Gold is Good but ‘Plantinum’ is Better! Creating a Bird-friendly Habitat: The Sequel

by Wendy Diaz, EMGV

On July 9, 2020, the New Hope Audubon Society (NHAS) revisited my suburban yard to evaluate it after I implemented their recommendations of their initial visit two years ago. I wrote about this very interesting experience in three installments for the Durham Master Gardener Blog[i] in November 2018. I earned the “Gold” level of certification from the NHAS Bird Friendly Habitat back in August, 2018 but I did not receive the highest level of Platinum, largely because greater than 10% of my available property, which is about 13,250 sq. ft. of a total of 16,117 sq. ft., was still covered by high-threat invasive species despite already having removed some exotics. These areas were located mostly along the north side yard and east-facing back yard of my property and native plants only covered 30% of the remainder of my yard. I had to increase the native plant coverage from 30% to 50% and remove the invasive species to less than 10% in order to achieve the platinum level. This was a fair amount of work but surprisingly easy when I did it in stages over two years. This time, two representatives (Alan Johnson and Jeanne Arnts) came from the New Hope Audubon Society and walked around my yard and natural buffer area and patiently answered all my questions. Jeanne Arnts took notes and both of them pointed out species of plants that were good for the birds.

It is well documented that planting native plant species is beneficial for birds and other wildlife[ii]. Native plants, especially native trees, host a variety of insects that are necessary for birds to feed their young and these plants host the insects that are vital to birds and the complex food webs that evolved in our local area. Not only do native gardens provide food, they provide shelter and nesting sites for birds. They also have the added benefit of reducing the need of added resources such as fertilizer because they are uniquely adapted to and thrive in our local area. Even with a portion of my suburban backyard preserved as a natural area with mature hardwoods, much of my yard space had at one time, 10 of the 17 most invasive species listed as species to avoid in the Piedmont North Carolina[iii]

  1. English ivy (Hedera helix), 
  2. Privets (Ligustrum spp.), 
  3. Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellate), 
  4. Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), 
  5. Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), 
  6. Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin), 
  7. Periwinkle, Vinca (Vinca spp.), 
  8. Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana)
  9. Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum)
  10.  Sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica)

In addition, I unwittingly planted the non-native invasive species: Golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata), burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and monkey grass (Ophiopogon japonicas) and other invasive plants just appeared in my yard without my help, like purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) and Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta).

The 2018 visit was a custom assessment of my yard and garden with respect to native plant species and wildlife habitat and a very educational two hours. I was delighted to be informed that I had several native wildflowers growing in my natural area like the diminutive native Crane-fly orchids (Tipularia discolor; also a subject of another blog article https://durhammastergardeners.com/2020/07/) under my beech tree (Fagus grandifolia) as well as another shade-tolerant native Redring Milkweed (Asclepias variegata L.) near a very large white oak.  In the natural buffer area there was one of North Carolina’s smallest woody plants, Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculate). A native ground cover of Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria) was also scattered throughout the leaf litter. Other native shrubs of arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) and St. Andrew’s-cross (Hypericum hypericoides (L.) Crantz) were quite common in my backyard, not to mention a young Black gumtree (Nyssa sylvatica), which sadly succumbed to a dry spell in September, 2019 when I was out of the country.

Redring Milkweed (Asclepias variegata L.) near a very large white oak.
Photo taken June 3, 2020

The Work

A few weeks after the first visit my husband and I started to tackle the invasive species removal. We waited until there was a substantial rain to loosen the soil around the plant roots. We took out the invasive species armed with hand pruners, lopper, shovel, lawnmower and chainsaw. In a matter of a few days stretched over the past two years we completed Stage 1 and 2 of the removal of invasive species. One of the advantages of pulling and rolling the periwinkle (Vinca major) after a rain to loosen the soil or just mowing was that I did not have to use an herbicide which may have harmed the soil and prevented germination of native plants which could germinate now that they were exposed to sunlight. 

Clockwise from left: On November 5 and 12, 2018 Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) was removed with loppers and the trunk was cut with a chain saw. A woodpecker and robin immediately investigated the newly exposed soil. On November 3, 2018, after a good rain, the periwinkle was pulled up by the roots behind the birdbath and near the concrete bench. I found the periwinkle stems matted and could be rolled as I progressively pulled up the roots and made a ball. My husband used a chainsaw to take out the firebush on December 16, 2018. The following year on May 7, 2019 I dug out the coreopsis and monkey grass that was taking over my front perennial bed. The monkey grass roots were so tangled that I was able to remove it in one long caterpillar-like piece. On April 28, 2019, I mowed the large patch of periwinkle and Japanese honeysuckle along the north side yard with the lawn mower. My son mowed it again several months later when new shoots appeared but the second mowing along with a dry September finished it off for good except for an occasional plant that I weeded this year. 

