Help with shrub selection for birds?

AdamM321(MA z5/6)April 17, 2005


I am considering the following shrubs:

Aronia 'Brilliantissma'

Prunus maritima

Viburnum carlesii

Sambucus 'Southerlands gold'



Cornus 'Ivory Halo'


Ilex glabra

Viburnum doublefile

Anyone have these bushes? Can they tell me what their experiences are with them, and whether the birds are attracted to them? I would also like to know whether they will fruit in part shade, and how big they get?

If not do you have any suggestions for alternatives? For part shade?

Thanks very much,


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Aronia 'Brilliantissma' WINTER FOOD ONLY
Prunus maritima NOT NATIVE
Viburnum carlesii NOT NATIVE
Viburnum doublefile STERILE--NO BERRIES

One shrub, no matter what it is, will feed the birds only for a week at most. If you want to plant for wildlife, you need to plant a WIDE VARIETY of NATIVE SPECIES that provide food through much of the year. You also need to plant things that are well adapted to your site in terms of soil chemistry (acid vs. alkaline), wet/dry, sun/shade, etc. If you want to plant one shrub in an eastern exposure, make it a species elderberry or serviceberry. Then you will see lots of birds for one week in August or June, respectively.

"Winter food only" means that birds eat the berries as a last resort--but that's not a bad things, because then they come around during the winter. Many species viburnums fit this category.

There are two ways to learn how to plant for wildlife, and they go together. First, TAKE A WALK in natural areas near your home, and learn to identify the native plants. Second, DO SOME RESEARCH on native plants, by consulting field guides, ecology books, and books specifically about eastern native plants. There are lots of good choices for your site.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 8:18AM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)

Hi Elaine,

Thanks for the help :-)
While your suggestions are very good, I am at a disadvantage of not being able to walk around woods very much. Book research is about the only thing I can do. When I go to local nurseries there aren't that many natives. I am finding a few, but very small sizes and few choices.

Secondly, while I want to feed the birds and wildlife, I also want the most attractive yard I can. So some for them and some for

I have been looking for a gray dogwood, but no luck. I have already ordered two Amelanchier bushes and have one Amelanchier tree in my yard, and you are right, in two days the tree is stripped. So I am looking for things that will be available for longer.

What is the difference between Sambucus SG and a species? What is the latin name, do you know? Is it sambucus canadensis? I thought I heard that was very invasive?

Cornus ivory halo is a cornus alba which is variegated. It has the red twigs in winter. I was especially looking for a variegated form of cornus. Is there a species that is? Cornus sericea, is listed as native. I think they have a variegated form.

Thanks again for your help. Maybe I will try to find a nursery close by that offers more native plants.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 9:14AM
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chrsvic(z6 OH)


If you really want to attract birds, American elder (Sambucus canadensis) is a must. Although some people describe them as "lanky" or "not for the formal garden", i like the large white blooms. The cultivars "Nova, York, Adams, Johns" bear larger and more abundant fruit, and bloom a little later than the wild ones.

The red-berried elders (Sambucus racemosa or pubens) set fruit earlier in the season. If you plant a variety, the yard will look interesting throughout the year and hopefully keep the birds around.

I wouldn't give up on finding gray dogwoods, you can mail order these. If you know someone with a little farmland, you can probably dig them out of a hedgerow (with permission, of course.)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 11:18AM
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ellen_s(z5 centralMA)

Garden in the Woods nursery at New England Wildflower Society had Gray Dogwood for sale when I was there on Friday...


    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 2:00PM
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You're right--nurseries don't stock native species. They make more money on fancy hybrids and cultivars. Most of us rely on mail order. Musser Forests and Cold Stream Farm are my main suppliers, but you always have to be careful--they do sell nonnatives. If you're anywhere Garden in the Woods (near Framingham) you should certainly go there.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 3:35PM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)

Thanks, good idea...I was heading for G in Woods last Friday and never got there.. [g] Hopefully when I do, they will still have what I need. I am going to call them tomorrow and see if they can hold me something till I can pick it up.

