Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Best way to attract birds to your yard!

Northern Cardinal perching on an Aronia shrub
What can you do to get birds to visit your yard and garden?  Plant trees and shrubs!  Specifically, evergreen trees and fruit-bearing shrubs.

Bird feeders and bird baths attract birds, but you'll have fewer birds without trees and shrubs for birds to perch, rest and hide from predators.

This makes sense when you think about it. And recent research showed that yards with more evergreen trees and fruit-bearing shrubs had more native bird species.  

Researchers studied 25 sites near Chicago to record bird and plant species,  and they surveyed over 900 residents about plants types in their yard and whether or not they bird feeders.  The researchers found little connection between the number of bird feeders and the number of bird species present.  But, those yards with evergreen trees and fruit-bearing shrubs had a much higher number of bird species.

Northern Cardinal resting in a Western Cedar tree.

We've found that feeders placed near evergreen trees and shrubs attract a lot more birds than feeders in more open areas.  They feel safer and can quickly escape from predators like hawks.  And they have places to perch and scope out the area before they visit the feeder.

Northern Cardinals at a busy bird feeder near a Cedar Tree.

Evergreen trees also offer shelter from the weather.  When it's cold and windy, the birds will perch in the evergreens where it's sheltered from the wind. 

Bluejay perching on a snow-covered Cedar branch.

The variety of birds in our gardens really increased when we planted fruit-bearing shrubs.  The flowers in the spring bring in insects that the birds eat. And the fruits attract all kinds of birds that would never visit a seed feeder, such as Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwings eating Winterberry fruit.

Conifers also add alot of interest in the winter when there's little color in the garden. And their vertical structure provides focal points and frames your garden.

A variety of evergreen trees and shrubs add interest to the winter garden.

Fruiting shrubs are beautiful in bloom and often the fruit can be shared with the birds, if you can get to it before they do!

Cedar Waxwings eating Amelanchier (Juneberry) fruit.

Both conifers and fruiting shrubs also offer nesting and roosting places for birds.  You may see more bird species during spring and fall migration that will rest in your garden during the migratory season. 

So, if you've put out bird feeders into an open backyard and haven't had many birds visit, it may be time to plant some evergreens and some fruit-bearing shrubs!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How to Prevent Birds from Crashing Into Your Windows

Thump. We've all heard that sickening sound when a bird hits a window. It's so sad! Even if a bird flies away, it's usually injured and will die.

Birds don't "see" glass, especially if it's reflecting the surrounding landscape, which is usually does. Some birds, will "attack" their reflection in the window during breeding season. Cardinals are especially known for doing this.

If you think about how a bird flies through narrow branches in a tree, it's easier to understand how they just need to "see" a narrow opening to fly through. So a window is just a reflection of their world. As an example, look at this photo of a swallow flying through a narrow opening:

Barn swallow flying through a narrow opening

Bird-window collisions have a huge impact on bird populations. Scientists estimate that a bird hits a window every 9 seconds! That means an estimated 1 billion birds die annually from striking windows.

How can we prevent birds from crashing into our windows?

What we've tried that didn't work:

  • Placing a hawk silhouette in the middle of the window. Birds got used to the predator silhouette and hit areas around the hanging silhouette.  Here's an image of a hawk silhouette:
  • Sticky decals spaced far apart on a window. Birds hit the areas not covered by the decal. We didn't place the decals close enough.  Here's what FLAP, a bird advocacy group, recommends for placing decals effectively:
  • Examples of how best to apply window decals. Source: FLAP
    Examples of how best to apply window decals. Source: FLAP

  • Window screens that are part of the window. Birds still hit the screen and then the hard window right behind it.

What we've tried that did work, but isn't the best for our windows or us:

  • Hanging reflective "scare" tape in long strips on the window frame. It works great! I used adhesive tape to attach the top of the strip to the window frame so the tape would move around in the breeze. But the tape left a sticky residue on the frame -- oops. And the flashing reflected back inside our house. The wind often blew the tape off the window frame. It was messy. But, it kept the birds from crashing into the window.
    Scare tape

    What we're trying this year:

    • Scare tape attached to suction cup hooks. Scare tape worked well, but attaching it with adhesive tape wasn't a good idea. I'll try the suction cup hooks instead. Scare tape comes in different widths and can be purchased on Amazon. Suction cup hooks can also be purchased on Amazon.
    • String wind curtain. This is just a row of thick string spaced every 6 inches and placed on the outside of the window. You can make your own or buy them at Bird Savers. I'll be using removable hooks attached to my window frames to hang the string curtain. You can buy suction cups with hooks also that attach right to the window.
    Bird Savers string wind curtain.  From Acopia Bird Savers
    Bird Savers string wind curtain. Source: Acopia Bird Savers

    Bird Savers string wind curtain.  From Acopia Bird Savers
    Bird Savers string wind curtain. Source: Acopia Bird Savers