I also planted some pink and white muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) to replace the crabgrass that inevitably takes over the strip of lawn between the driveways. The last job was the removal of the forsythia hedge (bottom right corner) for a spring planting of Fothergilla bushes (purchased just before the Covid-19 lockdown) behind the birdbath in addition to a bed along the south side of the house on March 14, 2020. I did not have a chance to purchase any more native plants this year but Mother Nature helped out with the abundant rainfall this spring and many Eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginians) grew and filled in the area on the north side along with Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). Plants that I purchased like Virginia sweet spire (Itea virginica), dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata) and wild ginger (Asarum canadense) became established and spread. It has been an excellent year for moss and it has spread downslope with little encouragement, from our fairy garden to our cedar bench along our property boundary. I also collected wild columbine seeds and spread them around the newly exposed areas. I did not amend the soil other than spreading leaves and pine needles, which I gathered off my fescue lawn, around my native plants.

White Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergla capillaris ‘White Cloud’ Photo by Wendy Diaz on November 10, 2019
One of two moss gardens I maintain (weed and sweep only) that has slowly spread downslope from the base of red maples to the cedar bench along our north property boundary. The fairy moss garden in the foreground got special mention in the Audubon report. Along with the moss are natives both planted and natural: Wild ginger (planted in April, 2019), fern (planted 2014), Hearts a Bustin’ (Euonymous americanus), St. Andrew’s cross (Hypericum hypericoides), Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) seedling, arrow wood (Vibrurnum dentatum) and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).
The fairy moss garden was a pandemic project on Memorial Day and received special mention in the Audubon report. My neighbor removed invasive bamboo from their backyard and I used the tips to construct the fairy fence and my husband cut tiny pieces for the red cedar door window grill.
Photo taken May 27, 2020

We managed to complete both Stage I and Stage II Removal plans as outlined in my blog article of November, 2018 without complaint but, due to Covid-19 and other extended family duties, I did not plant as many of the alternatives recommended to me by NHAS in their report from the first visit. I wasn’t having much luck sourcing some of the native ground covers I wanted to plant anyway like Frog fruit (Phylla nodiflora). I updated my plant list with the recent purchases of native plants in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019 and 2020 (muhly grass, wild ginger, dwarf crested iris, fothergilla etc.) along with other natives pointed out to me by the Audubon Society representatives on their second visit: American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) and American boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). I transplanted some blueberries from under my beech tree to the south yard. This year several plants of spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculate) have now appeared under my beech tree along with four more groups of cranefly orchids (Tipularia discolor). I developed a nursery of Eastern red cedar in an area mostly covered by wild columbine, which tended to have numerous red cedar seedlings anyway. I will transplant them along my southern property boundary as a privacy screen when they get a bit larger. 

