This gardener always keeps her feathered friends in mind.
By Sharon Coyle, Mukwonago, Wisconsin
Whenever Susan Bergmann wants a little slice of Heaven, all she has to do is step outside. She loves sitting on her deck with a cup of tea, overlooking the shaded bird sanctuary and flower wonderland in her Mukwonago, Wisconsin backyard.
This avid bird-watcher and nature lover delights in any bird that stops by for a bite to eat. She has 18 different feeders and offers her feathered friends everything from birdseed and nuts to huge quantities of grape jelly for the Baltimore orioles.
"The orioles go through grape jelly so quickly that I've adapted several hanging feeders made from Cool Whip cartons," Susan says. "I fill the cartons up to the top with jelly, but then it's gone in no time."
Feeding an Interest in Birds
Susan's interest in birds started out small, when she put out a few feeders. Once the birds started coming, she wanted to identify them and her interest grew.
"Pretty soon, my son Geoffrey and I joined a birding group, and we were discovering all kinds of new birds," Susan says. "After one spring migration, I was hooked."
Susan knew if she wanted to attract as many birds as possible, then she would need the right mix in her backyard. She was already an avid gardener, so she got to work adding a water feature and even more shrubs and plants that she knew the birds would love.
Cozy Nooks and Big Spaces
Susan's 1-acre yard is a mix of shade and sun. Evergreen trees border the yard, and flower gardens add to the peaceful beauty.
She has a small pond nestled in a cozy spot within the yard. It includes lava rock with a waterfall that attracts all kinds of birds, especially warblers in spring. In winter, she keeps a heater in the pond so the birds can still enjoy a drink.
The birds are always on Susan's mind when she plants her garden. Bee balm and trumpet vines are her favorite flowers to use for attracting hummingbirds. When the growing season is over, Susan doesn't let that stop her from attracting birds. She leaves the heads on her coneflowers and black-eyed Susans to feed finches in winter. She also plants highbush cranberries, serviceberries and chokeberries, which are also a great food source in winter.
According to Susan, anytime of year is a good time to watch birds. She especially loves spring when the migratory birds are passing through. Summer has its perks because that's when she enjoys watching adult birds feed their young. And, of course, autumn and winter bring in the berry eaters.
Gardening has always been important to Susan, but now she has something to garden for. Birds dash in and out of her yard, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
Q&A with Susan
What gardening chore do you dislike?
I hate removing invasive species like garlic mustard and buckthorn. You just can't keep up with it.
What's your best money-saving secret for the garden?
You can save a lot of money by splitting up plants and nursing along seedlings. I also love getting plants from friends.
What garden tool can you not live without?
I have a spade that is incredibly small but strong. I can do heavy digging with it to remove invasive species.
If you could only have one flower in your garden, what would it be?
My garden is really shaded, and I love Corydalis lutea. It's a fernlike plant that reminds me of a bleeding heart in texture, but it has yellow blooms. It has wonderful dainty flowers, and it self-seeds.
If there were no weeding or chores to do, how would you spend a day in the garden?
I would sit out on my deck with binoculars and a book. I rarely just get to sit outside and watch.
Do you remember the first plant you ever grew?
I remember growing marigolds as a Brownie project.
What plants never fail you?
Hostas. They only way they fail me is when the deer come and eat them!
What bird is most entertaining in your garden?
For me, it's the black-capped chickadee (right) because they have so much personality. It's almost like they're bouncing around with happiness.