Growing for the Birds

The presence of birds in the garden is a share benefit to both bird and plant: birds enjoy the shelter and seed that the garden provide, while eating many of the insects that can harm the plants.

We feed the birds in the winter to keep an active population of birds close at hand throughout the year. Whenever possible, I try to select plants that are of some attraction to birds, either as a perennial or annual.

Sunflower seeds are a favourite food of almost a birds, and the easiest to grow are the giant varieties. Early Russian and Giganteus annual sunflowers stand up to PEI winds and reward us with huge 12 inch diameter flowers loaded with seeds. You can tell when the seed is ready for harvesting because the blue jays will hang upside down to have their lunch. Sunflowers are ready to harvest once their petals have faded. Simply cut off the the flower heads and store in a cool dry place until needed in the winter. The seeds can be harvested by rubbing them with your hand or else you can place the intact sunflower head outside and the watch the antics that follow!

Annual millet is another favourite of juncos and doves, which devour it on the ground. The variety called Purple Majesty is one of the best, not only being decorative but also supplying lots of bird food. Reaching heights up to 6 feet, this purpled leafed beauty is a perfect partner for sunflowers or makes a stunning focal point in a container. It also makes a wonderful back drop to purple coneflowers (Echinacea).

Coneflowers of any type are a favourite of finches and chickadees. These perennials are easy to grow in full sun, gradually increasing in size each year but never invasive. We don’t cut ours back when cleaning up in the fall, as the seedheads are reaching their ripest just before winter. Nothing is more delightful than watching a black-capped chickadee eat its’ lunch from a snow capped coneflower.

These native yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) are excellent finch food.

Two other perennials that the birds will flock to are the Brown-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia varieties) and Blue Globe Thistle (Echinops sp). Rudbeckias come in a variety of shapes and sizes while the globe thistle adds a beautiful silver/blue colour with great architictural interest. Both grow easily in full sun and require little water or maintenance.

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Kool Breeze Farms proudly carries these plants and many, many more. Ask our knowledgable staff for help in all of your gardening questions.