We are so fortunate to be able to garden year round in the Raleigh area. I’m sharing the story below from the current issue of Triangle Gardener magazine. This gives just a taste of what we can grow in our area with particular interest in providing cover and food for the wildlife.
Winter Wonders – plants for wildlife
Flowers, berries, evergreens and grasses will fill the winter garden with wildlife and give you reason to walk around.
One of the best parts about living in the Triangle are winters worthy of gardening. In winter, it is more about admiring the garden and the wildlife it brings, than worrying about weeds. While your winter flowering trees and shrubs are in bloom, the weeds sleep.
Designing a wildlife friendly garden by adding water, food, cover and a place to raise their young, will help entice your wildlife to stay in the garden year ‘round.
Particularly in the winter, providing plants for a wide range of food sources and cover, will keep your wildlife coming back to feed and feel safe.
There are many sources of food for wildlife in winter, including seed, nectar, pollen, berries and nuts.
With a wide variety of cultivars to choose from, the winter flowering, evergreen shrub, Camellia japonica, provide nectar on a day warm enough to move a bee, as do Mahonia and wintersweet (Chimonanthus). So do flowering apricot trees (Prunus Mume), and perennials such as Hellebores, adding gorgeous flowers to your winter landscape.
Many birds will be happy to find Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’ holly growing in your garden. It’s not uncommon to have a a flock of cedar waxwings dine on these and other species of holly berries, as well as, Eastern dogwood, junipers and fruits, such as cherries. Robins, bluebirds, and thrushes will also find protein rich winter berries the perfect meal.
Crab apple (Malus spp.) can be quite showy in the winter landscape and also provide food for many birds.
When wildlife feed, having cover near by provides protection, creating a safe haven for your wildlife.
Dense, low growing ground covers such as a creeping yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata’) provides winter shelter for many birds.
Tall protective grasses like Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), left uncut, add interest in the winter garden, as well as, cover for many wildlife. Native switch grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, can grow 4 foot tall with a nice blond winter color.
It’s worth noting, most double flowers are actually of little use to bees and other insects as many of these new cultivars are bred with the pollen bearing anthers replaced by extra petals. Others are just too ornate for the bees to get to the nectar. A good example of this is the Camellia japonica cultivar ‘Governor Mouton’. Indeed, a beautiful flower and worthy of growing in the winter wildlife garden. But while this Camellia may not have nectar readily available, the ‘Governor Mouton’ will still provided cover for the wildlife and be gorgeous to boot.
Although not all winter plants provide food for wildlife, every evergreen tree and shrub does provide cover. Choose plants that provide food and cover for your wintertime enjoyment and also enjoy the wildlife they bring.
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