Bringing Birds to Your Garden

As we welcome the New Year, we also welcome our migratory feathered friends from the freezing north. Many bird species use South Florida as a stopover for their travels to warmer winter climates. Enjoy spotting bluejays, cardinals, or hummingbirds making their way through your garden. Jays, sparrows, and cardinals are "frugivores", eating fruits and seeds. Robins, warblers, and woodpeckers are primarily "insectivores", dining on insects. And hummingbirds are solely "nectivores", feeding on nectar. No matter the size of your home or office, any balcony, terrace, or yard can be an inviting retreat for our feathered travelers.

Planting Florida-native trees and shrubs can provide a primary food source. Natives provide fruit, seeds, insects and shelter. Adding trees like Pigeon Plum, Seagrape, or Gumbo Limbo is a great place to start. Shrub additions like Mulberry, Cocoplum, Wild Coffee, Wax Myrtle, Tetrazygia, Spicewood, Firebush, Beautyberry, Myrsine, and Necklace Pod provide seeds, nectar, and insects. Who would have thought that dead trees are the best source of insects? Instead of removing a dead tree, use it to hang orchids and bromeliads, while allowing insects to make a home. You may just turn a dead tree into the best bird restaurant ever. 

As for water sources, most people think of a conventional birdbath. While these do serve a function, the constant maintenance to provide a clean water source can make gardeners crazy. According to James A. Kushlan and Kirsten Hines (Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens), the best place for a water feature is on or in the ground. You can place any shallow vessel like a terracotta saucer, pie pan, or garbage-can lid; and you can add some stones to provide different water depths and fill with water. This can be done on the lawn, under shrubs, or on a patio. As birds are attracted to water movement, a solar-powered pump can assist. Water-moving gadgets, like a filtration bubbler, can be found at aquarium-supply stores. Moving water also prevents mosquitoes from laying their eggs.
Do birds sleep? Why, yes they do! Taller trees or larger shrubs provide shelter from the weather and allow the birds to rest safely. Their outer leaves provide a canopy of protection by camouflage while their open inner branching acts as a sleeping perch. Weeping Podocarpus, though not a Florida native, is one of many excellent birding trees.

Following these tips to provide food, water, and shelter will bring new flying additions to your garden and help our friends on their way to warm horizons!

  Plant of the Month  
Red Firespike (Odontonema strictum) and purple Firespike (Odontonema callistachyum) are covered in flower buds and are looking awesome this winter! They are one of the main nectar sources for butterflies and hummingbirds. These plants normally grow in an upright habit to about 5 or 6 feet, which makes them a good choice for small spaces. As a bonus, they bloom off-and-on throughout the year, and they bloom in shade and sun. They are a part of the "fire-trio" along with Firebush and Firecracker that attract hummingbirds. Firespikes need moderate water and are best in part shade during the hot summer months.

Florida Native Wildflowers  
Florida native wildflowers are beautiful, hardy, and make a wonderful addition to any landscape. In the wild, at this time of year, most of these colorful plants have bloomed and died back or are otherwise now at rest. However, the bounty of seeds they left behind during their last wildflower show is now starting to work its magic on forest floors, moist prairies, and beach dunes across the peninsula. Here in South Florida, wildflower seeds start to sprout in mid-winter, and so now is the time to sow them if you want to enjoy a symphony of color next spring, summer, and fall. We just stocked up on native wildflower seeds; the selection is diverse with a full spectrum of colors for both dry and moist conditions. Sow some seeds today; the butterflies, bees, and other native pollinators will love you for it!

New Items & Oldies But Goodies
SmartyPlants is re-stocked for the New Year with some of the oldies but goodies and with many new exciting and unique quality items. New arrivals include gorgeous fountains, colorful pots, unique statuary, musical wind chimes, and authentic Talavera pottery. We have increased our selection of fairies and accessories for our fairy gardens; and we have re-stocked our glass yard ornaments with flowers, glass bloom spikes, and colorful mushrooms. Come see for yourself; we look forward to your visit.

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