Introduction to Habitat Gardening
by Glenn Olsen
In addition to the beauty and joy of having birds and butterflies in your garden, it can be-come a retreat in which you can relax, enjoy and contemplate in your own nature oasis. Our winter months are a great time to get organized for a spring garden or landscape project. This is the time to plan which plants you want and where you want them in your yard. Also, if any flower bed preparation or pathways need to be created, winter is a good time to get that done.
Here are a few of the more commonly available native plants that provide food and shel-ter for many of the birds that migrate through or spend the winter on the Upper Texas Coast. Each of those listed grows well in our area. Additionally many of them are valu-able and important to our native, beneficial pollinators and butterflies. This is only touch-ing on the plants available, there are many others. Be sure to purchase the plants based on the botanical (scientific name) because there are similar non-native plants that grow much larger and/or do not provide the food like the native plant.
Two medium sized shrubs that grow well and are attractive in a landscape that produce bright orange to red berries that many birds feed on. In the spring they have many small white flowers that attract numerous beneficial insects.
This classic American evergreen tree is under utilized in the landscape. The attractive red berries are produced on the female plant, so make sure yours has the berries when you buy it. The berries are important food for many species of birds during the winter and it also provides important shelter from the cold. American Holly is a very stately and attractive tree that would add character and beauty to any landscape.
This attractive plant with its shiny, dark green leaves is usually an under story shrub of up to 12 feet but if planted in full sun may grow to about 30 feet. In the spring it produces large clusters of small beau-tiful white flowers. In the fall, the bluish black fruit is consumed by many species of birds. Another good shrub that provides shelter for birds in inclement weather. This plant will add year round color to you landscape.
This is an excellent under story shrub that grows 4 to 10 feet tall. It has a nice open and airy appearance, which provides an attractive visual aspect. The bluish-black fruit ripens from August to November and provides much need food for fall and winter migrants
Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreous var. drummondii)
The gorgeous pale blue flowers of this medium sized leafy perennial is a magical nectar source for many species of butterflies. The ageratum like blossoms grow at the tips of the stems and are so abundant they cover the entire top of the plant. Hummingbirds and pol-linators also make good use of these flowers. Easily grown in light shade to full sun in various soil conditions. Growing from about 16 inches to 26 inches tall ( but can grow taller) these hearty misflowers are an attractive addition to any landscape.
The plants mentioned are only a few that contribute to a colorful, attractive garden or landscape and help create habitat for birds and butterflies whose presence softens the urban environment and creates a more enjoyable and interesting yard.
For information on additional plants and for an introduction to birds, visit www.birdfriendlyhouston.org
To purchase plants from Houston Audubon's Natives Nursery at Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary, visit www.houstonaudubon.org/nativesnursery
For additional information go to www.npsot.org/houston and click on suggested plants.
If you are seeking the advice for landscaping for birds or the installation, I would be happy to talk with you. Contact me at email@example.com.
Past President: Native Plant Society of Texas
Owner: GO Native Landscaping for Birds and Butterflies