Mountain Bluebird_Johnson'sCorner-CO_LAH_2843(This is the last article in our series on Integrated Pest Management [IPM].)

Last month we explained how amphibians, such as frogs and toads, and reptiles, such as snakes and lizards, are beneficial to our gardens. This time we’ll focus on birds and mammals. Inviting these wild animals into ours gardens is yet one more way that we can control the pests that dine on our flowers and veggies.

Putting out bird feeders may seem like a favor for the birds, but it’s really the other way around! While most birds attracted to feeders eat seeds, many of those same species switch to bugs, with their higher protein content, during the breeding season.


(Helianthus annuus)

Towering overhead, sunflowers may resemble their namesake, but their name actually comes from their ability to keep their “face” turned toward the sun as it moves across the sky. Everyone recognizes a conventional sunflower with its huge dark disk surrounded by yellow petals, set atop a sturdy stalk that may reach over eight feet in height. Newer cultivars, however, may not be so familiar. Breeders have developed shorter plants (as low as two feet) and an expanded palette of hues ranging from mahogany through orange to lemon yellow, white, and even a soft rose. Many types sport more than one color.

Sunflowers are easily grown from their large seeds, making them an excellent choice for a child’s garden. Pick a site that receives full sun, and amend the soil with plenty of compost. Sow around mid-May, covering seeds with a half inch of fine soil, and keep the ground moist until they sprout. Plants prefer regular irrigation, but can handle some drying. Mulch to keep the soil evenly damp and to reduce weeding.



With its ostentatious white flowers clamoring for your attention, Boulder Raspberry (Oreobatus deliciosus ) impresses like a hybridized cultivar, rather than a native shrub. Growing three to five feet tall and six feet wide, arching, sprawling stems carry bright green, lobed leaves that turn yellow in fall before dropping for the winter. Spring’s blooms develop into small reddish purple fruit resembling cultivated raspberries. While edible, the berries are generally considered unpalatable. However, they will attract birds and other wildlife. Unlike other raspberries, the stems are thornless.


Dry shade is enough to send most plants running, but Boulder Raspberry thrives there. Long-lived and very hardy, you can find these shrubs on Rocky Mountain slopes and ravines between 4,500 and 9,000 feet. They prefer gravelly or silty soil with good drainage.

Landscape Suitability

A bit coarse for a formal garden, Boulder Raspberry combines well with other natives in a natural setting. It works best as an understory plant or in a northern exposure. Pink shrub roses (such as ‘Nearly Wild’) or purple-leafed ‘Diablo’ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) would make outstanding companions. For best results, situate plants in light to medium shade, and add two to three inches of compost to the soil. Water deeply but infrequently.

Article and photos by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener

Q: How can I attract more birds to my yard?

A: A brightly colored hummingbird zooms past on its way to a feeder. A finch fills the air with music. Birds provide us with hours of entertainment.

Like other animals, birds have a basic need for five essential elements: water, food, shelter, safety from predators, and a place to raise their young. While it’s fun to provide bird houses and feeders full of seed, you can design your landscape to offer these necessities and truly give yourself a yard for the birds.

Setting out fresh water is an easy and useful first step. While elaborate “water features” are beautiful and enhance the landscape, a simple plastic plant saucer will suit birds just as well. The water only needs to be an inch deep, as birds prefer splashing to swimming. A non-slippery surface offers the best traction. To keep birds healthy and prevent mosquito larvae from breeding, change the water daily, and clean the saucer regularly. (more…)