The following are excerpts from a series of posts about what to plant to attract birds into your garden or neighbourhood. This page will get updated as I write about each new tree or plant. If you want to read the whole post, just click on the highlighted link.
From Trees are Restaurants – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/trees-are-restaurants/
Marrickville LGA has quite a lot of wildlife for an inner city urban area, especially with the Cooks River, the Tempe Reserve & Wetlands & some of our major parks. The presence of nearby Girraween Park at Wolli Creek helps our urban wildlife enormously. However, when we first moved into our home 15 years ago there weren’t many birds in our immediate neighbourhood. There were some of course, but we were not as aware of them as we were in our previous home. They were mostly Pied Currawongs in winter, Common Mynas all year round & a couple of Turtle Doves as well. Over the years this has changed significantly. Now birds feature strongly in our neighbourhood. So what happened to bring the birds here?
The neighbourhood around us changed in that many new people moved in & they did 3 things. They removed the cement from their garden, reduced the size of their lawn or did away with it altogether & they planted trees & shrubs, many of them Natives.
If you want to attract birds into your garden & neighbourhood, all you need to do is plant a variety of bird-attracting Australian native plants & provide a source of water. The water is best placed near other plants as this gives the birds a sense of safety. They will use a birdbath in the middle of a lawn, but if there is another in a better location, they will use that one first.
Our birdbath needs filling often & sometimes daily during hot weather. A wide range of birds use it to drink & bathe at many times during the day. Sometimes there is a line up. The larger birds go first with the smaller birds in surrounding trees watching & waiting for them to finish. At night, much to my delight, the bats use it. I haven’t managed to see them yet, but I hear the “woop, woop, woop “as they take off vertically.
If you can, plan to plant a range of plants of different heights & thicknesses. Some birds love to go into small shrubs & eat the nectar from flowers & insects while hidden from sight. Others are not afraid to sip nectar from flowers high up & in open view. A range of plants will ensure a variety of birds visit.
Native grasses offer a great source of food as well. I have seen them used in very creative ways by my neighbours. Most Australian Natives do not require much water once established & thrive in poor quality soil, though they do appreciate mulch & regular fertilizing with a Native fertilizer.
From Grevilleas are irresistible to nectar-eating birds -
There are about 360 varieties of Grevilleas. They range from ground covers to tallish trees. I’m no expert & others may say something different, but I think if you want birds into your garden quick smart, plant a Grevillea or 2 or 5. Grevilleas are fast growing, look lovely, respond well to pruning by producing more flowers so they can be kept neat if that is a concern. Many varieties flower for most of the year with peak periods in both winter & summer months.
The flowers of Grevilleas range from vibrant pinks, reds & oranges to subtle creams & yellows, so if you have a colour scheme in your garden, you can choose to suit. The flowers themselves can be as tiny as a finger nail or 10 cm or longer & most are long lasting. One Grevillea shrub or small tree can have a hundred or more flowers during the peak flowering period.
Because their roots are shallow they are not invasive to pipes, nor will they uplift cement or disturb kerbing. They do not like having their roots disturbed & if this happens, they are likely to drop dead on you. I have not been able to successfully transplant a Grevillea & would recommend you choose your site well. Because their roots are shallow, they appreciate a cover of mulch to protect their roots from drying out.
Smaller Grevilleas are excellent in troughs & roof gardens where there is not too much soil. They grow well in all sorts of soils, including sandy soils, but don’t like to be too wet. They prefer an acidic soil in full sun. They are a great plant for low water requirements.
There is only one small problem with Grevilleas that I am aware of. Some people find the foliage irritating & bare skin contact with them makes their skin itchy. This is something to take into consideration if you have small children. Basically, if you plant a Grevillea, the birds will come & this can only be a good thing.
From Red Flowering Gums – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/red-flowering-gums/
There are bright red, pink, even hot pink flowering species on offer. Some grow like my neighbour’s into a small shrub-like tree with thin trunks that grow from near the base. Others grow from 6, 10 & 15 metres & the descriptions say they are suitable for use as a street tree because they have a straight growing trunk & a controllable canopy that tends to grow into a round-shape.
