How I Bring Bees, Butterflies, and Birds to My Garden
Today I’ll share a few pictures of the sunny island bed I planted to attract bees, butterflies, and birds. It’s shaped like a raindrop and a constant work in progress. Some plants perish during harsh winters or wilt from aggressive moles burrowing holes around roots. But the line of a tree and shrubs forming its backbone has mostly held over the years.
At the Tip, a Much Loved Tree
At the top of the island bed, I originally planted a purple albizia. I love this tropical looking tree with its narrow divided leaves and feathery flowers. But after one winter, the tree got verticillium wilt and promptly died. Unable to plant other trees susceptible to that disease, I went in a different direction. I’d grown an Oklahoma Redbud at my old house and so thought I’d try it here. It worked out great! This tree not only puts out magenta blooms in spring but then grows roundish glossy leaves. Its form is a lollipop and its drought tolerant. I love love love this tree.
A Spine of Shrubs
Forming the backbone of this garden is a line of shrubs. Mexican mock orange ‘Aztec Pearl’ leads into rosa glauca, which bumps up against an old rhododendron that I’ve drastically cut back, adjacent to a purple smokebush, lilac, and azara. At the bottom is a cutleaf staghorn sumac. This combo provides spring blooms, fragrance, evergreen structure, and pretty fall color. Not to mention pollinators love them all.
Playing with Perennials
Along this central hump of shrubs, a mix of small shrubs and perennials grow. I’ve chosen escallonia, spiraea, buddleia, weigela, and shrub roses. Plants with tubular flowers attract hummingbirds. Plants with flat head flowers attract butterflies. Tucked into these are geum, sedums, beebalm, phlox, crocosmia, alstroemeria, and lupines. I’ve rearranged things, removing sick plants and adding in replacements over the years. But overall, this full sun bed thrives with the activity of bees and butterflies all summer long.
The Bottom Is For Birds
The lower part of the bed is tricky. It’s near the house and therefore shaded by it in winter. This area is colder and freezes for several days at a time. I think of it as a zone 7 area now. I’ve learned the hard way that I need perennials hardy to zero degrees or even below. Thus, I’ve planted variegated miscanthus, peonies, salvia ‘May Night,’ lupines, hydrangea, and Jackman’s Blue rue. Because I grew tomatoes here for a few years when we first moved in and moles burrowed all around and the winter is extra harsh in this pocket, this area is the newest, least established area of the garden.
At its center is a birdbath that bubbles. This is a wonderful attractant for various species of birds who come and bath from time to time. A circular bed held mint and herbs until a few years ago when I renovated it and planted perennials. Now, the birdbath is on its last legs, its top spout having cracked from ice and black facade faded from the weather. Here’s a picture of the area when it was fresh.
A Walkway in Shade
I have a narrow stone path cutting through along the house in mostly shade. For this little strip, I’ve chosen hosta ‘June,’ brunnera ‘Jack Frost,’ various hellebores, ferns, and mukdenia. It forms a semi-evergreen collection of varying shapes, heights, and color. Interspersed is Irish moss, whose yellow tone brightens things up and a topdressing of bark mulch keeps unwanted moss at bay.
If you’re in the Seattle area and would like to talk plants or see the garden, give me a shout. I’ll be working away most of the summer.