The Niagara Falls Garden Magazine for GGW and GBBD

To read any page, click and they become very large.

To landscape in a way that attracts wildlife, think the obvious. Think like a BIRD! We all need the basics of life, but we all look for that most desirable too. Shelter, food, safety, and a good clean environment are all necessities for us and wildlife. I guess plants too, but when you are low on the food chain, that it a tough one.

Native birds need native plants and insects, just a simple fact. Many of our hybrids are suitable sources for their requirements, and sometimes just so yummy, they will pick them clean in one day’s time, like my Viburnum.  Others become winter staples in lean years, like my pear. Probably not the tastiest, but one used almost constantly through the winter. Insects and birds flock to the asters, coneflowers, Rudbeckia, and Monarda from Summer to Fall, but many are improved hybrids. Improved for gardeners with specific landscape needs, such as in my case, small urban gardening.

A healthy mix of natives and hybrids improved for garden use has been a real plus for those of use on tiny urban oasises. It allows us to experience nature without being overrun by plants hard to control in size and vigor.  Many call the plants in this garden true natives, but each one is a hybrid, but not all are so far removed from the native parent plant. Winter is a great time to access plants in the garden and cull those not doing a specific and preferred task. I love Tradescantia, but it is a thug and my roses say it has to go.

Insects are as important in the garden as the pretty birds, and are encouraged here as well. I especially like the little predators that eat aphids and slugs.

In early summer, the front garden is just starting to bloom. The plants will drown out the shrubs by Fall, and the boxwood and yews play second fiddle to the perennials and roses.

Winter comes along and things slow down to a restful pace, but the garden is anything but dull and uninviting. Many plants have died back naturally and retreat deep underground.

Others are leafless and naked, but with a touch of snow, new aesthetic life is brought to the garden.

The garden fills with chirps, song and chatter. A good garden satisfies all the senses. And it functions.

Some things are just out of the control of the gardener and designer.

One thing a garden does not ‘need’ is a water feature, but what garden is complete without it? It brings its own kind of joy in those that visit, those that find habitat, and those that contribute to a full realm of the senses. In winter, the ponds can be heated or be built deep enough to keep the wildlife healthy. This winter, think about adding a water feature. My garden had a small pond up to two-year ago, but now it has a small fountain in the same location and birds visit it often.

When winter chills, the birds and other creatures are tested. Many seek shelter and having conifers on your property is just the ticket. Summer nesting boxes help some species of birds as well.

All the winter images were taken around February 12th in my garden, even the ROBIN. The cold winter does have some casualties such as the robin, but it was in the garden feeding on the pear tree just prior to the snow. This post, having current images of the garden, is linked to May Dreams Gardens, Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and Seepferds Garten.

I am also linking this post to Think Like a Gardener at Gardening Gone Wild. The assignment was to picture the winter garden and tell a story with your camera.  I do have a post upcoming much more photographic in nature, but it is not ready for posting. This post for my monthly Niagara Falls Garden Magazine really does “think like a gardener” in the sense that the garden was designed with wildlife in mind.

The birds provide the winter pop of color in the restful winter landscape. Oh, the berries do too, but that is if they are not already picked clean by the critters, lol!

The winter garden is alive with life, just like in the other three seasons, and to me, that is what makes it successful. The garden is very structured in winter, yet loose and full of color in Summer, ‘a horse of a different color’, so to speak.

No pesticides or herbicides are used in this garden. Sure there are undesirables invading (like poison ivy in the bald cypress in the empty lot behind the garden), but the balance of beneficial insects are there for service in my garden. I am a Master Gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension, and all the useful tips and information comes from their archives and publications. This post cannot possibly show all that is done through the year, but winter is a great time to think about what to do next year.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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41 Responses to The Niagara Falls Garden Magazine for GGW and GBBD

  1. Joanne Hardison says:

    I LOVE your photos & just sent a link to this post to share with my aunt & uncle.
    I have been gardening for wildlife for about 6 years, and now work with school gardens to get them to plant natives on school grounds. Makes for a much more interesting campus for student observation. Starting on a new school’s garden greening this spring–so I better return to my work! Your photos are a very inspiring break.

  2. I love all birds puffed up to stay warm in the winter! The only downside is that they won’t appreciate me acting on the impulse to snuggle them. Gorgeous post. 🙂

  3. Perfect time to talk about gardening for birds with the Great Backyard Bird Count coming up Friday…great advice Donna…love the wonderful birds visiting your garden!

