To help wildlife, we must look after Canada's biodiversity. One great way to do that is to protect plants. After all, if just one type of plant disappears, we could lose a lot of other species that depend on it for food or shelter.
Your planting project needn't be big. A small number of carefully spaced plants can provide many benefits that make wild animals want to stick around. When we pamper a plant, we in turn look after habitat for frogs, turtles, insects, birds, and many more. Encouraging diversity is an important key to the wellbeing of all species.
When planting with biodiversity in mind, these are some points to remember:
• Use a mixture of trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses, and vines that will attract a wide variety of birds. The American robin, for example, often builds its first nest of the year in the dense branches of an evergreen. This is because deciduous trees are still bare in early spring. A maple, oak, or leafy bush will provide plenty of cover for a robin's second nest site.
• Make the most of shrubs. They are incredibly versatile. One medium-sized bush, such as a honeysuckle, can provide shelter, food, and nesting sites to several species of wildlife.
• Provide plants that do double duty as sheltering spots and snack bars, such as black raspberry, staghorn sumac, and American mountain-ash. Spruce trees provide winter cover and summer nesting sites.
• Plant seasonal treats. With a bit of research, you can give birds and other wildlife a continuous supply of food throughout the year. Prickly gooseberry and Saskatoon-berry provide summer fruits. American mountain-ash, red-osier dogwood, and Manitoba maple are good for fall fruits, seeds, and shelter. Some of the most important plants you can provide for wildlife are ones that bear fruits and seeds in winter, when food is hardest to find. Hawthorn, wild crab-apple, buffalo-berry, white spruce, and staghorn sumac offer fruits, seeds, and shelter in winter and early spring. See "Plants for All Seasons" for more tips on providing wildlife with a year-round supply of food.
• Take care to choose the best spot for each plant. Even grasses, trees, and shrubs have their likes and dislikes. The size and location of your project will determine the kinds of wildlife you attract. Don't expect meadowlarks or mountain lions to show up at a downtown site!
• This project can be done gradually by planting one or two shrubs, vines, or trees each year.
• See "Plant Project Maintenance Tips" for further suggestions.