Bare branches, brown grass and withered leaves skittering along the ground may appear bleak to gardeners looking out their windows, but winter wildlife sees something entirely different.
When hospitality takes a winter holiday for birds and small animals seeking food and shelter amid dormant plants, gardeners can help. The first assistance requires nothing more than procrastination on the part of the gardener. Simply postpone the pruning of dormant perennials, and small creatures will find the landscape a little less barren.
Jane Davis-Toerner, owner of the Curious Naturalist in Schertz, suggests grasses and perennials such as purple coneflowers to provide seed for birds and well-chosen bushes to provide refuge and sustenance. Some evergreen plants in the landscape will give critters a place to hide out, and berry-producing plants such as American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), hollies (Ilex spp.), and agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) will be appreciated by birds.
For additional shelter, hang a few birdhouses. Of course, birds and squirrels will appreciate homeowners who provide birdseed, adds Davis-Toerner. Sunflower seed is a good high-protein, high-energy food for birds. Choose black-oil sunflower seeds with shells on if you don’t mind the debris left behind, or buy hulled ones to avoid having the shells on the ground. Suet is another good energy source for birds. For the warmer climate, opt for suet dough rather than straight suet, which melts into a mess on the ground.
Attracting squirrels is inevitable if you feed birds, so why not give the squirrels some corn or sunflower seeds?
Most important for winter wildlife is water. Keep your birdbath clean and draw attention to it with a dripper or mister. With a little thought, the winter view from inside will provide an engaging look at the wildlife enjoying the landscape.
By Tracy Hobson Lehmann, Guest Author