Before (left photo taken August 26, 2019) Chinese wisteria removal. Trees along property boundary and in the background: Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), Smooth sumac, Bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis), Fringe tree, dogwood (Cornus florida) and Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria Japonica). After the wisteria removal (right photo taken September 9, 2020). Move arrow to the left to see newly planted and self-seed native species near hanging garden structure: cross vine (Bignonia capreolata; on left post), Fothergilla (Fothergilla Major ‘Mount Airy’; around the right post), purple flowers of the New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) and Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). Cryptomeria snag (died September 2019) behind New York ironweed. The bird feeder was installed in July, 2020. In the area formerly covered by the Chinese wisteria, climbing dogbane, Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra Linnaeaus) and Hairy skullcap have appeared as well as a family of Eastern fence lizards.
Before (left photo taken October 17, 2018) and after periwinkle removal (right photo taken September 10, 2020). A gourd is temporary ground cover until I find alternative native plants. Not many weeds appeared as the pine needles are thick in this area. Occasionally, Golden rain tree seedlings need to be weeded. A few St. Andrew’s Cross seedlings were transplanted in front of the newly planted fothergilla bushes that replaced the forsythia hedge. Wild columbine, frost aster and St. Andrew’s cross all volunteered to grow instead here in the former perwinkle bed.
Left: Small area of periwinkle near concrete bench and hammock. Daphne odora (near bench) died in 2019. Smooth sumac shrub (self-seeded) and turned bright orange and yellow (behind bench). Photo taken November 3, 2018 Right: Periwinkle was removed by pulling up the roots and rolling it into a ball. Area was thinly mulched beneath my husband’s hammock in 2020 and some native plants appeared: Wild Columbine, Virginia creeper, Smooth sumac and Eastern red cedar. I planted iris bulbs and replaced the Daphne (behind clay pot) with a propagated seedling. A volunteer dogwood and coral honeysuckle (staked to the right) in the less-shaded front of the former periwinkle bed. Photo taken September 10, 2020
Large bed of Periwinkle and Japanese honeysuckle on north side yard. Photo taken April 27, 2019.
North side yard has American beauty berry (planted), muscadine grape, Virginia creeper, wild columbine (seeded), Virginia sweetspire (planted), hairy skullcap, dwarf-crested iris (planted), Virginia snakeroot, fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia; propagated) and Eastern red cedar.green-headed coneflower (Rudbeckia lacyiniata) in background adjacent to moss garden. Japanese hop and Chinese elm next to stake on the left side of photograph was removed. Photo taken August 28, 2020.
Former bed of periwinkle is filling in nicely with planted and self-seed native species after only one year. The Virginia sweetspire has a bit of fall color and the beauty berry is loaded with purple berries. Green-headed cone flower in bloom in the background at the end of the moss garden A red maple snag is located on the right side of the Virginia sweetspire. Photo taken September 15, 2020

The Maintenance

They don’t call them invasive species for no reason and some species need constant vigiliance and weeding. It is a task that takes very little effort now that our new Covid-19 habit of walking through our yard reveals new invaders when they first appear and are easily dealt with. A new crop of mimosa seedlings sprouted up in the north side yard after the abundant August rain this year but they were easily dispatched. And it has been five years since we cut down the mimosa tree! In addition, the occasional golden raintree seedling shows up in the bed behind the birdbath. If I find myself missing the bright yellow blossoms of the golden rain tree out my bedroom window I will look at this photograph instead which is just as enjoyable but without the additional work of weeding.

Also, new alien plants appeared in the north side yard like the Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia), Japanese hop (humulopsis scandens) and the dayflower (Commelina communis) which were also pulled up. Photographs from left: Golden rain tree seedling, golden raintree in bloom (now removed) and mimosa seedlings in foreground next to dwarf-crested iris.

I would like to purchase some spice bush (Lindera benzoin) to fill in the areas where the forsythia hedge was removed and also to increase the midlevel landscape with shrubs in my yard and shade out the weeds. I plan on replacing the non-native morning glory at the mailbox next year with the native clematis viorna (Clematis viorna).

The Reward

I was delighted to see many native wildflowers either spread or appear for the first time without me planting them in the areas I cleared of Chinese wisteria, periwinkle and Japanese honeysuckle and observing the garden become more vibrant. I also refrained from applying a thick layer of mulch in other parts of the natural tree area this year. It is amazing what nature can do with a little less competition from invasives and a little more sunlight. And of course, it helped that my neighbors and I organized and advocated to preserve a 30-foot tree buffer between our neighborhood and the proposed new subdivision, which replaced the forest behind my house back in 2003. Photographs clockwise from left: Blue-eyed grass (Sisryrinchium angustifolium), lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata), spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculate), redring milkweed (Asclepias variegata L.), flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata), hairy skullcap (Scutellaria elliptica), American boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) and wild columbine (Aquilegla canadensis).

The abundant rainfall this spring produced native plants such as Coral honeysuckle, St. Andrew’s cross, Virginia snakeroot or Dutchman’s pipe and climbing dogbane to appear in the former Chinese wisteria area of the backyard. My tulip poplar tree in the front yard also had an unusual amount of blossoms for the bees to enjoy.

One of the requirements for certification is to have eight or more wildlife habitat options from the Audubon list of 13. I managed to have the entire list: water feature/bird bath, no cats or kept indoors, several functional birdhouses, brown-headed nuthatch birdhouse (species of concern), rock piles and branch bundles, pollinator garden(s), several snags (maple, black gum, cedar and cryptomeria), window stickers to reduce collisions, leaf litter, reduced lawn areas, minimal use of nonorganic fertilizers, no usage of rodenticides and replaced 30-year-old gas lawn mower, hedge-clipper and weed-eater with battery powered tools. Thanks to my industrious neighbor and friend, Roger Fortman, who made and gave me a bird feeder and two more birdhouses, I have more than the minimum required wildlife habitat options and a very good wildlife habitat suburban garden and yard.

