiana’, Oakleaf, ‘Robin’ 8′w. Wider native varieties include American or Yaupon at 15’w. Holly is an evergreen shrub or small tree which allows for much needed coverage and shelter for backyard birds. They will use it for nesting, as winter roosting and to escape from predators. The bright red berries are gorgeous in a landscape and will be readily eaten by visiting birds. Berries will persist in winter so during Christmas season, your yard will be bright with classic Christmas berries. Also a good privacy tree.
3. Serviceberry Tree – ‘Autumn Brilliance’, ‘Princess Diana’ 14′w. A small deciduous tree which is lovely in a landscape. Delicate white flowers in spring will produces small, blue berries the birds will eat as fast as they ripen. The fall color of Serviceberry is brilliant orange, red an yellow. It will make your autumn garden glow and well worth planting just for that ornamental value alone. To make sure you have pollination and berries, you will want to plant two serviceberry trees. They must be non-clones, so planting one of each ‘Autumn Brilliance’ and ‘Princess Diana’ can cover this issue.
4. Magnolia Tree – ‘Little Gem’ 10′w or Sweetbay. Magnolia is another small, evergreen tree native to the south which will offer shelter, nesting sites and roosting spots. For ornamental value not much can be the beautiful, saucer like flowers. The sizes on magnolia cultivars can vary greatly, ‘Little Gem’ and the gem series tend to be dense and compact. Sweet bay has a lighter leaf and a more open form. Magnolia sheds leaves, something constantly seems to be dropping from them, so don’t plant this in a busy area of a yard. In this plan any litter falling from the tree will make great mulch and feed the plants surrounding it, making clean up minimal to unnecessary. The shrubs in front will help hide leaf litter. Don’t remove the litter though! Leave fallen foliage for thrashers, towhee and other ground feeding birds to forage under. They will thank you for it and you will attract more species to your backyard. Birds will feed on the red seeds in fall. Magnolia is also good for privacy.
5. American Beautyberry – 4′w. Deciduous shrub.The berries are bird candy, and a beautiful ornamental with small clusters of light pink flowers in spring. The foliage is a pale green and unique lavender berries grow along the branches in fall. They won’t last long, backyard birds will eat them fairly quickly! American beautyberry is deciduous, low maintenance shrub which doesn’t need pruning or fussing with unless you want to. Otherwise, leave it be and it will be fine.
6. Ninebark – ‘Little Devil’ 3′w. Deciduous shrub. Finally natives are coming in compact sizes! And I do love ninebark. This gem is an asset to an ornamental landscape with wine red foliage and clusters of pinkish white flowers in spring. It looks great against the lighter leaves of American Beautyberry and will provide an area for ground feeding birds to forage. Leave the seed heads in winter, birds will eat them. Trouble free and easy to grow.
7. Chokeberry – ‘Brilliantissima’, ‘Autumn Brilliance’ 5′w. Deciduous shrub. Grows in an open, vase shape and has clusters of small, white flowers in spring. The flowers produce prolific amounts of red berries which will be a important winter food source for birds when berries are difficult to find. The fall color is beautiful with red, maroon, yellow and sometimes white. Chokeberry can have a leggy base but perennials, grasses and ferns will hide that nicely and attract wildlife.
8. Summersweet – Clethra ‘Sixteen Candles’ – 3′w. Deciduous shrub. Very fragrant spikes of white flowers in summer when blooms are needed in a garden. It isn’t the first to come back in spring, but don’t worry, it isn’t dead. Foliage is a textured medium green and dense. There are several cultivars of summersweet out there, just pay attention to how wide they will grow for this plan. Blooms on new wood but wait until late winter to trim summersweet back and you will be rewarded by finches feasting on the seeds.
9. Viburnum Nudum – ‘Winterhur’ -8′w. Deciduous shrub. A bird favorite. Viburnum nudam is available in a few cultivars but be aware that the size can vary. ‘Winterhur’ can grow to 6′ and hid any mess dropped from the magnolia. It grows in clumps in a vase shaped, somewhat arching form. Clusters of fragrant white flowers appear in late spring which by late summer will develop into berries. The berries are quite showy and change color as they ripen, from a light pink to deep pink then blue to purplish black. Fall color is magnificent in maroon, purple and reds. All in all this is a great shrub for both ornamental landscapes and wildlife gardens. The berries won’t last long as birds eat them.
10. Ornamental Grass – 3′w. There are several native, ornamental grasses out there in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Grass is important to birds and wildlife for ground bid coverage and the seed heads make a great food source. What is available in nurseries tends to be trendy, your best bet is a smaller local nursery where you can actually ask the staff to help you select one. Just make sure it is shorter for the front of a border and native – you don’t want an alien grass seeding on you! Many are perennials so you only have to plant them once.
11. Fern 3′w. Ferns are great for birds and just beautiful anyway, so worth planting. I love ferns. The fern garden in my yard is always active with birds scratching around. The more ferns the merrier and my thrashers, towhees, thrush and sparrows love them too. Don’t neglect to accommodate ground birds! You will attract several more species if you do. All ferns are not created equal, some can tolerate more sun and less water. Autumn fern and Christmas ferns are usually easy to find, both are very hardy.
12. Birdbath – Water. Just put some out in a bath or pretty dish on the ground. Water goes a long, long way to attracting birds to any backyard or garden.