  4. debsgarden says:

    What a terrific post filled with terrific advice and beautiful photos! I always have wildlife in mind when I am gardening, and I have found that a habitat friendly to nature is a habitat humans will enjoy and benefit from too.

  5. elaine says:

    What an excellent post – it must have taken ages to put it all together – well done you.

  6. Barbie says:

    What a fabulous post and so informative – those birds, so cute especially my favourite of them all the cardinal.
    That squirrel is also looking to fill his tummy.

  7. Going Native says:

    Fantastic article. Beautiful photos. Are you a member of Wild Ones?

    • No, but I should be. Time is always a problem for me being involved in so many garden clubs, garden events and my full-time JOB. I enjoy nature and always look to do my best at recording and protecting. Just a little part, but still important.

  8. Spectacular photos! You caught birds out in the snow, which I think is an unusual photo.

  9. Patty says:

    Great photos and excellent ideas. As always a great magazine – I truly appreciate all the effort gone into the making of the magazines.

  10. A terrific post filled with tons of information, thanks for sharing. I love the magazine.

  11. Alistair says:

    It is an inspiration, I don’t know how you manage to keep your blog in such a manner especially whilst working full time. It becomes more and more important to feed the birds in our gardens given the modern farming methods. I love that humming bird, so exotic against the humble Monarda.

  12. John says:

    Incredible article with a ton of information, I can’t convey enough how much I enjoyed reading it. I’m bookmarking this and referencing back later for all the info. We’re planning next years garden and deciding which plants we want to add, trying to focus on native plants and keeping a special emphasis on birds and butterflies to make sure they see our garden as inviting. Thanks for the great ideas and (as always) amazing pictures.

  13. I love the cat on the fence looking guilty. I don’t think I could ever give up my favorite plants, but I am planting more and more natives. One of my favorites is echinacea…just unstoppable in the garden.

  14. b-a-g says:

    Donna – Thanks for these tips. I have the occasional robin in my garden, but the pigeons dominate. I wish I had little fluffy birds like yours, though I suppose I shouldn’t discriminate.

  15. What a fun, informative post, with lots of great tips. I had to laugh though. The “Tiny Gardening Issue”…with nuts that attract turkeys 😉 We don’t need to attract turkeys here, but I do enjoying planting new plants that have lots of wildlife value. I don’t feed the birds here, because in the woods, birdseed invariably attracts all sorts of unsavory rodents. Plants though, with their fruits and seeds, are much less problematic, and always appreciated by various creatures on the farm. I love planting things like bee balm in the herb garden because the bumbles, and hummers, go crazy for it, and sunflowers which seem to attract an assortment of visitors. We also build brush piles here (some of them not entirely on purpose), and it’s amazing who ends up moving in! As for cats, I couldn’t agree more. The birds are why we don’t have farm cats running loose here. We need one for the voles, but will have to depend on the resident bobcat for rodent control instead.

  16. sweetbay103 says:

    Wonderful article with beautiful photos! I love your front garden.

  17. HolleyGarden says:

    This is a great post! I think because we can run inside when it gets cold, we forget about all the life that is still in our gardens. Didn’t realize birds can lose up to 10 percent of their body weight on cold winter nights! Poor little things! No wonder they can eat so much at the feeders!

  18. andrea says:

    Hello Donna, i have always been telling you how i appreciate your photos and articles. Now i will tell you i love your composition and layout of the Niagara Magazine. I feel like i am really reading some glossy pages. And a few months ago, you said you are still learning to shoot birds, now you are just like those pros.

  19. Jess says:

    That does it, I don’t care, I’m growing ivy. I LOVE the way it looks on a wall. I’m sure I’ll regret it, but my neighbors ugly fence is going to get ivy’d.

  20. This is so thorough and wonderful, Donna! Don’t worry, my cats stay inside. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the sight of them in the window scares the birds away sometimes. Your photos took my breath away, as always!

  21. Kala says:

    Fantastic nature images. And as always, great commentary.

  22. Saxon says:

    Donna – Fine job on your post ! So many excellent photos. I would say you are thinking like a birder as much as a gardener. Really liked the photo of the snow-covered back yard and how you used the entire frame to show it all. My favorite photo of all was the birds coming to the feeder while it is snowing; I can really feel how thankful those birds must be…

    • Thank you very much for stopping in Saxon, and also for the nice comment on your site, GGW. I have a post I shot the images for that would be more in line with your assignment and will be posting it soon. It is of the gardens at a park, the nakedness of the trees, the light bouncing off the dead perennials, and the empty garden beds. Can you believe, Niagara Falls State Parks cordoned off the gardens for winter. Why???? I must find out.

