Friday, August 19, 2011

It's for the birds!


Yes, I know that it's fun to watch a bird feeder. But maybe you'd like to plant a few California natives and watch the show from outside? Above, berries of Sambuccus mexicana (blue elderberry), a native multi-trunked tree that grows fast and produces lots of berries if in sunlight. It will grow in shade but doesn't produce much. I'm cutting mine back to the ground each fall because I don't have room for a full tree, but it's back to 12 feet by April. Sun or shade, dry or a little water.


Also stunning in late summer and fall is Rhamnus californica (Coffeeberry). Several cultivars are available in the trade so you can choose a smaller or larger shrub. While this plant loses a few leaves in summer, it is actually evergreen and offers a nice resting place for the eye wherever you put it. Mine doesn't get as many berries as above, maybe it's the lack of sunshine. Sun or shade, low to moderate water.


Not quite ready are the berries of Heteromeles arbutifolius (toyon), a taller shrub than most coffeeberries. But in fall, the red berries will attract birds and add some color to the garden. The 'Davis Gold' cultivar has bright yellow berries, I love the one I have in my front garden. Sun or part shade, dry or some water. I found that in the first year, my Toyon got all manner of leaf discoloration and other strange diseases, but after it got through that it became healthy and very unfussy.

Many other California native plants offer birds tasty treats. Maybe you'd like to plant a grape? Or watch the birds sit on the stems of Festuca californica and pick little bugs off. So sit down with a nice cup of tea and enjoy the show!

7 comments:

Terra said...

That berry tree sounds like a treat for the birds and I share your passion to plant what the birds like. I often plant for butterflies and hummingbirds and you should see the impenetrable blackberry patch we have, from volunteer berries.

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

I can believe you get loads of birds with that bounty of berries. I have a Viburnum that birds just love. They pick it clean as soon as they ripen.

Monika said...

First let me say that I love this blog. It's nice to have berries for the birds, but it didn't work for us --- we live close to an open space, and the berries were attractive for rats, too. But looking at your beautiful photos I am thinking that we should bring the berries back ....

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Our toyon and coffeeberry are really struggling. I think they have too much shade. Your look splendid, as do your elderberry.

Joe said...

The toyons and elderberries really are great plants for wildlife gardens! :) I have toyon in my yard, and I have an inkling to get an elderberry now.
Btw, Tmouse and Cmouse, I have launched my 'Natural California' blog. I hope you stop by!

healingmagichands said...

Around here, autumn olive, buck brush and wild grapes are very popular in the fall, mulberries in the late spring; poke and cherries mid-summer. All things that show up in my vegetable garden the following season where the robins and other fruit eaters perch on top of the posts I use to support the bean and cucumber trellises...

susan morrison said...

It's just getting to that time of year when I'm starting to look forward to a winter berry show. I didn't realize Elderberry fruited so early.