Dinner – for the Birds

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Southern gardeners have long been known for their generosity in making sure that our feathered friends have ample food during the winter months. Most yards have a trusty bird feeder that is kept full of birdseed. But, wouldn’t it be nice to have some supplemental and sustainable sources of food for our winter friends? A little planning and planting can make a huge impact on the supply of winter food for area birds. Not all birds migrate south for the winter and those that stick around appreciate the thoughtful addition of plants that can give them some much needed nourishment as well as shelter. Take a look at these plants and consider adding some to your landscape.

American Bittersweet, Celastrus scandens, not to be confused with the invasive oriental bittersweet is a great choice for both shelter and food for local birds. This large shrub offers orange berries and dense branches throughout the winter. But, be aware that one male plant is needed for every five female plants if berries are desired.

bright orange berries on american bittersweet shrub

American Bittersweet

American Cranberry viburnum, Viburnum trilobum is not only a great landscape shrub but also a wonderful source of winter nourishment with red berries that last throughout the winter.

bright red berries on American Cranberry shrub

American Cranberry

Arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis offers many cultivars of all sizes that will fit any landscape. Its small seeded cones offer winter feeding opportunities all winter.

row of arborvitae trees


Beautyberry, Callicarpa species is a winter favorite of both wildlife and gardeners with its brilliant clusters of fuchsia colored berries for not only winter color but also “winter dinner”. There are also white berried cultivars available.

purple berries on a beautyberry shrub


Blue Spruce , Picea pungens is a common choice for Burke County gardeners. Its beautiful blue winter tinge gives the winter landscape a pop of color while its dense needles and branches give shelter during the cold winter months as well as providing food from it seed-bearing cones.

blue spruce tree

Blue Spruce

Pyracantha, Pyracantha coccinea has long been used as both a landscape plant and a source of wildlife food with its bright orange or red berries lasting most of the winter.

bullfinch eating red berries of a pyracantha shrub


Serviceberry, Amalanchier species is a native tree that grows well in Burke County and is a great source of winter food with its bountiful crop of winter fruit.

purple berries on a serviceberry tree


Holly, Ilex cornuta with its multitude of cultivars is by far the most often planted source of winter food. Bright red berries abound throughout the winter and there is sure to be a holly that will fit into your winter landscape.

bright red berries on holly


Sumac, Rhus species offers both native and hybrid cultivars for winter consumption. Their spikes of bright red fruit are a very nutritious food source for winter wildlife.

dark red berries on sumac


Winterberry, Ilex verticillate, my personal favorite, is one of the most brilliant of all winter shrubs. Dropping its leaves at frost this shrub has never-ending clusters of red berries that stand out against the winter landscape.

bright red berries on winterberry shrub


As I see it, it’s a win-win scenario for everyone: The gardener gets some great landscape plants that give a free, winter-long supply of food and shelter to our winged wildlife. The landscape has nice winter color and the birds will come through the winter happy and healthy to live and sing for us in our gardens another day. A free concert!