      There really is quite a bit to consider when thinking like a photographer. As a designer, I am trained to think plants and structures, but a whole separate line of thinking comes into play when thinking like a photographer, while ‘thinking like a gardener’ at the same time.

      Lighting is very important in architecture and designs are designed around available and natural light. But light is photography, and it took a bit to equate the two disciplines and see the light as the camera sees it. And, I learned from your posts on filling the frame. That was a concept that eluded me previously, but once you pointed it out, I see it in magazines now, and try to translate that into my work. Thanks for all the teachings you provided all these years. I am one of your virtually adoring students. Keep the learning coming! I so wish I could take one of your classes.

  23. I love this post! Great tips and photos! What are the black birds on the suet cake? I don’t have those in my garden.

    • They are Starlings, not a bird people welcome to gardens generally. They are destructive, territorial and cavity dwellers, like inside chimneys and soffits. Other birds don’t seem to like them either. You can see no squirrels, woodpeckers or sparrows are at the suet while they are there.

  24. This post is so packed with information. I really don’t know how you have time to do everything you do. Although it seems like a no-brainer that native birds need native plants and insects to survive, many people do not understand this. Birds will only receive useful sustenance from plants with which they shared an evolutionary pathway, i.e., they evolved together. Birds will eat non-native berries etc., but receive little to no useful nutrition from them. Alien bush honeysuckle is a good example: eating these berries is the equivalent of living on Twinkies. I am so glad you mentioned twiggy native plants for protecting nests from predators. A major problem with non-natives like bush honeysuckle and barberry is that predators can see right up into the shrub and the nests are destroyed. Thanks for this great post.

  25. What a wonderful post Donna! So much information, so many cute beautiful birds.

  26. Indie says:

    Fantastic post/article! So informative, and I love the photos! The mischievous squirrel is so cute!

    Now what do you mean by putting clay pots in the pond for frogs? Do you put them on the bottom of the pond? Do you lay them on their side?

    • You can use clay tiles also. The recommendation was to lay the drain or roof tiles on their sides so frogs have a safe place to go during the winter. I included clay pots, for the same reason because most gardeners would not have access to drain and roof tiles.

  27. Christine says:

    I keep meaning to comment on the Cardinal photo that is on the bottom of all your pages (and catches my eye every time I visit). Well my whole family have admired and “ooohed & aaahed” about that photo. It is truly outstanding – I hope you enter that into a few photographic competitions. The detail on the wings and tail, the face, the way he looks straight at the camera … all just beautiful!

  28. Just beautiful. There are few better consumers for the garden than the wonderful birds with whom we share our space.

  29. lula says:

    It is so important to inform about how a system works and how the elements are so essential to one another. With knowledge, as in your post, in mind it should be easier to contribute to a better society and an indispensable task you do really well. I remember the “birds dance” image from another post I really enjoyed!

  30. Wonderful post Donna – it’s so rare for starlings to appear at my bird feeders.

  31. noelmoratano says:

    aloha donna,

    its amazing to see beautiful wildlife surviving harsh winters and helping them along is always so kind….love seeing the summer/winter variations.

  32. Julie Adolf says:

    Wow! What amazing photos! The information is incredible as well. Thank you so much for sharing!

  33. Donna, Your posts are fabulous every time. I love to visit and view in awe. Beautiful gardens, great info and amazing photos! Wow!!!

  34. Town Mouse says:

    Amazing! I’m so impressed by your magazine (and so agree about the cats, but try telling my neighbors…)

  35. I enjoyed reading your article. I learned some things I didn’t know in the section on other critters. I love your photos, too! We haven’t seen as many different kinds of birds this winter as usual.

  36. Malinda says:

    Donna – you’re amazing. I can’t imagine the time you put into compiling your photos and the information. Your post is truly inspirational. I’ve been more and more fascinated by birds the last few years and am looking forward to visiting some migratory spots to see the “traffic”. I’ve been reluctant to set up too much in our own garden – not only because of the cats – but also the Cooper’s Hawks and Owls. I know they need to eat too but I don’t want to make it too easy for them!

  37. So much BEAUTY, Donna!

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