Beautyberry hedge (Callicarpa Americana) along the south property boundary with southern exposure. Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) snag in the background provides habitat and forage for insects and supports a new birdhouse. Photo taken September 10, 2020

If You Plant It They Will Come

My yard now has 73 native plant species including canopy and understory trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and vines which flower at different times throughout most of the year. I also have large areas with leaf litter in my yard and a few trimmed dead trees left standing (snags). As the native plants have spread and established themselves, I have observed more caterpillars, butterflies, bees, fireflies and birds as well as lizards, toads and frogs. Photographs clockwise from left: Eastern tiger swallowtail and monarch butterfly on common milkweed (Asclepia syriaca), bumble bee and common buckeye butterfly on butterfly weed (Asclepia tuberose) and Eastern tiger swallowtail on Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) and scarlet rose mallow (Hibiscus coccinneus).

Photographs from left: Bumble bee on purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) and dragonfly on dead milkweed leaf.

Many birds have been observed in the yard this year. Photographs clockwise from left: Female Red-bellied woodpecker and fledgling, bluebird, juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird, goldfinch, White-breasted nuthatch, male bluebird with beetle and Red-tailed hawks.

Learning about many new native plants since that first NHAS visit in 2018 has been interesting and I found the follow-up visit rewarding and well worth the effort. I do not have any regrets about removing all invasive ornamental plants from my yard as it has given me the opportunity to learn and discover new native alternatives to plant and a chance to welcome nature’s gifts each spring. My yard is much more interesting and entertaining as well because there is a large variety of plants which flower throughout most of the year and wildlife to watch. This transformation to a yard where I can enjoy nature couldn’t have happened at a better time. All the work was worth it and I achieved the highest level of certification. 

While I have achieved my goal of Platinum certification, my gardening work is never done and the plan is to remove the severely pruned Burford holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Burford’) foundation hedge at the front of the house. Alan Johnson suggested native alternatives such as dwarf yaupon holly (Illex glabra) or sweet pepper bush (Clethra anifolia) to replace the old hedge. He said the ‘Hummingbird’ cultivar produces numerous flowers and good fall color. To compliment these new shrubs other sun-loving herbaceous perennials such as golden alexander (Zizia), mountain mint (Pycnanthemum mutium) and aster (Symphyotrichum spp.) were suggested. There are many other natives to choose from but they reminded me that it is very important to choose native plants that were grown without the use of neonicotinoids and they provided source nursery’s that did not use this systemic insecticide in their four page report which they emailed to me shortly after their visit.

Future project this fall will be to remove the Burford holly and nandina (circled in red) and plant native foundation shrubs and flowers. Beautyberry, New York ironweed and American pokeweed (green arrows) have already ‘moved in’ to this sunny part of my front yard.
Photo taken September 10, 2020

I proudly hang the Audubon sign on my mailbox for passersby to see and hopefully it will encourage at least one neighbor to undertake this certification process and rewarding experience. I want to inspire like-minded gardeners to contact the New Hope Audubon Society for their own certification so they too can sit back and enjoy the birds they will attract. I am looking forward to next spring and to observing how the garden has matured and perhaps I will see the spotted wintergreen finally flower or a brown-headed nuthatch take up residence in its waiting home. In the meantime, I will buy a frame for my Platinum Certificate from the New Hope Audubon Society.

References:

[i] https://durhammastergardeners.com/2018/11/ November 7, 2020; November 10,  2020 and November 21, 2020

[ii] http://www.bringingnaturehome.net

[iii] https://nc.audubon.org/sites/default/files/piedmont_plants_final.pdf

Resources for Bird Friendly Habitat Certification:

Certification Request Form:

Brochure: http://www.newhopeaudubon.org/wpcontent/themes/nhas/library/docs/certificationBrochure.pdf

Native Plant List and Suppliers:

Bird Friendly Habitat Information:

700 Bird-Friendly Native Plants for North Carolina

https://nc.audubon.org/700

Further Reading:

  1. http://ncbg.unc.edu/uploads/files/ControllingBooklet.pdf
  2. https://projects.ncsu.edu/goingnative/howto/mapping/invexse/index.html
  3. http://www.ncwildflower.org/plant_galleries/invasives_list
  4. http://moinvasives.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/03/MNRC_EmergingInvasives_QuinnLong_2016_0203_NotesPage.pdf

Feeding Hummingbirds in Winter

by Rausa McManus, EMGV

If you’ve heard that you need to take your hummingbird feeders down in October to let hummingbirds know when to migrate, read further for another viewpoint. The idea that the availability of nectar in man-made feeders will keep hummingbirds from migrating south is a myth.  Birds are genetically programmed to migrate due to their hormones, circannual rhythms, triggered by the length of the days and the changing angle of the sun. Leaving your feeders up with fresh nectar will help the late-migrating stragglers as they travel through North Carolina and also feed some winter-hardy hummingbirds who may live here year-round. 

