Bath Time! (for Birds) – FineGardening



Today’s photos are from Susan Warde in St. Paul, Minnesota (Zone 4b).

I love ponds and waterfalls and fountains but don’t want to deal with the work they entail. So my “water feature” consists of bird baths—a dozen of them: four each in the front, side, and back gardens. Of course they too need some some attention. I clean them two or three times a week and bleach them once a season. And in the fall I need to flip the basins so the winter freeze/thaw cycles (mostly freeze in Minnesota) don’t crack them. Though none of the photos show bathers or drinkers, the birdbaths are heavily patronized—and not just by avian visitors. Squirrels and chipmunks come regularly, and once I even saw a fox drinking, a real treat in the middle of the city.

close up of bird bath surrounded by grasses and other foliage plantsThe crows favor this birdbath in the spring, dunking their snacks in it. I find things like soggy bagels and the entrails of unfortunate small mammals, so for a period of time it needs daily cleaning. In the foreground are sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis, Zones 4–8), a Hosta (Zones 3–9), and a daylily (Hemerocallis hybrid, Zones 3–8). Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana, Zones 3–9) to the right of and behind the birdbath is just opening. Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Zones 5–9), phlox (Phlox paniculata, Zones 4–8), and rudbeckia (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’, Zones 3–9) are also visible.

a square birdbath surrounded by foliage plants and pink flowersHere’s another front yard birdbath with Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ (Zones 4–9) and Astilbe ‘Ostrich Plume’ (Zones 4–8).

small birdbath surrounded by yellow and pink flowersAlong the sidewalk up to the house is a birdbath with a pineapple base, surrounded by rudbeckia, daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Gold’, and ’Stella Supreme’), and some vivid phlox.

small birdbath with pink flowers growing aboveThis tall phlox drops its blossoms into the small birdbath just to the right of the front steps. A neighborhood cat drinks here.

birdbath with pink and purple astilbes and yellow dayliliesIn this photo from the side yard are astilbes (the one on the left is ‘Vision in Red’; I don’t know the name of the pink ones) and ‘Happy Returns’ daylily. The evergreen is Thuja occidentalis ‘Yellow Ribbon’ (Zones 3–7).

big purple irises with small yellow ad pink flowersA small birdbath along the side path is almost hidden by a tall bearded iris (Iris ‘Sultry Mood’, Zones 3–9). The yellow blossoms are globe flower (Trollius × cultorum ‘Cheddar’, Zones 4–7), and the pink ones are a geranium (Geranium sanguineum, Zones 3–9).

birdbath on the edge of a garden bed with purple flowersI have a good view of this birdbath from the kitchen window. It’s near the bird feeders and is thus in frequent use. Decorated with snowdrops, it matches a planter on the back steps that contains herbs. More ‘Vision in Red’ astilbes light up this shady area under a small maple; I think the pink ones are Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Sprite’ (Zones 3–9). There are Japanese painted ferns (Athyium niponicum var. pictum, Zones 3–8), a tall glade fern (Diplasium pycnocarpon, Zones 3–8), and a large Lenten rose (Helleborus × nigercors ‘Winter Star’, Zones 5–9), one of the earliest plants to flower in the garden. The hostas, which have become a ground cover in this spot, are ‘Blue Mouse Ears’. Small creeping irises (Iris cristata, Zones 3–9) are in the foreground, and the chartreuse flower clusters in the lower right are lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis, Zones 3–8).

stone garden bed with ferns growing underneath and white hydrangea behindIf you look closely you may be able to see the fern design on the supports of the bench. Perched on top of it is my smallest birdbath. Goldfinches especially are attracted to this one, but this past week a catbird has been bathing in it, without much room to spare. That’s Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ (Zones 3–9) in the background, doing well after having been severely “pruned” by rabbits last winter. The ferns are Japanese painted fern (flanking the bench) and bulblet fern (Cystopteris bulbifera, Zones 3–8) in front. The tiny hostas are ‘Cameo.’

round bird bath surrounded by foliage plantsThis is the first birdbath visitors encounter in the back garden. It’s surrounded by hostas, astilbes, wild ginger (Asarum canadense, Zones 4–6), and ferns.

short bird bath stacked on stones surrounded by foliage plantsHere’s another low birdbath in the back garden, surrounded by more wild ginger (left) and a mat of Sedum ‘John Creech’ (Zones 3–8). Hostas and ostrich fern (Matteucia struthiopteris, Zones 3–7) form a backdrop.

bird bath surrounded by fernsI need help flipping the top of my largest birdbath, seen here among ferns. The ones arching over the kitty are long beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis, Zones 2–5). To the left are more Japanese painted ferns. Behind the birdbath you can see ‘Lady in Red’ (Athyrium felix-femina var. angustum, Zones 4–8) and to the left of them the fertile fronds of royal fern (Osmunda regalis, Zones 3–9). The small maple is Acer × pseudosieboldianum North Wind’ (Zones 4–8), a replacement for a tree that snapped in half during a heavy snowstorm last April 1.

small bird bath in the gardenLast but not least is the birdbath in the very back, enjoyed by the more timid visitors. The tall white-flowered plant in the background is black cohosh (Actea racemosa, Zones 3–8).


Have a garden you’d like to share?

Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!

To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

Have a mobile phone? Tag your photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #FineGardening!

Do you receive the GPOD by email yet? Sign up here.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here