I checked out there site after you all reminded me, and forgot they had so many native shrubs. Also pretty good prices too.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 7:48PM
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Adam: Garden in the woods is great. I started my plantings with a few plants from there, but they are very expensive. I order a lot from NH Nursery. I believe it is too late for this year (I'm picking my order up on Monday), but you could order the catalog for next year. They sell mostly natives and clearly mark what is not in the catalog. I have found their prices great for the size of the stock. I ordered 100's last year and so far everything seems to have made it through the winter. I have my fingers crossed.

Where are you in Mass? I'm on the NH border out near the coast.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2005 at 8:07PM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)


Thanks lots to those suggesting Garden in the Woods. I just came home from there and got what I needed. They had a fair to good supply there. Didn't have more than 5 of each in the shrubs and trees. Whether they have more in a holding area or not, I don't know.

I found the gray dogwood and dragged home another viburnum ..Winterthur variety, a couple of hydrangeas..oakleaf and a variegated Samantha, and two Lilium candensis and a crested iris.

I hadn't been there in awhile and it seemed more organized than in the past with more available. Of course, I don't think I have ever gotten there so early It is actually fly season there all of a sudden. I had to wear a jacket and a hat, to walk around.

Vonyon, do you think they are expensive? The cornus racemosa was only $20. I thought that was good. The hydrangeas were $25. and that is the same price I saw at local nurseries.

Where is the New Hampshire Nursery? I am about an hour away from the New Hampshire border at the coast. Probably 30 minutes from Nashua. When you osay you ordered 100s last year..hundreds of what?? LOL


    Bookmark   April 20, 2005 at 9:39PM
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jillmcm(z6 PA)

I am giving Musser Forests a try this year - check them out on the web - my jaw hit the floor when I saw how cheap their trees were after paying through the nose at local native plant sales, etc. (I still spend oodles at these every year - gotta support them - but when you want 20 gray dogwood, $20 a pop gets to be a bit much)

Vonyon - I will be ordering "100s" too - but about 5-10 each of at least a dozen things! I guess I figure I might as well get it over with and have everything maturing that much sooner.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2005 at 10:41PM
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chrsvic(z6 OH)


I think the New Hampshire Nursery referred to is the one run by the State Div of Forests and Lands, you may be too late to order from them this year. If you live close enough, you might want to see if they have leftover stock you can choose from. They have a good selection of wildlife attracting shrubs, so does Musser forests.

I've planted a ton of these seedlings this year, my only regret is not preparing the planting area in advance. I'm planting in sod, its kindof difficult to put soil back in the hole when its clumps of sod!

Here is a link that might be useful: new hampshire nursery

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 9:50AM
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Chrsvic, Do you have a planting bar? Look at Musser Forests. Someone here tipped me off to that last year and what a great find! With all the planting I did, it was the best money I spent last year. It is a bit like a shovel, but the bottom is more like a wedge with a foot bar that you can push down on it. It is heavy and you can just put in into the soil, step on it and pull it back and forth until you have a small wedge-shaped hole. Then you put the shrub in. You put the bar on the side of the hole to close it back up. You can just plunk them into the sod. Of course you can't mow around them easily, but I did this in the middle of a meadow and let everything grow up in between. I prepared a rather large border spot and have regretted it. It is a lot of work to keep up (weeding). I suppose if you are in a suburban area with a lot of pressure from neighbors, you may not have the luxury of letting the grass grow up in between them. Elaine suggested this last year. She said that she has done both and the ones plunked down in the grass did better because the animals (rabbits and deer) didn't find them.

