Home Page

Berries, blossoms and birds

Bring the birds into your garden with these winter flowering, berry producing plants.

Berries, blossoms and birds

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 two.

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. Berries, blossoms and birdsIt'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 the nectar.

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 that foliage.

Berries, blossoms and birdsMy 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.

Berries, blossoms and birds

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 areas.

Berries, blossoms and birdsAnd 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.

Berries, blossoms and birdsThen 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.


Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

More Garden Articles

Home | Journal | Newsletter | Conferences
Awards | Join RNZIH | RNZIH Directory | Links

© 2000–2022 Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture
Last updated: June 2, 2004