‘Birdscaping is the designing of a garden to attract the variety of birds that would have occurred originally in the area’
I have become increasingly aware and concerned by the way urban development is being undertaken, how it is impacting our natural world and the ecosystems within it. I believe that we, as Garden Designers, should not only be considering how we can create a beautiful garden for our clients but how we can also create one for the local wildlife. Birdscaping is a way that we can put back what has been taken to benefit the birds and ourselves.
Due to the demand for higher density developments, block sizes are getting smaller and with that, less space allocated for gardens. Often natural habitat for the local birds has been lost through the process of clearing the land of all flora, prior to development. With this loss of habitat, the wildlife has less access to food, shelter and safety.
We need to start incorporating correct plant selection into garden design, focusing on indigenous birds and other wildlife, within the area. By doing so, we are being more ecologically friendly, preserving the natural landscape of the area and ensuring there is biodiversity in our gardens.
There are many benefits to having a bird-attracting garden, although initially it may seem that the birds are the ones to benefit the most, we receive huge benefits as well.
By restoring lost habitat for the birds, we regain our connection to the natural world and it’s intricate ecosystems. There is immense pleasure in watching birds going about their daily business, making houses and foraging for food; stress levels immediately reduce. According to research conducted by Dr R Ulrich and discussed in an article by Beyond Blue, ‘gardens will have a greater calming and stress reduction capacity if they are rich in foliage, flowers, contain water features, harmonious nature sounds and visible wildlife such as birds’ Ulrich (2002, p.46)
Correct plant selection is vital to a successful bird-attracting garden, as is the design of the garden. By ensuring there is a layered habitat, more variety of birds will be attracted to a garden as it will be providing a safe haven, food, shelter and nesting material. Prior to planting out the garden, it is important to find what birds are indigenous to the area, so plants can be selected to cater to their appetite, whether they are insect eating, seed eating or nectar drinking.
Hybrids plants although desired by many for their larger flowers and longer flowering time, should be avoided as birds visiting the hybrids will neglect the smaller local native plants. Also, hybrids will often attract larger more aggressive birds, thereby preventing smaller birds from inhabiting the garden. Insect eating birds will forage in the garden, eating the pests that are attacking the plants, which in turn helps us by reducing the need to use pesticides.
Through selecting plants that are indigenous to the area, the plants that are being selected are also the most suitable plants for the soil and weather conditions in that area. This in turn can reduce gardening costs through using less water and less products to keep the plants healthy.
Native gardens have progressed in recent years, the variety of native plants available on the market means they can be adapted easily into any style garden and that doesn’t mean just a native styled garden.
There are many native plants in existence today that break the stereotype of the images in people’s minds, of what native gardens look like; that they are scraggly, stick like, a fairly colourless landscape. With our native plants becoming more varied in their form and colour and more varieties available to the public, they allow many garden styles to be emulated using native plants such as Formal, Cottage, Water wise, Informal, Mediterranean and so on. This means that birdscaping can be cleverly incorporated into a beautiful design, whilst still meeting the clients design brief.
Natives aren’t to everyone’s liking, but with the different varieties now on the market, it is easy for everyone to provide a corner or section of their garden for the local birds. Correct plants can be selected so the overall theme of the garden is not affected and there is so much information available from local councils to make it an easy process.
If everyone incorporated this concept into their garden, not only would they would be more ecologically friendly and financially better off, but they would be ensuring there is biodiversity in their gardens, they would be protecting indigenous birdlife and protecting the interconnected diverse ecosystems, ensuring that this all survives through our rapid urbanisation.