    • Feather guards: This is such a simple idea. Attach feathers to fish line and hang them on windows. Apparently, the feathers trigger a danger response in birds. It also breaks up the window opening and it adds movement to scare away the birds. But, like all deterents, they have to be spaced no further apart then 6 inches. You can purchase feather guards on Amazon, or make them yourself. Here's a video on how to make them - note that we'd place these 6-inches apart, not 16 inches:

    Other methods from ornithology experts:

    Scientists that study backyard birds have researched methods for preventing window collisions. Here's a list of what they recommend.
    • Bird tape. The American Bird Conservancy recommends applying a special tape to your windows to break up the reflection. It can be purchased on ABC's Web site.
    • Bird screen and netting. Screens or netting placed at least 2 inches from the window keeps birds from hitting the hard glass. Birds will still hit the screen, but apparently, most survive that unharmed. It's been 100% effective at preventing window collision deaths at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Here's a photo from their Web site showing the bird netting covering a window: 
    Bird netting covering a window at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Source Cornell Lab of Ornithology
    Bird netting covering a window at
    Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
    Source Cornell Lab of Ornithology

    • Artistic window film. FLAP, a bird advocacy group, recommends this along with many other methods for preventing bird window collisions. Be sure to visit the FLAP Web site for more info. There's also a window film called "Collide Escape" that's available on Amazon
    Artistic window film. Source: ABC
    • Soap. Yes, soap. Take a bar of soap and make squiggly lines 6-inches apart on the outside of your windows. It works, but looks pretty funny. Eventually, it will wash off. The American Bird Conservancy has a flyer with information on how to apply the soap.

    What works for you?

    Have you found a method to keep birds from crashing into your window? If so, please share it with us!

    Sunday, March 9, 2014

    Tough Winter? No Problem! Hardy Roses for Your Garden!

    What a tough winter we've had this year! It's one for the record books for cold and snow.

    Are you worried about your plants and how they've survived this cold winter?

    We're not worried about our roses! For the past 25 years, we've grown lots of roses in our gardens in Wisconsin and know which ones will survive our tough winters year after year.

    We grow three different "classes" or types of hardy roses: Climbing, Rugosa and Shrub. Here's a quick list of our favorites from each class.

    Climbing Roses

    The hardiest of all Climbing roses is William Baffin. Its canes survive -50 degrees (Zone 2)! It has vigorous growth with canes up to 10-feet tall or more. You can attach it to a trellis, post or arbor for a spectacular show of blossoms. It has rigid canes, so it's also great for hedges. We sell a lot of these for hedges and our customers love it.

    William Baffin - deep pink, semi-double blossoms; grow up to 10-feet tall with long, rigid canes. It blooms profusely in mid June to early/mid July, with clusters of up to 30 blossoms.

    William Baffin rose blossoms

    A hedge of William Baffin roses

    We also offer other winter-hardy climbing roses, including John Cabot, John Davis and Henry Kelsey. They were developed in Canada and are named after Canadian explorers. They are beautiful in bloom and easy to grow. Try one for your garden!

    Rugosa Roses

    Rugosa roses are the most winter hardy of all the roses we grow. Most are hardy to Zone 3 or colder. They're also beautiful, fragrant and bloom all summer! They come in a wide range of colors from white to mauve. The blossoms can be single (5-petaled) or double (multi-petaled).

    Most Rugosa roses also produce fruit called "rose hips" after they bloom. The blossoms are great for pollinating insects and you'll see lots of bumblebees on the blossoms. They're easily pruned to shape and also are great for hedges!

    Here are three of our favorites that show the variety of blossom color, form and plant size in the Rugosa roses.

    Belle Poitevine - pink, fragrant, double blossoms; grows up to 4-feet tall with a mounded shape. A beautiful rose with large, semi-double, medium-pink blossoms. The blooms are extremely fragrant and produced in flushes from early summer until frost.

    Belle Poitevine Rugosa rose

    Charles Albanel - mauve (pink/red), fragrant, double blossoms; grows up to 2-feet tall with a mounded shape. A wonderful rose in the garden and never disappoints us! Its fragrant blossoms have a mauve-red color and appear in abundance and June and then repeat until frost.

    Charles Albanel Rugosa rose

    Fru Dagmar Hastrup - light pink, fragrant, single blossoms; grows up to 4-feet tall with a mounded shape. A lovely rose that's always a great addition to any garden. Blossoms are a light-pink color with delicate-looking petals that have a wonderful rose fragrance. It blooms all summer, with large, colorful rose hips following the blossoms.

    Fru Dagmar Rugosa rose blossoms

    Rugosa rose hips

    Shrub Roses

    Shrub roses are a very diverse group with colors from white to reds. Not all Shrub roses are winter hardy, though, so be careful to choose one that is hardy to your area (see the hardiness Zone map). We've grown alot of Shrub roses over the years. Here are two of our time-proven favorites for winter hardiness, healthy foliage and easy growth:

    Morden Blush - light pink, double blossoms; grow up to 2-feet tall. This rose has beautiful, light-pink buds that have a delicate hybrid-team form. It blooms continuously with large clusters of double, cream to light-pink, slightly fragrant blossoms that appear all summer and into fall.

