January 29, 2011

Native Plants for Native Birds

I bought Native Plants for Native Birds: A Guide to Planting for Birds in and Around Ithaca, New York for Angelika's birthday last year, and we've been reading it happily and repeatedly ever since. It's a collection of articles by Joel Baines from the Cayuga Bird Club newsletter, supplemented with photos by David Ruppert and a foreword by Dryden resident Steve Kress.

It's not your average collection of articles, though. Each piece looks at a native plant, or family of native plants, how it fits into the landscape, and what it does for birds. I've found that gardening information is painfully region-specific, especially when it comes to interactions among plants, animals, and soil, and finding something this local is frankly amazing. I suspect that someone in a similar region might also find it useful, but the local references make it a lot easier to see how the plants work and even find some of them for a look.

It starts with perennials and grasses, moves through vines and groundcovers, shrubs, small trees, and finally large trees, with a brief section on the invasives. You could use it reasonably well as an identification guide as well as a planting guide - it's certainly helped me figure out some of the invasives. Summary tables at the end of each section list species by light and water requirements, and indicate deer resistance as well.

As a collection of articles, it doesn't set out to be a complete guide to every native plant you might conceivably find. For that, something like Native Plants of the Northeast is probably a better idea. To see more of how these plants sustain birds and why they matter, you might also explore Bringing Nature Home, and to get a sense of what in New York State is having a hard time surviving, there's also the Landowner's Guide to State-Protected Plants of Forest in New York State.

My biggest "finds" in the book? Northern spicebush, which feeds birds while keeping deer less enthusiastic, and mapleleaf viburnum as a plant that can deal with dry shade.

I suspect everyone will find something here. Whether you're pondering landscaping and ecosystems on a large scale or a tiny one, consulting this book should help you create a more exciting Dryden for everyone.

Posted by simon at January 29, 2011 7:10 AM in
Note on photos