blossoms and birds
Bring the birds
into your garden with these winter flowering, berry producing plants.
Native plants in the
winter garden are fantastic, not just for tarting up a bare backyard,
but also for providing for the birds. The puka (Meryta sinclairii), for example,
is laden with berries at the moment and, although not quite ripe
yet, will be a great source of food for the birds in a month or
The titoki (Alectryon
excelcus) is also a favourite with our feathered friends, as
is the puriri (Vitex lucens). The puriri, which comes into
flower right through the year, should have some nice, plump berries
about now. It's a large tree 10m plus high and 5m wide
but if you've got the room, it's well worth it for its pink flowers
and red berries. It's excellent on coastal sites, but it does prefer a frost-free
spot. The tuis and wood pigeons really go for the flowers. In fact,
we've noticed tuis eating the flowers, quite apart from going for
For nectar-rich plants,
try the banksia. A wonderful family Australian native plants.
Banksias range from trees to ground covers, and this particular
species is a ground cover. It's a prostrate mat of grey-green leaves,
called Banksia gardneri. These inflorescences come up above
My preference, however, is the Banksia spinulosa.
The birds absolutely adore it. In fact, I was at a car park yesterday
where these were in flower, and the noise of the birds was deafening.
There's also a wide range
of South African plants such as the protea which obligingly flower at this time of year. They're
excellent for the coast, and they're pretty much the ultimate bird-attractant
plant. As proteas are coming into flower now, it's a great time
to see what new varieties are available. Choose something that's
really bushy, as they flower on the current season's wood
the flower head will come there.
There are some other
South African plants that are not so well known. This is Alberta
magna. Look at that stunning colour a real attraction
for the birds. If a plant has a bright-red flower, it's a plant
that's trying to attract birds.
The Alberta magna,
or Natal flame bush, grows best in areas with humid or moist
climates; it doesn't like dry heat or cold. It grows well in coastal
And this is the lion's tail. It's Leonotis leonurus
a stunning plant that grows 2.5m tall, sometimes
taller, and has bright, bright orange flowers. Also from South Africa,
it's a very erect, very stunning accent plant in the garden. Not too good in frosts, though. It can
get a bit messy looking, so quite a bit of pruning is needed to
keep it looking neat and tidy. ut it's worth the effort for that glorious
splash of colour.
Another plant that won't
do too well in frosts but grows well indoors is the strelitzia.
It's grown indoors in Wellington, for example. But the birds damage
the plant a bit, because the nectar is right down inside the flower.
Often birds, when they feed on flowers, really savage those flowers.
But the strelitzia is a good example of a really bird-attractant
plant. Lovely cut flower as well.
Then there are the magnificent aloes, which flower ferociously
at this time of year. They flower from the bottom up. You can see
why they were once in the lily family, if you look closely at that
flower. This one is called Aloe succotrina. The flower
spikes grow to about a metre high, and the birds love to have a
good feed on the nectar particularly early in the morning. Grow
this one in a sunny, well-drained spot.