For the Birds

By Sarasvati Ishaya

Last fall, TPNA invited a presentation from the New Hope Audubon Society about the “Leave Your Leaves” Campaign, advocating leaving fallen leaves in your yard as a way to reduce pollution from gas-fired blowers and to increase habitat for beneficial insects over the winter. 

I asked Barbara Driscoll, New Hope Audubon Society President, for more eco-friendly yard advice, and she suggested: 1) reducing the size of your lawn; you’ll have less mowing to do, and more worms, which the birds will thank you for! and 2) removing nandina, whose red berries are poisonous to birds.

I asked other local experts for more information about removing and replacing nandina.  Pana Jones, Master Gardener Coordinator at the Durham County Extension Office, suggested azalea as a good replacement for nandina. 

At a local garden center, I learned native rhododendron and blueberry are also good options.  They gave me a cutting of blueberry to try rooting, with the suggestion that a mixture of honey and cinnamon works would serve just as well as rooting hormone. I was excited to try this out, but then I learned that blueberries need (amended) acidic soil and that young blueberry plants are spindly, so not very decorative.  They are, however, great for birds because it is almost guaranteed that the birds will get the fruit before we humans will!

For now, I think the best way to go is to clip the berries off your nandina bushes and compost them. Then try planting native rhododendron or azalea to replace your nandina when you decide to dig it out. 

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