Adam: The thing about Garden in the Woods is that each plant was $25 or so. If you need 100's, that is a lot of money. NH Nursery sends 10 for $10 or something (cheaper if you buy more. Of course, they are a fraction of the size, but they grow quick. I just have a huge border to fill, so the NH price appealed to me. Once I got them, I was doubly impressed by the size (I expected tiny like the ones I bought from the MA extension service years ago). Most were at least 8-12 inches tall with good roots and many were fairly broad. I bought a package of wild raisin and they were really downright big. I hope the stock is as good this year seeing as I have been raving about it all year! I also bought a lot from Cold Stream Farm. They were great to deal with and the prices were competitive, but NH plants were bigger by far. Sounds like you are close enough to pick up your stock from NH. They send it to the various counties drop off points and give you a date to go and get it. I have to go to Brentwood next Monday in fact. They will also ship, but being this close, I thought it would be better to do the pickup.

Jill: The buying season is over with NH Nursery. You can put your name on the list for next year. I will have to check out Mussers. Thanks for the reminder.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 8:56PM
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chrsvic(z6 OH)

Nope, don't have a planting bar or dibble bar. A friend of mine has one, in retrospect i probably should have borrowed one. I put the sod back in the holes, on the sides and upside down, and crumbled up loose dirt around the roots, and mulched.

I got my songbird order from New Hampshire nursery yesterday, i was impressed! They are good-sized plants. I went ahead and heeled them in. We have snow in our forecast this weekend, I'll have to bundle up to get them planted.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 9:13AM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)


Wow, you must have large properties to need that many shrubs and trees. I only have a small 1/4 acre. My shrub bed I am planning is about 90ft long and maybe 6-8ft wide in spots. I am going around one corner and across one side with a more narrow bed.

I am trying to be careful not to use too many large shrubs and dwarf my yard. I am already reconsidering the Viburnum Maresii that I bought that gets to be 10x12. I may exchange it for another smaller viburnum.

So I have the gray dogwood, and a lindera without a pollinator and a Winterthur without a pollinator, and a Sambucus, Cotoneaster dammeri 'Coral Beauty', which had a bird tag on it, Viburnum carlesii, and Amelanchier Regent.

I didn't do as well as I would like.

So what are all of you growing for the birds?


    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 6:55PM
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jillmcm(z6 PA)

I am lucky in having about an acre (much of which is currently covered in invasive exotics - that's not lucky). Shrubs/small trees purchased with birds in mind include -

Viburnum nudum
V. trilobum
V. dentatum
Clethra alnifolia (hummers)
Lindera benzoin
Sambucus canadensis
Amelanchier canadensis
Amelanchier stolonifera
Aronia melanocarpa
Aronia arbutifolia
Prunus virginiana
Prunus americana
Cornus sericea
Cornus racemosa
Cornus florida
Vaccinium spp.

I have bunches of other native shrubs that don't necessarily directly benefit birds, or that were purchased with butterflies in mind. And I have killed more huckleberries (Gaylussacia spp.) than I care to think about. I desperately want to grow them and they refuse to cooperate. Sigh.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 8:08PM
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Jill: I didn't have luck with huckleberries either. Aren't they native the west though? I just assumed maybe I don't have the right conditions. I never really looked into it much further. Is Prunus americana--American Plum? I just picked up my order today from NH Nursery and I ordered 10 of those. I'm not too sure what they are. I ordered all this back in January which seems like forever ago.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 9:22PM
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jillmcm(z6 PA)

Yep, P. americana is native plum thicket. Nice little shrub/tree/thicket. I want more! (they make a nice jam, too, if you're patient - weensy little fruits). There are some huckleberries native to the east - supposedly, if your blueberries thrive, huckleberries will too. Not the huckleberries I tried, though!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 10:20PM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)

I was looking at prunus maritima. Sounded like a very interesting shrub. I saw one at the nursery before leaves were on it and the shrub structure and bark color was very attractive. I have clay soil and I think I remember it requires sandy soil and I do not have a full sun location..maybe 5 hrs of sun max in any one location, so I passed on it. I still wish I could grow it.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 4:07PM
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