Birds and Plants
My wife and I have just finished a very busy weekend of hard work. On both Saturday and Sunday we spent all day at the Australian Plants Society autumn plant sale at the Wayville Showgrounds in Adelaide. We also plan to attend the spring plant sale and flower show on the 7th and 8th of October. We took several loads of plants to sell at this event, totalling over 1500 individual plants this time. These are grown in our Mallee Native Plants nursery.
My wife spends most of her time keeping an eye on her plants on the tables and assisting customers with their purchases. She also networks with other growers attending the sale. These growers are an excellent source if information and most are very willing to share their knowledge. At the same time my job is to assist at the Help Desk, usually situated near the entrance. Many customers come to the help desk asking for help with plant selection. I have my laptop there in front of me, my laser printer alongside and with a monitor facing the customers. We step them through a selection process, keying in their preferences and then print out a list of plants available at the sale which potentially meet their requirements.
One of the others at the Help Desk is Howard Harvey who has written the program called APS Query which we use during the sales. This program helps us narrow the search for plants. We key in the unique planting situation of the customer, such as whether they are planting in full sun, dappled shade or full shade, whether the plants need to be drought, frost, wind or lime tolerant, the Ph of the soil, the desired size (height, width) of the plants and many other fields to choose from. This narrows the search from some 1500 species available at the sale down to a manageable 20-50 species, which we then print out for them. Most customers then happily trot off with this list to the tables displaying the plants that are for sale. I find it very satisfying helpingpeople in this way.
Birds and Plants
What has this got to do with birds?
Many birds rely on plants for their food as well as for nesting and roosting sites. By careful plant selection we can encourage our native Australian birds to become and remain resident in our gardens. The result can be most satisfying. The colour of the flowers is augmented by the activity of the birds. They not only add their own colour, their movements flitting from flower to flower and from bush to bush adds much in the way of interest. A garden without birds is sterile and uninteresting – to me anyway.
Bird Attracting Plants
This is a huge topic. I will mention only a few of the types of plants we find work in our garden and district. I have already written (in other posts) about the delights of Correas, those beautifully coloured bell shaped flowers that will light up any garden with colour and which are so irresistable to our honeyeaters here in Australia.
The eremophila species (commonly called ‘Emu bushes’) are another attractive species for birds in our gardens. Their curved tubular flowers are nectar treasure troves to our honeyeaters. They come in such a wide range of colours too. Callistemons (or ‘Bottle-brushes’) are plants that can be covered in flowers – and simply filled with honeyeaters getting drunk on the nectar. A flowering bottle-brush plant can aslo be noisy with the screeching of lorikeets or the squabbling of honeyeaters.
Eucalypts (‘gum trees’) offer much for the birds of Australia too. When in flower the honeyeaters, lorikeets and other parrots swarm all over them. The tiny pardalotes have a smorgasbord of insects such as lerp to feast on. Sittellas, shrike-tits, tree-creepers, babblers and currawongs search for insects, beetles and spiders lurking under the bark. Robins and Flycatchers use the branches to sit quietly, watching for passing insects to fly by. Gum trees provide many opportunities for nesting and roosting sites. Older trees provide hollows for nesting parrots, owls, frogmouths and pardalotes.
As I said, this is a vast topic. I have mentioned only four genera of plants. There would be few, if any, Australian native plants that are not used in some way by our birds. Some species show a decided preference for some plant species, but most birds use our plants in a variety of ways.