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Turning my mud pit into a wildlife haven

Granite City, IL(Zone 6a)

Hi, neighbors!

I have owned my house for nearly 4 years now and my two large dogs (Bonnie 3 year old black lab and Shiloh 2 year old German shepherd) have wrecked the little back yard. Our plan is to build a privacy fence within the next month or so, but just the sides, we don't want to replace the back chain link at this time since there is only a common-ground field behind us and it would make our small yard appear tiny! My husband has agreed to letting me plant a variety of tall flowering shrubs along the back fence. With one section of the existing chain link fence we are building a dog run along one side since the back yard is almost entirely a mud pit.

Once the fence is up I can bring out my bird feeders (labs and birds don't mix.) So I have tons of ideas running through my head on what I want to plant. The yard faces nearly due East. I'd like to plant an eclectic mix of shrubs for the butterflies/bees and birds. I have a dwarf burning bush back there next to a small red bud tree and a 'monster' 30+ year old climbling (rambling?) rose bush against the shed. I've been taking notes on tall shrubs for the fence border, here are my favorites (will have at least two of each until I run out of space):

Ilex (Holly)
Callicarpa (Beauty Berry)
Ribes sanguineum (Flowering Currant)
Syringa (Lilac)
Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon)

If you have any other suggestions or comments I'd love to hear them! I searched this forum and couldn't find any input for my zone on either Vitex agnus-castus or Kolkwitzia - any thoughts? The pictures of both in bloom are gorgeous and I hear that Vitex is fragrant? I had never heard of either of them before and never seen one locally. I like the looks of fragrant Abelia (Abelia mosanensis) too, and might have to plant one for me. :) I probably have too many and will need to reduce my list, but it's so hard to decide when there are so many beautiful plants to choose from! I can always plant some out front or along the driveway, I suppose.



Columbia, MO(Zone 5b)

Well I am not a expert but some things look better in odd number groups. That is unless you want to box in something.

Granite City, IL(Zone 6a)

Hello! I am by far no expert either and there's really no rhyme or reason to my "eclectic" gardening style :) I am still undecided on the berry shrubs (still researching which birds in my area will eat which berries.) I am limited on space, so I might have a difficult time fitting in 2-3 types of each. My parents have much more land than I do, and Mom is a bird-watcher, so I am sending her my list of berry bushes for her yard! :) I may just have to focus on the butterfly and/or hummingbird shrubs and vines.

I did place an order with Bluestone (couldn't resist the 20% off coupon), mostly bought plants for my front yard beds. I did take a chance (impulse buy) and got a Kolkwitzia 'Pink Cloud' and Vitex 'Abbeville Blue' as curiosity got the best of me and they are not invasive here from what I have read.

Thanks for your feedback!

KC Metro area, MO(Zone 6a)

Viburnum is a great choice. Brandywine is the best one out there so far and would need Viburnum Winterhur for pollinating.

Another good shrub is the Sweetshrub. A great one for fragrance is Venus.

A good butterfly bush variety is Honeycomb which has a yellow flower. But otherwise they are all fast growing though so don't hesistate to cut it back severely as needed. It won't hurt it none.

Have you thought about Flowering Quince? Chojuraku has double salmon orange blooms, Kingishi has single orange flowers but also has yellow fruit in the fall which could also be made into jams and Cameo has double peach flowers.


Birds love evergreen plants for protection from the elements and predators so a few to consider are arborvite, false cypress, and Japanese Plum yew.

Soft serve False Cypress was discovered here in Missouri. There is also a short false cypress that only gets 18-30 inches tall.

This message was edited Apr 13, 2008 6:49 PM

KC Metro area, MO(Zone 6a)

Some good Ilex would be Drops of Gold:

Honey Maid:

Castle Spire blue holly:

Castle Wall blue holly: Use with Caslte Spire for pollination.

Hope these help some! :~)

Granite City, IL(Zone 6a)

Wow, thanks, Pepper! I have a lot more research ahead of me. I'm jumping ahead anyway since the privacy fence hasn't been built yet. This weekend's weather didn't help any...yuck! I think I have over-stimulated my brain reading DG posts/articles/Plant Files off and on all day! :)

I have a buddleia from my house's previous owners (grafted since it has three distinct different colored flowers on it; white, pink, purple) and I am learning to grow new shrubs from cuttings (my mother has a few varieties on her property) but the yellow/gold ones are fascinating as well, neither of us has one.