So why would you plant one? I think there are many reasons: birds love these flowers. Before I planted our tree I moved the pot & the flowers spilled a considerable amount of sticky nectar on my hands. I think it would be considered good bush tucker because the nectar was sweet & would make a nice drink. Don’t suck the flowers before making sure there isn’t a bee inside because bees love them as well.
Red Flowering Gums were called Eucalyptus ficifolia until the 1990s when it was changed to Corymbia ficifolia. They flower from spring through summer. The flowers also range in size & can be as large as a 20 cent piece. Once the tree has finished flowering clusters of urn-shaped gum nuts remain. These are also good food for bigger birds. Plant specialists say it takes 7 years before the tree flowers, but ours did in its first year. Others say that the tree flowers in one part of its canopy & in another the following year. Many of the saplings we saw at the nursery had a flower or tow allowing you to make sure it is the colour you want. I suspect this early flowering is the result of grafting, but this is just a guess.
The flowers are exquisite & the cup of each flower is a beautiful strong yellow. The leaves are lance-shaped & can be quite long. They also change colour during autumn, though the tree doesn’t drop many leaves. The branches grow a lovely rusty-red colour adding more beauty to this tree. This tree appears to be ever changing throughout the seasons. It’s also a terrific shade tree & copes with heavy pruning.
There is a new variety called Mini Gum that grows 2 metres high & 2 metres wide. It too has showy fire engine red flowers that develop into gum nuts & often has a repeat flower in autumn. It would probably cope in a pot, as long as it doesn’t become water logged & is planted in a part sandy soil. Like many natives, this tree doesn’t particularly like wet, rich soils & thrives in infertile soil.
So, if you want a good bird-attracting flowering tree, which doesn’t make ‘widow-makers,’ give the Red Flowing Gum consideration. I doubt you will regret planting one.
From New Zealand Christmas tree - http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/new-zealand-christmas-tree/
Last week I found a tree in someone’s front garden that had me stopping the car once again & getting out for a closer look. It was a New Zealand Christmas tree (Metrosideros excelsus). It is also known as the Pohutukawa tree.
The tree was festooned with flowers with hundreds more yet to bloom. The Lorikeets were all over it, so this is a great tree if you like birds. Each flower is quite large at around 3 cms & like Red Flowering Gums, they grow in clusters at around 12 cms wide. The flowers are deep rich red. The tree flowers a number of times a year with the main flowering season from November to February.
The New Zealand Christmas tree is an evergreen tree that can reach a height of between 7 – 10 metres in ideal conditions with a dense canopy of up to 7-metres wide. The leaves are a dark grayish-green with white ‘hair’s’ underneath & are 3-5 cms long, just enough to hide a Lorikeet or 10.
It handles pruning & is disease, pest, wind & salt tolerant. It is also drought tolerant once established & grows well in coastal areas.
It would make an excellent street tree & a whole street with these trees in flower would look wonderful. All that red would be quite striking when the trees were in flower. The only downfall is that they can develop significant roots when mature, so it is definitely a case of plant it in the right place.
From The Tree Waratah is a stunner - http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/the-tree-waratah-is-a-stunner/
Its correct name is Alloxylon flammeum, but most people call it a Tree Waratah or Red Silky Oak. It comes from the Proteaceae family. Others in this family are Banksias & Grevilleas. It is native to the rainforest areas on Australia’s east coast, though it can be grown almost Australia-wide.
The Tree Waratah is a stunning tree to look at. It has thin erect branches & is slow growing which would make it attractive to many people. It has long dark green leaves that are also attractive. When it flowers in spring through summer it is covered in bright red flowers with each flower looking like a bunch in its own right. The flowers are bird-attracting which adds to its value as I believe as many trees as possible, especially street trees, should be providing food for urban wildlife.
In perfect conditions the Tree Waratah it will grow to between 8-10 metres with a canopy between 2-4 metres. It is not a large tree, making it suitable as a street tree. It can also be pruned to be a large shrub & would cope with pruning by power companies, as it would easily form a v-shape. If planted in the right place & because of its erect growth habit it could be allowed to grow into its natural shape & not have to be pruned.