In the Garden:
Inland Northwest, High Desert
December, 2003
Regional Report

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Even a light snowfall, pretty as it is on this yarrow, can close a bird's grocery store.

Birdie Grocery Store Closes Under a Snow Cover

Even a light snowfall changes things. Lawns magically change into a smooth, white sheet. Crabgrass disappears, and so does the natural food source for our feathered friends.

Everyone Enjoys the Seedheads
I like to leave my perennials to form seedheads, then leave them to nod in the winter wind. Sparrows, juncos, finches of all colors, and chickadees feed on them. Nearby they find shelter in thick evergreen trees. It's an ideal habitat for them, until we have a snowfall.

Chickadees love sunflower seeds. During the summer they dine on insect eggs and larvae, and munch on whatever small fruits they find. Winter fare consists of seeds, though. I leave the sunflowers -- especially the shorter varieties -- where they are. Chickadees and finches land on the stalks, bounce a few times, then pick seeds off the dried seedhead. Later, they'll hop down and search for fallen seeds.

When snow comes, wild birds are not left without groceries in our garden. Snow might have covered up the seeds on the ground, but not those still high on the stalks.

The garden benefits from tall seedheads, too. If I had pruned all the perennials back and pulled up the sunflower stalks, my garden would be left smooth and bare. Instead, my winter garden looks like a dried flower arrangement, with birds singing in it.

To attract other birds, you might consider planting junipers and Russian olives for robins, and maybe leaving a weed or two to go to seed for white-crowned sparrows. Everybody seems to like the yarrow. We enjoy its waves of pastel flowers all summer and like how it looks frosted with new-fallen snow. Birds like the bushels of seeds it produces.

Besides, it must be a lot of fun to play seesaw on a yarrow stalk.

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