Ruth WalkerComment

Rehabbing a Small Area of Woods to Benefit the Birds and Small Creatures

Ruth WalkerComment
Rehabbing a Small Area of Woods to Benefit the Birds and Small Creatures

One of our neighbors, innocently I suspect, planted Lamium or Nancy as a groundcover in her yard. The problem is that in our wooded area this plant, which is a mat forming perennial groundcover, chokes out all the lovely spring ephemerals that I love and our birds and wildlife depend on.

Fortunately our new neighbors have given me permission to remove the plants from the area of their yard that abuts our property line. But, as I’ve learned in the study of invasive plants — I don’t take out invasives without putting in a replacement as open soil can be invaded once again.

Thanks to fellow gardener Ty Wessell, I’ve gotten a head start on putting in native plants that will enhance this wooded area into the winter. Ty shared his order of Michigan Holly or Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) with me and we are using some along our property line. Not only will this create some great color in the fall and winter but Winterberry provides food for robins, mockingbirds, bluebirds and cedar waxwings. Michigan State University Horticulture Educator Bob Bricault writes about the basics you need to know to plant Winterberry on your property.

Of course after scanning the internet for basic information on Winterberry I started thinking about the many ways it can be a replacement plant for alien plants like autumn olive, multiflora rose and oriental bittersweet. The next step was to search Doug Tallamy’s book, bringing nature home, for references to Winterberry. It’s one of the plants he recommends for those who want berries in their yard without diminishing the insect populations that birds depend on for adequate nutrition but he also warns that some cultivars may have berries that are too big for birds to eat. It’s another reminder that we need to be careful and cautious when purchasing additions to your landscape.

Probably the greatest lesson to take from any restoration effort is how easy it is to mess up what Mother Nature has created with plant purchases that focus on one result — in the case of groundcovers, easy maintenance — when we don’t pay attention to the downside of those potential actions. For anyone who wants to make their yard a showplace and benefit nature in the process, I urge you to read Tallamy’s book and start thinking about what changes you can make in your environment to benefit the natural world.

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