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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - August 30, 2006

From: Bronxville, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Replacement of barberry hedge with native, bird-friendly plants
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am looking to replace an existing barberry hedge with a deciduous hedge, using a plant that is native to the northeast. I am in zone 6. The site is sun/part sun with decent drainage. The mature size of the hedge must be no more than 8 ft tall and no more than 6 ft wide. Importantly, I want to use a plant that will provide berries for the birds. I thought of using cornus racemosa 'Geauge.' Any thoughts on that? Any other plant suggestions? Thanks. Kim

ANSWER:

Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) is certainly an appropriate tree for providing fruit for birds and other wildlife, but it is likely to get taller than you want. It's maximum height is about 16 feet. Here are a few other shrubs that are nearer your size preference that offer food for birds and other wildlife:

Northern bayberry or Candleberry (Morella pensylvanica)
Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica)
Elderberry or Black elder (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis)
Highbush blueberry ( Vaccinium corymbosum)
Maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)
American hazelnut (Corylus americana)

All the above are deciduous, but here is a native evergreen shrub that has high wildlife value—Inkberry (Ilex glabra)

You can look at more possibilities by doing your own search in the Native Plants Database and choosing to "Narrow your search" under the Combination Search option. You can select "Shrub" under Habit and "New York" under Select Your State to see more choices.

 

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