    Morden Blush Shrub rose blossoms

    Sunrise Sunset - pink-yellow, semi-double blossoms; grows 2-3 feet tall. A lovely rose that's always in bloom from June to frost. Its blossoms are just beautiful -- the color is a blend of pinks with apricot yellow in the center.

    Sunrise Sunset Shrub rose blossoms

    Winter can be tough, but we have lots of roses that can handle tough winters and bring lots of beauty to your garden!  See our catalog of plants available to order now for spring delivery!

    Thursday, February 27, 2014

    Winter Birds Brighten the Winter Landscape

    Watching our backyard birds is one of the joys of our long, cold winters!

    Cardinals at the sunflower seeder

    Even though the landscape may look bleak in February, the birds add lots of color and life to our gardens.


    Birds flock to yards and gardens when they have what they need:  
    • shelter
    • food and 
    • water.  
    And we think that's the order of importance to birds, too.

    If you've put out food and water, but don't have a place for birds to perch or hide from predators or take shelter from the weather, then you may not have many birds visiting your feeders.

    The photo below shows food that we've scattered on the ground next to a large Spruce tree.  We watch the birds dart in and out of the tree to hide and to rest between feedings.  A mix of trees and shrubs is great for attracting birds -- especially if the shrubs also have fruit that the birds eat.  At least one conifer is great for offering shelter to birds in the winter.

    Bluejays stopping by for breakfast on a cold winter morning

    Water is really important for birds in the winter. We keep a small pond running all winter by placing a small heater in the bottom. This really brings in the birds!

    Water brings in the birds!  A Red-bellied Woodpecker shares the pond with a Cardinal and a Goldfinch

    After shelter and water, food obviously brings in the birds. Here's a mixed flock eating sunflower seeds:

    Bluejays, Cardinals, Juncos and a squirrel share sunflower seeds at a feeder in winter.

    A mix of food helps to attract a variety of birds.  Black-oil sunflower seeds will bring in the most seed-eating birds.  Goldfinches and Juncos really like thistle seed.  And Woodpeckers can't resist suet!

    A Redbellied Woodpecker shares a feeder with a Bluejay

    Watching your birds will teach you alot about their behavior. Some are aggressive, some are meek. Some are almost tame and will let you approach if they're used to you.  Bluejays may be bullies, but they also warn other birds about any dangers with their alarm calls.

    A Nuthatch and a Goldfinch

    The winter makes great opportunities to watch our birds and to take some pretty photos of them in the snow.

    Bluejay in snow

    Cardinal in the snow

    If you enjoy watching your backyard birds and would like to learn more, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Backyard Bird Web site.  They have information on all of our backyard birds, and you can sign up to participate in Citizen Science project to help learn more about our birds to help protect them.

    Be sure to visit our Web site to learn more about Plants for Birds that we offer. These plants are great for attracting fruit-eating birds like Orioles, Cedar Waxwings and a variety of other birds.

    A beautiful male Cardinal in winter.

    A cute little Junco

    Sunday, January 12, 2014

    New Plants Offered for 2014!

    We're excited about the new plants that we're offering this year!  We're always looking for new, hardy, easy-to-grow plants that are great additions to your garden.

    Here's a quick list with photos of the new plants available this year.  All of these plants are available to order on our Web site at


    Head Over Heels - a newer Shrub rose with clusters of light-pink blossoms that cover the plant most of the summer.

    Head Over Heels Shrub Rose

    Navy Lady - rich, dark-red velvet blossoms. It blooms profusely in the early summer and repeat blooms until frost.

    Navy Lady Shrub Rose

    Flowering Shrubs - Plants for Birds

    Aronia m. 'Viking' - A fantastic shrub with beautiful white flowers in the spring, followed by edible dark-blue/black fruit.

    Aronia m. 'Viking' 

    Ilex verticillata 'Wildfire' Winterberry - offers multi-season interest in the garden with tiny white flowers in the spring, dark-freen foliage, and abundant bright-red fruit in the fall.

    Wildfire Winterberry

    Philadelphus 'Snow White' Mockorange - this plant all the great traits of a mockorange, but in a compact size. And it blooms more than once! The beautiful white flowers are incredibly fragrant.

    'Snow White' Mockorange

    Prunus tomentosa 'Nanking Cherry' - the easiest cherry to grow in northern climates!

    Nanking Cherry

    Rhus typhina Staghorn Sumac - adds four seasons of interest to your garden.

    Staghorn Sumac in the Fall

    Salix discolor Pussy Willow - A classic pussy willow with soft, silvery catkins that emerge on the branches when the weather starts to warm in early spring.

    Pussy Willow

    Tree Peonies

    High Noon Tree Peony - beautiful, very large, bright-yellow blossoms with ruffled, satin-like petals.

    High Noon Tree Peony

    Renkaku Tree Peony -large, white, fully double blossoms that cover this plant when in full bloom.

    Renkaku Tree Peony


    Kintzley's Ghost' Honeysuckle Vine - showy, yellow, tubular flowers that cover the vine in June. The flowers are held above by silvery grey bracts that look like Eucalyptus leaves.

    Kintzley's Ghost Honeysuckle Vine