For the birds

Civic Center Garden September sunflowers

Fall migration is winding down, and our planting sites along the North Shore Channel look raw. But if all goes well, by next fall, migrating birds will find an even more welcoming stopover place here in Evanston as they pass through on their way south for the winter. The habitat garden in front of the Civic Center hints at what we’re aiming for—layers of bird-friendly and beautiful vegetation, from a bur oak down to these grasses and sunflowers (Helianthus occidentalis).

Along our main channel-side planting sites in the Ladd Arboretum and Twiggs and Harbert Parks, we have now planted  more than 150 trees, shrubs, and vines. Many will provide berries and seeds favored by birds. Some are familiar, like juneberry (Amelanchier laevis) and red and black chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia and A. melanocarpa). Others, like spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and wild black currant (Ribes americanum), are less often used in home gardens and add valuable diversity to the plant community.YOU group planting on Halloween Thinning large shade trees—especially the non-native Norway maple—has opened up sun for these woody plants as well as a wide variety of wildflowers, grasses, sedges, and ferns.

Community members have been involved at every step of the way. The very last planting of the season, on Halloween, brought out a Y.O.U. group from Dawes Elementary. They planted small spicebush saplings that had been grown out by Leslie Shad of Natural Habitat Evanston from National Wildlife Federation whips donated earlier in the year. Some of the young people were already dressed for trick-or-treating—including an owl: a reminder that projects like these that bring the community together are not just for the birds.

— Wendy Pollock