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For berries that provide essential nutrients for migrating birds, plant these two types of bushes

Clusters of small, round dark blue berries hang from a bush with green leaves.
Adam Smigielski
Native berries are a great source of food for birds that overwinter in Vermont or migrate to warmer climes. The fat and nutrient content is higher than some other berries.

The fruits from certain berry bushes pack a bigger nutrient punch for migrating and over-wintering birds.

September is a great time to plant berry bushes, as Vermont temperatures will still be warm enough, providing a few months before the ground freezes. And in that time, new berry bushes will have a chance to get their root systems established.

When considering which berry bushes to plant in your yard, take into consideration which ones provide the best fruits for birds, too.

Look first at the native shrub varieties in these two groups: dogwoods and viburnums.

Try viburnums, like nannyberry, which is viburnum lentago, Blackhaw or viburnum prunifolium, and American cranberrybush or viburnum trilobum.

Think about placement of these, too, as they will grow into very big shrubs. The blossoms and stems will provide beautiful color in all seasons (think red stems against freshly fallen snow!) and also grow tons of berries.

For instance, the nannyberry can grow from 10 to 18 feet tall. Its flowers are white and the fruits grow as blue-black berries on a reddish stem.

Dogwoods are also great for providing birds with a handy food source. The red osier dogwood or cornus sericea is fast-growing and will reach about eight feet tall. The berry bush blooms with white petals on red stems, and the fruits are white, as well. The gray dogwood and silky dogwood are two other types to try, too.

There are exotic berry bushes that provide a great food source for birds who migrate or overwinter, too, like Japanese honeysuckle and buckthorn. But research conducted over the last two decades at Colby College in Maine and Rochester Institute of Technology in New York measured these berries' caloric as well as nutrient content. What they found showed a real difference in the nutritional quality of the berries.

The berries from both natives and exotics had about the same amount of caloric value. It was the fat content where they really differed.

The fat content in berries of native plants is nearly 48%, depending on the berry — whereas for the exotics, the fat content is only 2%.

For a migrating bird trying to fatten themselves up for the winter and for fuel to fly to warmer climes, the extra fat in these native berries makes a big difference. Even birds who stay local are trying to make it through the winter here, and having that extra fat really helps.

A question about caterpillars on hardy hibiscus

Q: Charlie, you sweet-talked me into buying one of those perennial hibiscus bushes. Now you have to teach me how to save it! In this year of garden death and destruction, drought and floods ... no cukes, few zukes and first tomatoes in September, I can't bear another garden tragedy! The hibiscus has small caterpillars eating all its foliage. - Miriam in Hinesburg

A: This pest ruining your hardy hibiscus is the larval stage of the sawfly. Natural bacteria treatments using things like B.t., or bacillus thuringiensis, will not get rid of them.

These sawflies cling to the underside of leaves and can devastate a plant pretty quickly.

The best thing to do now is clean up the area near and underneath your hibiscus. Try to remove any sawflies that might be trying to overwinter on your plant.

Next year, around mid-summer, begin checking the undersides of the hardy hibiscus. If you start seeing some damage and seeing those little caterpillars, try a spray on the underside of the leaves, called spinosad.

This will help your hibiscus and get rid of the sawflies. Just note that you should treat the plant with this organic product very carefully, as it is harmful to bees.

Spray it on the hardy hibiscus leaves in the evening once the bees have gone home for the for the night. And once the spray has dried, it is not as toxic.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Submit your written question via email, or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.