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Selecting The Best Ornamental Plants That Help Improve the Habitat Of Your Landscape For Birds

Birds can be an important addition to any landscape. Selecting the best ornamental plants that help improve the habitat of your back yard should be choosen for features that provide birds with food and shelter.

Viburnums provide excellent food and shelter for bird habitats.

Viburnums are attractive, versatile, adaptable shrubs for any landscape in which you want to improve your bird habitat.. They can be used as hedges or screens and in mixed perennial and shrub borders. They can stand alone as specimen plants or in clusters. They usually take the form of shrubs, but some species can become small ornamental trees. They range in size from the Dwarf American Cranberry at 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide, to the Siebold at over 15 feet tall.

Viburnums are plants with year round interest. All Viburnums have profuse white to pink flowers in the spring. They have large, attractive and often textured leaves. Some viburnums have wonderfully fragrant flowers that are produced in snowball sized clusters in spring. Their flower clusters can consist of pink buds, which develop into white flowers. Some fruits are red and turn black with age. Leaves are glossy, dark green and turn a burgundy color in the fall. Midsummer berries are an important food source for birds. The cranberry viburnum is noteworthy in that it bears fruit in the fall but ripens late in winter. Viburnums have colorful red to purple leaves. Some viburnums can become medium sized trees, especially if they are pruned. Viburnums excel as specimen plants or as anchors in mixed borders which your birds will love. You won't find a more versatile group of shrubs for hedges or for massing in groups, since viburnums hold their own in every season givig year round intrest. Some viburnums, such as Prague viburnum 'Pragense', are evergreen. Others, such as leatherleaf viburnum, are semi-evergreen in colder climates, losing their leaves when temperatures dip below 10 degrees. Most viburnums grow in clusters or colonies. These colonies form thickets that are unsurpassed as cover for birds. I have seen how this has protected birds in our backyard from attacking hawks that were unable to fly into the viburnum shelter that birds escape to.

The best feature of Viburnums is their adaptability. While they would prefer full sun and moderately watered, well-drained rich soils, they will grow very well in part shade in alkaline, clay soils. Diseases and pests rarely attack them. My kids have run over them with brush hogs and they survived. Their fibrous root system makes them transplant easily.

Viburnums have long been popular garden plants, known for their white, often fragrant spring flowers and their delightful fall color. But it's the Asian viburnums that have so far taken first prize. Perhaps the most widely known viburnums are the Burkwood viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii), and the Korean spice viburnum (V. carlesii), both of which fill the air with an enchanting clovelike oders in mid-spring. Also popular is the doublefile viburnum (V. plicatum f. tomentosum), valued for its layered habit, fall foliage, and clusters of red fruits. Viburnum acerifolium (Maple-leafed viburnum) Although I wouldn't garden without any of these, I have a special fondness for several of our native viburnums. They may not provide the flower fragrance of their Asian cousins, but I love them nonetheless for their brilliant fall foliage color but also for their abundant fruit displays, which attract wildlife to my garden in the fall and winter months. In addition, several are useful to today's waterwise gardeners or in tough urban conditions. They require only corrective pruning, and none commonly suffer from pests or diseases.

Viburnums are considered moist woodland plants. In nature they are found along steam banks from Long Island to Florida. When you come to our 5275 West Swamp Rd. location ask us to show some in their native habitat that we found along our stream bank. These plants perform well under normal landscape conditions. I especially like the floral display in the spring and these viburnums that bear fruit in the fall. Winterthur has great red leaves and abundant fruit in the fall. This cultivar needs a cross pollinator such as viburnum nudum.

Native Americans used Viburnum dentatum (arrowwood viburnum) for arrow shafts. There stems are long and strait. This plant will grow in places many plants struggle. So if you have had trouble with plants in a harsh location try a viburnum.


We raise over 10 types of Viburnums on our farms from seedlings to 5' shrubs. If you have poor soils due to compacting from construction, try viburnums. Being rugged and hardy, they perform where other plants fail.

American Cranberry Bush




Chicago Luster (we have 500 3-6' that must be sold by Sept 28 2005)


Summer Snowflake



Blue Muffin




If you are searching for a good-looking hardy shrub which will attract and feed birds consider one of the many members of the Viburnum family.

The food for birds should be available from trees and shrubs in the landscape. Natural food sources are best. Try to copy the native sources that will provide food as is needed by native bird populations. Plants should provide an available food supply all-year-round. Native trees and shrubs native to your area ensures that fruits and berries are available for the local bird population.

Whenever you select a plant for bird habitat improvement try to maintain a balance of 20-25% evergreens. The evergreen can be broadleafed such as holly or in the cedar family such as the eastern red cedars. Multi stemmed plants are best as they will prove better shelter. following these simple tips will increase your birding enjoyment. Judd

Korean Spice



You can see other articles written by Bill Hirst about trees, plants, and shrubs at http://www.zone5trees.com







Submitted by:

William J. Hirst

William J. Hirst

Bill raises trees, plants,and shrubs on his farms, many located in Pennsylvania. He also has ranches out west for arrowhead collecting, fossil collecting and hunting for meteorites and big game.


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