By January 21, they had all vanished. The holly that frames the view from my studio window stood completely naked of berries. It happened seemingly overnight. The
previous day I had noticed a rambunctious flock of robins in the front yard, their activity focused primarily on the larger holly tree further out. But now that tree, as well as all the other dozen or so hollies under my care, were picked absolutely clean. Apparently the berries had reached just the right moment of sumptuousness, and the feast was on.
Some years earlier, at my previous home, the bright magenta beautyberries outside my south window would linger for a long part of winter on the stem, weighing the branches down, then suddenly the whole crop would disappear almost instantly. Most years, a flock of birds would come in and clear the bush in an instant. But one year I saw a squirrel working that beautyberry for several days—whenever I looked out, there he was, scrambling and bobbing, sometimes upside down on branches that looked too thin to hold his weight, getting just close enough to snatch another precious fruit, then recoiling to munch, rolling the round, bright fuchsia treasure in his tiny fingers.
In the house I grew up in, my mother insisted on planting a beautiful dogwood just a few feet away from the kitchen window. It was so close that in the kitchen I felt I was rinsing dishes right amongst the branches of the dogwood. Birds came frequently to rest in those branches and feed at the feeder that my father kept filled. I am not a real birder, but probably learned many of the birds I do know from that kitchen-window birdwatching.
Because I enjoy this sort of thing, I have designed the view from many of the important windows in my life to be a theater. For example (although I know I risk a serious hit to my productivity), I am currently designing the garden outside the windows of my new studio to function as a bird haven.
The garden must wait until spring to be planted, but already I’m enjoying the thought of host and nectar plants that will provide baby birds with caterpillars and other insects, coneflowers that will lure finches, and berried shrubs to provide a fall and winter food source, as well as shelter. All designed to create a spacious, room-expanding effect from within the house, looking out.
While I’m waiting for spring to arrive, it provides some comfort to get out the plans and dream about the future bird garden…and imagine the experience of sitting on the bench I will put out there in the midst of that garden.
Several of our co-designers have also enjoyed working with this concept of an outdoor birding “room” that is visible from inside. A Designing for Waterfront Landscapes program is coming up on March 14, and the all-day Landscape Design Workshop is March 28. Come join us and give your creativity a boost!
For those who want to go the whole nine yards, co-designing is great fun—a collaborative process where you bring your dreams (in whatever state they happen to be) and I bring my experience and training. Together we craft a plan that can guide your planting and management strategies for the future, so that whatever effort you put in goes toward an overall scheme that is well-thought-out. To begin, all we need is one snow-free first visit; the rest is indoors!
by Chris Pax
Lead Designer, Adkins Arboretum Native Landscape Design Center
Click here to register for the March 14 Waterfront Design class. To begin your own winter co-design, contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to learn more about the Arboretum’s Native Landscape Design Center co-design service.