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Cherry Blossom



Planting for Food and Structure

Native shrubs are one of the most important sources of food for wildlife. Their small, yet abundant blossoms provide a feast that is rich in nutrients and essential to birds, bugs and pollinators. Our native bumble bees especially love shrubs; they have the longest flight time of the season, with the queen emerging from hibernation in early spring in search of food when most other plants are still covered in snow. Because they are a social bee and living in colonies, their workers collect pollen well into fall to prepare for winter.


Contributions to the food web is essential in a living landscape. In addition to shrubs providing nectar and pollen in spring, their berries and seeds are appreciated by foraging birds throughout the year. Native shrubs are also a valuable host plant to many species of Lepidoptera. Caterpillars in this larva stage are an essential source of food for birds, especially those feeding their young. Caterpillars are high in protein and their soft bodies are ideal for small, yet fast growing baby birds. Recent studies indicate that a young bird family can feed on as many as 300 caterpillars a day when raising their babies. 

The value of shrubs as a structural element in the garden is often overlooked. Their hardy shapes serve a number of purposes that are beyond the aesthetic. While they do provide a visually appealing focal point and resting place for the eye they also serve an ecological function. 


Shrubs are an essential component in creating layers in a garden. They serve as a transition zone from lower layers to taller trees and in doing so, they provide a resting, nesting and foraging place for birds. Shrubs can also serve to direct air flow within a garden to bring enjoyment of anyone using the space, from human to wildlife. Shrubs are ideal as a privacy feature and can also enhance microclimates that contribute to the overall ecological design of a garden.  

The following shrubs would do well in Muskoka. These shrubs have been carefully chosen for both their value, and availability at Ontario nurseries that specialize in native plants. When choosing native shrubs you're not only adding beauty to the garden, but you're adding a host plant, habitat, a place to forage, pollen, nectar, berries and seeds. 

Amelanchier leavis, smooth serviceberry

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, kinnikinnik

Aronia arbutifolia, red chokeberry

Ceanothus americananus, New Jersey tea

Cornus stolonifère, red osier dogwood

Diervilla lonicera, bush honeysuckle 

Gaultheria procumbens, wintergreen

Gaylussacia baccata, black huckleberry

Hamaelis virginiana, witch hazel

Ilex verticillata, winterberry holly

Juniperus communis, common juniper 


Lindera benzoin, spicebush

Rhus aromatic, fragrant sumac

Rhus copallinum, winger sumac

Rhus globe, smooth sumac

Thus typhina, stag horn sumac

Salix discolor, pussy willow

Sambucus canadensis, black elderberry

Vaccininium angustifolium, lowbush blueberry

Vaccinium corymbosum, highbush blueberry

Viburnum acerfolium, maple-leaved viburnum

Viburnum trilobum, highbush cranberry


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