It can be difficult to identify hummingbirds by sight in the winter.  However, banders have helped confirm the identification of certain species. The most common hummingbird species seen here in the Piedmont is the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) (left photo). In recent years, however, volunteer banders have recorded rufous (Selasphorus rufus) (right photo), black-chinned (Archiloches alexander), and calliope (Selasphorus calliope) hummingbirds in the Carolinas during winter migration.

In order to keep the nectar edible for these winter feeders, the water to sugar ratio should be 4:1, with no food coloring. The nectar also needs to be changed every three to five days to keep it fresh. At this concentration, the liquid will not freeze unless the temperature gets below 27 degrees. Keeping your feeder full and fresh will help the late-migrators replenish their energy stores so they need to make it to their southern destination. 

There are many researchers interested in collecting data on winter-migrating hummingbirds. If you do see hummers visiting your feeders between November 1 and March 15, make a record of the type and number of the birds you see. The North Carolina Museum of Sciences is studying hummingbirds that overwinter in the Carolinas. They would like to hear from Piedmont residents who spot these little hummers and they encourage you to leave those feeders up through the cold months.

Photo Credits: Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) by Bill Gordon/Great Backyard Bird Count at audobon.org. Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) at naturalsciences.org https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Other photos by R. McManus.

Resources and Further Reading
naturalsciences.org
https://feederwatch.org/learn/articles/hummingbirds-in-winter
www.carolinabirdclub.org/misc/hummingbirds/winterhummingbirds.html
https://abcbirds.org
https://hgic.clemson.edu
www.audubon.org

To Do in February

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

It’s February!! Those of us who are die-hard just-can’t-help-ourselves gardeners are

bluebird and box
male eastern bluebird and bluebird box. photo credit: Patricia Pierce on Flickr

nearly beside ourselves—right? I mean, we can do stuff! We can dig in the dirt (well, at least the dirt that isn’t moisture-saturated or frozen)! YEA!! Besides, it is almost March when we really get to do stuff. In addition to breaking out the shovels, rakes and hoes the chem-heads out there can start spraying and fertilizing. So, here goes. A prelude to Spring in the key of D# major.

Lawn Care
Cool season grasses (i.e. fescue and bluegrass) should be fertilized with a slow-release fertilizer following the recommendation of your SOIL TEST.

Late February/early March is the best time to apply a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer. There are several easy to use granular products on the market. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the label for safe and proper handling and application. Calibrate your spreader to ensure accurate application amounts; Too little will not give you effective control and too much may damage the turf.

Fertilizing
See Lawn Care above and Planting below.

Planting
And so it begins: The vegetable garden. The reason for some gardeners’ existence, for frozen fingers in February, summer sunburn and the endless supply of liniment in the medicine cabinet.

It is time for root vegetables and salad (and beef Bourguignon—which you can’t grow in the garden).  Plants that can go in the ground in February include cabbage, carrots, leaf lettuce, onions, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach and turnips. Work a little fertilizer into the soil that was tested in October (while it was still free to do so) following the recommendations of said SOIL TEST.

Be cognizant of soil moisture levels. It appears that Mother Nature is going to maintain that for now, but she can be really fickle.

Pruning
If you have been ignoring previous posts, now would be a good time to prune bunch grapes and fruit trees. Also due for judicious trimming are summer flowering shrubs and small trees.  That list includes Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus seriatcus) crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia species), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), and hydrangeas that bloom on new wood (Hydrangea arborescens & H. paniculata).

While you’re out there, whack back the ornamental grasses, too. The new blades haven’t emerged yet and the plants are looking a bit tired anyway.

Got some overgrown shrubs that you’ve been meaning to (or reluctant to) prune heavily? Go for it now.  I understand that if you’ve never done it before it can be a bit intimidating, trust me. The plant will almost always not only survive, but thrive. I am aware of the never-more-than-a-third rule, but sometimes that is not enough. If it needs to go back to 12”-18” … go for it.  Chances are, you and the plant will be glad you did.

