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For the birds

By SHERIE BLEILER - Garden Club of Cape Coral | Mar 9, 2023

I have been rethinking my gardens. After Ian stripped our holly tree of all its red fall berries, I was worried our mockingbirds wouldn’t find anything to eat. As they sat on the wires above me, I started throwing blueberries on the driveway. They flew down and ate them! It became a daily routine for a while. Meanwhile, as my plants recovered, I found them eating red berries off my Rouge plants. I was really glad to see they were again finding food in our yards.

Gradually, I decided my yard had to be more than “neat and pretty.” It had to function for all the creatures left alive after the hurricane. It had to provide an oasis for ourselves in harmony with nature.

So what plants would help our ecosystem repopulate itself – and yet, grow easily?

I certainly hoped to find some plants that grow in our sandy, shelly soils, without needing much water or fertilizer. Of course, I know I have to water regularly the first year while the roots get settled. But I have been on the lookout for plants that can accept the dry season yet not drown in the rainy season. These are some that I’ve found.

• Rouge plant – a small bush to about 2-3 feet with small pink flowers for pollinators and red berries for birds. The berries start many new plants also, but they are easy to remove where unwanted. Because they’re naturally short, I just trim occasionally to keep them full at the bottom.

“Mrs. Schiller’s Delight” viburnum – a native plant, cultivated to stay small, just 3 feet. Of course, the plants from the nursery are much smaller than this. Small plants adapt better than ones in bigger pots, so I have left room around it so it can grow to its full size. I put in a few periwinkle flowers to hold the place for now. It is covered in white flowers in the spring and has berries in summer. It grows in a round shape, so I only plan on trimming it once yearly.

• Marlberry – A tall, column-shaped bush, 8-15 feet high. I planted this as a screen between me and the weekly rental next door. (Why do we allow these?) The bush asks for little – sandy, well drained soil with a little topsoil. Besides giving me a break from seeing the tourists next door, it will be dense enough to be a refuge to birds. Pollinators will enjoy the off-and-on white flowers, and birds will enjoy the berries.

• Simpson stopper – One plant is not enough screen for the neighbors! I also added this favorite of mine, a small tree which keeps its leaves from top to bottom. I always make people smell the delicious flowers in spring. It has red berries around Christmas. It grows slowly but the peeling bark after a few years is very attractive. It is another native, so, of course, it is undemanding.

Adding some Florida wildflowers and grasses around these bushes adds color for us and seeds for birds. After flowers have bloomed, many birds eat their seeds including sparrows, warblers, cardinals, doves and mockingbirds. I will be adding coneflowers, tickseed (coreopsis), blanketflower (gaillardia) and tropical sage (salvia).

There are many more Florida adapted plants available. If your nursery does not have these plants, ask them to carry them. Or search for your nearest native nursery, selling plants that grow in Florida.

Sherie Bleiler is a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral and library butterfly garden chairperson.


http://fnpsblog.blog spot.com/2011/01/plant-for-all-reasons.html

https://www.regional conservation.org/beta/nfyn/ plantlist.asp