Using Native Plants for a Bird Friendly Habitat
Photo By Barbara Driscoll
Why natives? Our local vegetation evolved with insects, birds, and other animals to create complex food webs. Wildlife consumes fruits, nuts, and seeds for sustenance, while helping to propagate the regional vegetation. Native plants, especially some tree species like oaks, are also host to a large variety of insects, which in turn are eaten by birds and other animals. Young nestlings, in particular, must consume large numbers of insects in their first weeks of life.
Non-native vegetation can provide some fruits, nuts, and seeds, but it does not host the insects that are vital to birds and the web of life. As their seeds are spread by wildlife, many non-native plants become “invasive” by out-competing local vegetation and disrupting the local ecology.
New Hope Audubon recommended native plants for the Piedmont
Plants native to our area are adapted to the soil and climate conditions of the area. However, it is important to pick the right native plants for the variety of micro-climates on your property. Our recommended native plants lists for the Piedmont tell you the sun, water, and soil requirements of each plant. All the plants on our lists are chosen to have benefit to wildlife, and specific information about that benefit is listed for each plant species. Also, try to choose plants that bloom at different times of the growing season to support pollinators. You are encouraged to look-up each plant that you find of interest on the lists below on the North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox for much more detailed information on growing conditions, wildlife supported, and a host of other information like resistance to challenges like deer, drought, flooding, etc.
Doug Tallamy has developed the concept of keystone species to describe the native plant genera that support the most caterpillars and thus are one of the best food sources for baby birds. The Keystone Plants spreadsheet takes all of the larval host plants from the plant lists above and then rank orders them from most caterpillars supported to least. Thus the “keystone” plants in each category are the ones at the top of each section. Tallamy writes, “Landscapes that do not contain one or more species from keystone genera will have failed food webs, even if the diversity of other plants is very high.” Thus you should consider choosing some keystone plants by reviewing the keystone spreadsheet and then you can look up detailed plant information using the two links provided in the above section.
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Other native plant lists and resources
- North Carolina Audubon: Bird-Friendly Native Plants
- National Audubon: National Audubon’s Plants for Birds program
- North Carolina Botanical Garden: Plant Resources for Gardeners
- NC State Extension Service: North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox and Wildlife Friendly Landscapes
New Hope Audubon recommended sources of native plants
These garden centers and nurseries:
1. Sell a good selection of our recommended plants for the Piedmont.
2. Have some method of identifying native plants to customers if they also sell plants not native to the Southeast.
3. Plants are not treated with neonics.
4. Sell no invasive plants that are on the NC Invasive Plant Council Shun list
|Country Farm and Home||retail||Pittsboro||chathamfarmsupply.com/|
|Deep Roots Natives||retail||Durham||deeprootsnatives.com/|
|Dirtbag Gardens (formerly Niche Gardens)||retail||Orange Co.||dirtbaggardens.com/|
|Dog Fennel Farms||retail by appointment||Orange Co.||www.dogfennelfarm.com/|
|Dutch Buffalo Farm||wholesale and retail||Pittsboro||www.dutchbuffalofarm.com/|
|Field to Cottage Nursery||retail by appointment||Raleigh||www.fieldtocottage.com/|
|Flowering Earth Natives||retail||Durham Farmer’s Market||durhamfarmersmarket.com/vendor/flowering-earth-natives/|
|Growing Wild Nursery||mail order & local pickup||Siler City||www.growingwildnursery.com/|
|Mellow Marsh Farms||wholesale and retail by arrangement||Siler City||mellowmarshfarm.com/|
|North Carolina Botanical Garden||retail||Chapel Hill||ncbg.unc.edu/|
|Rachel’s Native Plants||retail||Pittsboro||https://rachelsnativeplants.com/|
Recommended with conditions:
These garden centers have a selection of native plants but do not meet one or more of our conditions for being highly recommended. When shopping there you will need to do the following.
1. Use the New Hope Audubon recommended list of native plants to make sure it is a recommended native plant.
2. Ask whether plant has been treated with neonics and don’t buy it if it has or they can’t tell you.
3. Don’t buy any plants on the NC Invasive Plant Council Shun list
|Durham Garden Center||retail||Durham||www.durhamgardencenternc.com/|
|Fifth Season Gardening Company||retail||Carrboro||fifthseasongardening.com/|
For very detailed information on growing conditions, wildlife supported, and a host of other information, look-up each plant that is of interest to you on the North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.
Native plant landscapers
We often are asked if we know of landscapers who work primarily with native plants. The landscapers in the table below have indicated to us that they are knowledgeable about local native plants and strive to use native plants to the extent possible. They also have indicated familiarity with the invasive plants, and in several cases, can remove invasive plants from your property.
In finding a landscaper who best fits your needs, it will be best to ask for references, see examples of their work, and get estimates of cost. Be sure to let them know that you want to use native plants to the extent possible and refer them to our lists of native plants.
|Name||Website, email, phone||Brief list of services (if available, see website for more information)|
|Alan Johnson’s Landscape Services||www.alanjohnsonlandscapes.com
|Landscape design, building, and management of residential and public space landscapes. Installation of pollinator garden and stormwater management plantings. Identification of native plants and removal of invasive plants.|
|Ann Gayek Landscapes||www.anngayeklandscapes.com
|Landscape design, installation, and maintenance.|
|Ecological Landscaping||Greg Walker
|Landscape maintenance, design, and new installation.|
|Garden Environments||garden-environments.com/||Landscape design and installation with indigenous plants, hardscapes, water features, fences & walls, and outdoor living areas.|
|Piedmont Environmental Landscape and Design||www.piedmont-environmental.com
|Cultivation and management of plants and landscapes; landscape design and landscape contracting; installing deer fences; invasive plant species removal|
|Preston Montague Studio||www.prestonmontague.com/
|Landscape architecture specializing in ecological planting design for pollinator gardens, green infrastructure, and climate-resilient landscapes. Also natural resources inventory, master planning, woodland restoration, and education/outreach.|
|Reconnect Landscapes||www.reconnectlandscapes.com/||Landscape design, consultation, and installation of smaller projects. Specializing in ecological planting design: bird habitat, pollinator gardens, rain gardens, naturalistic style.|
|Transformative Gardens||Email: [email protected]||Transformative Gardens is about using native plants and making meaningful differences. Services include: consultation, design, and installation.|
|Wild Earth Landscaping||Email: [email protected]
|Maintenance of native gardens dealing with most weeds by hand-pulling; installation, amendment and mulching of new planting beds; pruning; leaf removal; removal of invasive plant species.|
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