It’s easy to create a garden that is a beautiful, peaceful, and much-needed haven for birds and butterflies, whose natural habitats are rapidly being lost to development. Four basic things to keep in mind when planning your garden are the following:
- Keep part of the area natural.
- Use shrubs.
- Add bird-friendly features such as nesting boxes.
- If possible, add a source of fresh water (be sure to wash containers daily or birds will die from salmonella).
The key is to make your garden less like a perfectly manicured golf course and more like a pretty prairie or meadow. Birds love to forage and eat dropped seeds and fallen fruit. Many birds like to eat thistle and tend to nest in climbing vines or plants such as clematis, ivy, or honeysuckle. Small trees such as holly and ivy are easy to plant and provide berries that birds can eat in the winter. Hummingbirds are attracted to nectar-rich flowers that bloom at different times of the year. Their favorites include cleome, trumpet vine, red petunia, impatiens, catmint, red ivy geranium, salvia, nasturtium, morning glory, fuchsia, and butterfly bush.
Butterflies will turn your garden into a kaleidoscope of colorful wings if you provide flowers, a pesticide-free food source, some weeds and wildflowers where butterflies can lay their eggs, and a sheltered area that provides protection from the wind and rain while allowing butterflies to absorb plenty of sunlight. Easy-to-grow plants that butterflies enjoy include butterfly bush, chrysanthemum, black-eyed Susan, lantana, phlox, goldenrod, milkweed, marigold, purple coneflower, lilac, and lavender. Be sure to provide food sources for butterfly caterpillars, too—good choices include milkweed, fennel, parsley, violet, spirea, wisteria, and passionflower.
If you need inspiration, check out some gardening books at your local library or ask a local nursery to help you figure out which types of plants will grow best in your soil and climate. Happy gardening!