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.
SOME NATIVE SHRUBS TO CONSIDER IN YOUR 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