I am trading some mojito mint off for cuttings of Beautyberry and some lilac cuttings (with another DG member) and am very excited about it.

Big Dipper Farm has several Viburnums (Brandywine, Blue Muffin & Winterthur) that are very tempting! I appreciate your input very much and must say my I am loving the wealth of information here and the friendly people! I'll take some pictures of the mud pit at it's worst to start a journal.



P.S. DH loves evergreens (boxwoods, etc, but boring to me, I LOVE color), I showed him some pictures and he's all for them. I think he's been feeling left out! ;)

KC Metro area, MO(Zone 6a)

If you have just a couple evergreens that would help set off your regular shrubs and plants and give the birds year round shelter. Everyone will love you for it. lol

Madison, IL(Zone 6b)

Hi Nicole (loves_lavender),
I didn't even notice that you've posted here. I have cotoneaster planted along the foundation on the north side of my home. I bought five in a bundle mail order really cheap & all lived. That's been probably about 10 years ago & the bees completely cover the pink blossoms. The red berries are favored by cardinals, sparrows, & robins.
Here's the plantfile link to cranberry cotoneaster that's similar to mine.

I have 2 nanking cherry bushes in the backyard that I also acquired mail order. They self sow, so I could give you some seedlings if you'd like. I've made cherry jelly & my granddaughter loves to eat them off the bush. The robins swallow the cherries whole.
Take a look:

I've also had the high cranberry bush for some years. I acquired it mail order like the others. Here's the plantfiles link:

I also garden with our feathered friends in mind. Maybe sometime we could meet @ a nursery. Have you ever shopped at the Garden Kingdom? Here's my review.

I just received my Spring Valley Roses (located in WI) order & I've got to get busy planting. The plants are well rooted & huge as mentioned in the reviews that I've read.
3 rugosas (Dart's Dash) & 3 rosa glaucas. The biggest job will be protecting them from; not deer; but my "dear" 3 doggies.


Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

Betty, I'm glad to hear about you making jelly, etc. from the Nanking cherries. But I didn't know they self sow. I have 3 that Holly planted for me last year or the year before. They are in full bloom now. I also have an American Highbush Cranberry that is strictly for the birds. I had to cut it way back and remove so much dead material from it last fall that it is only about 1/2 the size it use to be. I may get another one. The birds love it. I also have a couple Purple Beauty Berry shrubs. The birds seem to like the berries from it too. I may have to get a Cottoneaster bush for my birds. Must keep it away from the house tho. Kyle is allergic to bee and wasp stings and I just plain don't trust bees up close to the house.

Madison, IL(Zone 6b)

Hi leaflady,

I'm glad to hear from you, but was so disappointed that I didn't get to meet you last weekend. Of course, I can't imagine how disappointed you were after being in the hospital sick & all. I may just have to make a special trip out sometime to finally meet you. Since I doubt that Nicole will be able to get away from college next fall, we'd have to come out when she's on break. I know that she'd love visiting PG again & we do plan to visit the Arabia. You have some beautiful countryside out that way. It must be gorgeous in the fall. I'm glad to hear that you're doing much better. : )

I recently ran into loves_lavender here on DG & she lives on the opposite end of my hometown which neighbors the town I now live in. It's nice having a DG friend nearby; esp. one whose gardening is also pup challenged. Thanks for welcoming her aboard.

Leaflady, If you do an internet search, you'll find all kinds of nanking cherry jelly recipes. The best part is that you don't have to pit the cherries, just leave them whole. The finished product has a delicious cherry flavor and a beautiful red color. I pack mine with pickles for Christmas gifts that's very attractive together (red & green).

Granite City, IL(Zone 6a)

Hi, Betty! (And everyone else, of course!)
Do you buy most of your shrubs locally? I like Garden Kingdom and usually make sure I visit there at least once in the spring. My parents live right down 162 from there. I have not been there yet this year, though. Neat place! I have only placed an order with Bluestone so far this year and it's time to get moving!

I would love some Nanking cherry seedlings. DH and I grow & can our peppers (and salsa) so he and I are intrigued by making cherry jelly. Edible to us is a nice bonus :)

There are so many choices of shrubs to plant and so little yard! Thanks for the suggestions on ones our local birds like, but this is still a tough decision!



Madison, IL(Zone 6b)

I also found that Home Depot has healthy & reasonably priced potted plants. I shopped there on Saturday and last summer. All of my HD plants have survived. Whenever I find some cherry seedlings growing, I'll pot them up for you.

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