Attracting Wildlife With Native Plants
[Cllick pic for more] It's time to be ordering bare root plants for spring delivery--see the "Buy plants" area of the website. Here is some guidance on plant selection from Kaitlyn Spiegel of Hilltop Hollow Farm:
Butterflies float from petal to petal, bees buzz eagerly and birds fill the morning air with song, a garden in proper balance is a sight to behold. But how can you transform your lackluster flowerbeds and labor intensive lawn into a perfect habitat for a variety of wildlife? Introducing native shrubs and flowers is a great start! Plants that are native to your area have evolved over time to be perfectly adapted to the climate and soil conditions meaning less maintenance and a stronger, healthier looking garden. The first place to start is to research plants that are native to your specific area. Knowing your USDA plant hardiness zone can be helpful in narrowing your search.
To identify your zone visit the USDA website https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ and enter your zip code. Keep in mind that just because a plant will grow in the same plant hardiness zone it is not necessarily native to your area. The USDA also has a plant database that is useful for researching native species: https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov/java/
Native plants come in many shapes, sizes and varieties so whether you have a few containers on your apartment balcony potted with Virginia Bluebell, Mertensia virginica, to attract bees and butterflies, or a large backyard to fill with native trees and shrubs for birds and deer to enjoy, you can make an impact on the local wildlife.
Consider Blazing Star, Liatris spicata, for its brilliant bottle brush flowers in either purple or white. This beautiful spring flower attracts important pollinators and can handle partial shade. It is important to consider what each plant produces and when. The Cardinal Flower. Lobelia cardinalis, is a dramatic red flower that blooms later in the season after other early spring bloomers have died back. The bright petals attract hummingbirds as they prepare to migrate for the winter. For foliage that stays green well into winter look to the Christmas Fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, which gets its name for its tendency to hold onto its color past the winter holidays.
If you have more room to work with there are a number of fruiting shrubs that will draw a dazzling assortment of birds and other wildlife such as the Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa. This shrub is noted for its white flowers, dark purple berries and wine red fall foliage. It can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions and is known to naturalize or spread on its own. Another wonderful choice is the American Elderberry, Sambuscus nigra ssp. Canadensis, that produces clusters of black berries not only favored by wildlife but delightful in jams, jellies, pie fillings and elderberry wine.
Once you have gathered a list of native plants you are interested in pay attention to sun and water needs when determining placement. Taller shrubs and trees should be planted behind smaller sun loving plants to avoid shading them out but some smaller shrubs do just fine with a little shade. Varieties with high water needs should be planted near others that are more drought tolerant to minimize competition. Mix up plants that root deeply and those that have more superficial root systems. Keep in mind that some plants require more than one of the same to produce fruit while others are self-fertile. In the early stages your native plant garden may require some maintenance such as watering, weeding and soil amendments, but as the garden matures and becomes more established the need for such intervention fades.
Once all the planting is done consider adding other wildlife attractions like nesting boxes for birds or bats. A shallow dish of water makes a wonderful bird bath or hydration station for the bees and other pollinators and in wet areas a larger water feature like a backyard pond can create habitat for a whole different variety of wildlife. There are nearly endless options when it comes to designing your perfect backward wildlife garden! With a little research and digging in the dirt you too can invite a wide range of animals to enjoy the bounty.
Here at Hilltop Hollow Farm we specialize primarily in plants native to Pennsylvania and the Eastern United States. Examples above are native to our area but we also offer selections native to other areas. These plants come primarily as bare root stock or rooted cuttings and are best planted directly in the ground in the spring after the threat of the final frost has passed. Order now and schedule delivery so that you are ready to plant as they arrive.
Visit our website now to view our inventory and place an order: https://hilltophollowfarm.com/collections/all
For links to specific plants mentioned see below: