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Landscaping for the birds in Brainerd Lakes Country?

When you think of attracting birds to your yard, what comes to mind is enticing these creatures with a variety of feeders and different kinds of seed. And, most experts will also recommend adding a source of water – such as a bird bath or pond. Did you know, however, that many landscape plants might be more important than feeders? Trees, shrubs and flowers provide not only food, but also shelter and nesting areas. Following are some of the landscape plants that have been used successfully in the Brainerd Lakes area to attract a variety of birds – from the tiny hummingbird to the gargantuan pileated woodpecker..

Many of the flowering crabapples do a great job of providing food for robins, waxwings and if you are lucky, evening grosbeaks or the white winged crossbill. Best of all they are very hardy, provide wonderful spring color with their blooms, as well as colorful fruit through the winter. Our two favorites are the Red Jade Crabapple (Malus ‘Red Jade’) and the Red Splendor Crabapple (Malus ‘Red Splendor’).

Another small tree or very large shrub that works wonders is the Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia). It does just fine in shady areas but the dark blue fruit doesn’t last long. We have frequently watched the frenzied competition between the catbirds and robins, and occasionally we might see a bluebird or woodpecker trying to get in on the action. It has a nice early season bloom and equally nice fall color.

The Shadblow Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) is another large dandy shrub or small tree that provides fruit that drives the birds crazy. Another benefit is that its leaves turn a magnificent scarlet to red in the fall.

The common Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is one of the easiest shrubs to grow. The fruit not only attracts robins and catbirds, but many more. Prepare to duck as the birds flock to this favorite. If you are planning to make elderberry wine you had better move fast as the competition will be extreme.

A small native tree in Minnesota that attracts over 30 species of birds is the Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana). It is easy to transplant to your yard as long as it is dormant, which means in the spring prior to leaf out or in the fall as the leaves have fallen.

Are you hoping to attract some of the numerous hummingbirds that frequent the Brainerd Lakes area during the late spring, summer and early fall? Here is a list of the perennials that has been used with great success. There are a number of Bee Balms that produce remarkable results. Brainerd area favorites include Gardenview Scarlet Bee Balm (Monarda ‘Gardenview Scarlet’) and Petite Wonder Bee Balm (Monarda ‘Petite Wonder’). Another hummingbird favorite is Elfin Pink Penstemon (Penstemon ‘Elfin Pink’). Believe it or not there is a hosta that attracts hummingbirds well, the Honeybells Hosta (Hosta ‘Honeybells’).

For a little variety try the climbing vine, Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle (Lonicera x brownie ‘Dropmore Scarlet’). It is one of the first plants to leaf out in the spring and blooms all summer. There is also an annual that when mass planted is a magnate for hummingbirds, Lady in Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea). It has a much finer bloom than most Salvias and a bonus is that it self-seeds quite well.

Coneflowers are excellent for attracting goldfinches and siskins in late October and November. You are likely to see dozens of goldfinches feeding on the seeds of the spent blooms. There are may varieties of coneflowers and they come in both purple and white colors. Think of including any of the following varieties in your Brainerd Lakes Country landscape to entice late fall feeding: Bright Star Coneflower (Echinacea ‘Bright Star’) and Kim’s Knee High Coneflower (Echinacea ‘Kim’s Knee High’).

Common sunflowers work wonders for attracting chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays, woodpeckers, goldfinches and pine siskins once the seed heads have matured. This sun loving annual is a natural for providing food for birds.

If you have Red Oaks (Acer rubrum) on your property be sure to protect them, as they are great for blue jays and woodpeckers because of their acorns. An added benefit is that they attract flying squirrels by night.

Plants for nesting and to provide cover and protection are equally important. Consider planting a mass of clavey’s Dwarf Honeysuckle (Lonicera x Clavey’s Dwarf). These will mature into bushy plants and can make a nice hedge. This will provide cover and protection for juncos, the white throated sparrow, cardinals, chipping sparrows and many others that feed on the ground.

Another great plant for cover is the Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea). These grow fairly quickly and are quite dense making perfect nesting areas for chipping sparrows and robins.

Resist the urge to cut down old and dying trees – especially oaks, quaking aspens and jack pines – as bugs burrow beneath the bark and provide great feeding opportunities for several species of birds. These old trees also provide nesting sites for birds (such as woodpeckers and nuthatches) that like to burrow into trees to carve out their nests.

Start slowly by adding a few plants and before you know it, your Brainerd Lakes Country home will become a backyard haven for birds of all shapes and sizes.

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