We have a chain link fence around the yard but you can not see most of it as I use it as a background for shrubs including the area surrounding the dog pen. The squirrels love to run along the bar at the top of the fence and tease Snoopy the Bichon who gets his exercise jumping at them. This spring (a weird one) most of the shrubs came into bloom about the same time and many of them much earlier than usual.  I have tried to edge the yard with trees or shrubs and leave the center for sun.  Since my yard has been registered as a “Wildlife Habitat” for over 30 years the shrubs I favor are the ones that best harbor bird nests.

          The largest shrub I have is “Harry Lauders Walking Stick” (Corylus contorta). It is in the front yard. It is also called “Corkscrew Hazel” and with its small bent and twisted limbs is a favorite of flower arrangers in their flower arrangements.  In winter this twisting shows up with no leaves to cover them. In spring numerous yellowish catkins hang down to make it more dramatic.  In summer the leaves make a very dense canopy. The twists are convenient for holding nests so I usually have a cardinal each spring.  Give it plenty of room. Mine is 12-15 feet high and just as wide. The Cardinals sneak in at the back but the nest is actually up front.

          The Chokeberry (Aronia brilliant) provides black berries as food for birds but they tend to ignore the bush until spring when food is scarce and then I see Robins dancing below and grabbing the berries. This plant is another “sucker former”. It bloomed early in April this year with white clusters to be followed by shiny black berries that last all winter. In the fall the leaves are a brilliant red.

          I saw my first Robin this spring on a Mock Orange bush (Philadelphis sp.) that had grown 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide and located in full sun.  I like to plant at least two of any kind of shrub to ensure pollination.  These two were a beauty with shiny white flowers that had 4 petals, and heavily scented. The birds defended their home and raised a family but did not return again. Later I planted 2 more in the dog pen to give them shade. But I had to put a cage around the stems to keep the dogs from digging their sleeping holes too close. I love the smell of the Mock Orange.

          Not so helpful for birds but a magnet for Butterflies is the Butterfly Bush (Buddleia sp). I read they are considered to be weeds in some areas of the United States as they seed quite easily but I don’t think this will be a problem in Nebraska.  They come in shades of lavender, bluish, black (actually a dark purple), and white. I do have a seedlings appear now and then in the yard but when young are easy to pull up. They may grow as tall as 10 to 15 feet and 8 feet across.  Usually I cut them to the ground in the fall.  Some growers say they do better if you wait until spring. Buddleia davidii is also known as summer Lilac and the most common species you will find in Nurseries and Garden Centers. For me the black one seems a little fragile as I have had to start it several times.  It isn’t unusual for me to see at least four different species of Butterflies feasting at the same time on my Butterfly bush.

          There is a Lilac Bush (Syringa sp.) available now that blooms several times during the summer. They are not supposed to get as big as our common French Lilac. It is called “Bloomerang” and this summer will be the third summer for mine. It is about 3 feet high and wide and as usual this spring has been in bloom (lavender) for some time.  It did bloom a good deal of the time last summer. Lilacs like full sun in humus rich, well drained, close  to being alkaline soil, which is a good deal of Lincoln, and Southeast and South central Nebraska. Mine generally reads 7.2 pH except where I have added sulphur to make it acid.

          A small shrub Deutzia gracilis “Nikko” will never be over 24 inches tall and same in width. It makes a very good edging in full sun with its dainty white flowers in spring.  It is one of the few that isn’t in bloom now and I will need some bloom for summer. Next fall it will have dark red leaves.  It looks lonesome where it is so I need to find about 2 more. I do try with small “things”, to have 3, 5, or 7 together so they look happy and not lonesome.

          A new one I just found that is still in its pot is “Hibiscus sino-syriacus, also known as “Rose of Sharon from China”. It will be 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide with single small 2 to 4 inch blooms after it gets a little older. They come in various colors and bloom later in the summer. I hope I have the blue one but I have already lost the label.

Copyright 2012