Spraying
The orchard needs attention. Peaches and nectarines should be sprayed with a fungicide to prevent leaf curl. Spraying a dormant oil on the fruit trees will help control several insects later in the year.

Other fun stuff to do outside in February
– Perennials can be divided if the soil ever gets dry enough.

– Many landscape plants can be propagated via hardwood cuttings this time of the year.  Some of the plants in the category are crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia sps), flowering quince (Chaenomoles sps), junipers (Juniperus sps), spiraea (Spiraea sps) and weigelia (Weigelia sps).

– Bluebirds will be most appreciative of a thorough house cleaning before the spring nesting season. Remove all the old nesting materials and let them start afresh. It’s like clean linens for them.

Oh, yeah. Lest we forget … order flowers or other living things from the plant kingdom for your significant other. Just for the record, guys like flowers and plants, too. Happy Valentine’s Day y’all! Think positive thoughts about an early Spring and no late freezes.

 

Photo credit
Creative commons, copyright Patricia Pierce,  https://www.flickr.com/photos/47602497@N06/26758856348

 

Plant List of Native Alternatives to Invasive Species

Editor’s note: This is the third and final installment in a series about creating a bird-friendly yard. In the two previous blog articles, Wendy Diaz, EMGV, wrote about pivotal moments in her life as a gardener: deciding to focus on native plants, and creating a plan based on plant recommendations from the National Audobon Society.

My plan to create a bird-friendly yard will be accomplished in two stages. Stage 1 is the removal of high-threat invasive species in the fall of this year (2018), and Stage 2 will commence in the spring of 2019 by removing non-natives that are not high threat but their native alternatives would provide more benefit for wildlife and not multiply as quickly.

My garden  plan includes the following replacements based on recommendations from the New Hope Audubon Society, NC Botanical Garden and the Going Native Website1,2,3:

 Already Removed

Invasive Plant Native Alternative Plant
Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Chinese beauty berry (Callicarpa dichotoma) native beauty berry (Callicarpa  americana)
Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum)
Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

Stage I Removal of High Threat Invasive Species (Fall, 2018)

Invasive Plant Native Alternative Plant
Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) or trumpet vine (Campsis radicanas) or Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii)
Big Leaf Periwinkle (Vinca major) spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), Frogfruit (Phylla nodiflora), Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), Common blue violet (Viola sororia), Crested dwarf iris (Iris cristata)
Heavenly bamboo (Nandina) Florida-hobblebush (Agarista populifolia),  Strawberrybush (Euonymous americanus)/ St. Andrew’s Cross (Hypericum hypericoides)
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) coral honeysuckle (Loncicera sempervirens)/Yellow Passionflower (Passiflora lutea)
English Ivy (Hedera helix) Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)/winterberry (Ilex verticillata) /winged sumac (Rhus copallinum)

Stage II Removal (Spring, 2019)

Non-Native Plant Native Alternative Plant
Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Butterfly bush Coastal sweet-pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)
Japanese privet common wax-myrtle (Morella cerifera)
Morning glory native clematis viorna (Clematis viorna)/milkvine (Matelea carolinensis)
Chinese holly Inkberry (Ilex glabra)/Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)/ Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)
Forsythia Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)/high bush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
Grass Rosy Sedge (Carex rosea) and Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Siberian Iris Scarlet rose-mallow (Hibiscus coccineus)
Liriope (Liriope muscari variegated) Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Next time you are considering an ornamental plant to add to your landscape why not try a native plant that suits your needs and helps wildlife at the same time? At the very least, don’t plant invasive species like I did. Hopefully in time, I will attract new birds, butterflies and caterpillars. Then I will need a better camera lens to zoom in on all the new flowers and animals!

DSC_8497
Scarlet Rose-Mallow Home garden Photo taken by Wendy Diaz July 25, 2018

DSC_2337
Blue bird next to white oak. Home garden Photo taken by Wendy Diaz May 10, 2017

References:

  1. https://projects.ncsu.edu/goingnative/howto/mapping/invexse/index.html
  2. https://projects.ncsu.edu/goingnative/howto/mapping/nplants/index.php
  3. http://www.newhopeaudubon.org/wp-content/themes/nhas/library/docs/native-plant-growing-guide-piedmont-nc.pdf

More Reading on Invasive Species: 

Click to access PlantThisNotThat.pdf

Where to buy Native Plants:

  1. https://projects.ncsu.edu/goingnative/howto/implemen.html#where
  2. https://growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu/growingsmallfarms-pollinatorresources/