Garden Tips: Supporting Birds during Migration

Spring migration amps up in April
-Avant-Garden Shop

Many bird species return or pass through our region in April and May for the breeding season.

Migration is extremely risky for birds: unpredictable weather, predators, window collisions, and food scarcity are all threats, never mind the raw physical exertion needed to fly continuously for hours at a time for days or weeks on end.

So why would they do it?

The general thinking is because there’s plenty of food for birds to feed their newly hatched young. There’s no shortage of insects in the north, as anyone who spend time outdoors from April through June is well aware.

Although birds have been making these trips for millennia, there are many ways you can support them on their journey:

Keep your feeders well stocked with fresh, high-quality food. Consider hulled seed to make it easier for them to access precious calories. Some species, especially Eastern Bluebirds, love mealworms.
Shut your feeders down for a few days if you have a bird predator hanging around.
Set up hummingbird and oriole feeders in late-April to be ready for their typical arrival around May 1st, and refill them often to keep their contents from fermenting.
Keep your cats indoors (one study by an Environment Canada scientist estimates that cats kill 100-350 million birds every year in Canada!)
Plant nectar-producing flowers that bloom early to support hummingbirds.
Put decals or UV strips on your windows to reduce potentially fatal window collisions.
Consider a setting up a bird bath or other water feature.

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Garden Tips: Landscaping for birds

-Avant-Garden Shop

Two recent Garden Gate episodes were filmed in my backyard. The first is about setting up a squirrel-proof bird feeding station. It aired recently and is now on the Avant-Garden Shop’s YouTube channel. The second is about including trees and shrubs in your landscaping plans to attract birds and provide shelter.

It may seem early to plan your garden, but planning can be a fun project, and seed suppliers are advising to order soon, based on the increased demand last year. There are several things you can do when planning your garden to attract and support a variety of species.

Habitat features

At the most basic level, each species needs, food, water, and shelter for hiding and sleeping. A yard that provides all these elements will likely be used by more birds. Each bird species has specific habitat requirements, but a few general principles will help you attract more of them.


Some birds feed and nest in trees, others prefer shrubs, and other spend most time on the ground. The more diverse the habitat in your yard, the more bird species are likely to use it. There are two dimensions to consider when aiming to diversify your landscape: structural and species.

Creating three-dimensional variety in vertical and horizontal structure will attract more bird species. For example, having plants under shrubs under trees at the edge of a large open lawn will attract fewer species than having some shrubs under some trees here, some trees without shrubs there, some shrubs without trees there, and some open space.

In the same way, different tree, plant, and shrub species will meet different species’ needs, so a greater diversity of plant species will attract more bird species. For example, White-breasted nuthatches are associated with older deciduous trees, whereas Red-breasted Nuthatches prefer conifers. When choosing plants, try to choose native species over non-native varietals.

Food and water

Some birds eat insects, others seeds, others berries, and others are omnivorous. Structural and species diversity in your plants will provide more habitat for not only birds, but also for the insects, seeds, and berries that support them. Cool fact: native plant species (e.g., Sugar Maple) support a greater diversity of insects than do their non-native counterparts (e.g., Norway Maple). Keep that in mind when selecting your trees, shrubs, and plants, and consider dogwood, birch, spruce, pine, cedar, elderberry, serviceberry, and grape to support birds.

Leaving seed heads on plants not only simplifies your autumn gardening efforts but also provides food for birds to eat through the winter. Purple coneflower and Brown-eyed Susan are especially popular. Many birds also eat the seeds of conifers, such as spruce and pine.

Even a dead tree can provide wonderful habitat. If you have a tree die, rather than having it removed completely, consider having it limbed for safety but leaving the trunk behind. As it decays, the insects in it will feed woodpeckers, who might even choose to nest in it. Similarly, a pile of brush from tree and shrub trimming can provide shelter and nesting opportunities for species such as Song Sparrows.

Adding a water feature, such has a bird bath or small pond, will also attract birds, especially during a hot, dry summer spell.

Back to basics

Other ways to help the birds include avoiding pesticides and keeping cats indoors or contained if outdoors (outdoor cats are among the greatest causes of bird mortality).

There’s a lot to consider there, but it boils down to planting a variety of plant, shrub, and tree species in a variety of spatial arrangements. Adding a water feature and setting up a feeding station will enhance the quality of the habitat and attract more species. Enjoy!

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Birds, Windows and Feeders

-Avant-Garden Shop

It’s estimated that windows kill and injure more birds than any other human influence – about 1 billion birds annually in North America alone! Many of these window strikes happen at tall buildings in cities, especially during migration, but residential homes contribute to bird fatalities, as well.

Research has identified several factors that contribute to increases in the frequency and fatality of bird-window strikes:

Season – Most collisions happen during fall migration.
Window area – Larger windows or walls with proportionately more window area experience more collisions.
Green space – More green space around a home (e.g., parks and older trees) = more collisions.
Feeders – Window collisions happen more often at homes with feeders.
What?!? Feeders?!?

Does this mean I need to get rid of my feeder?


However, the placement of your feeder can significantly influence the number and severity of bird-window collisions.

Intuition would suggest that the closer a feeder is to a window, the greater the risk, but the opposite is true: feeders that are within 1 metre of windows result in fewer strikes.


Because most strikes happen when birds see the reflection of greenery and/or sky in the window and fly into it at full speed. Birds see a feeder that’s close to a window and slow down for it. Similarly, it takes distance for birds to reach full speed when flying away from a feeder, so if they happen to hit a window that’s close to a feeder, they will be moving more slowly. The number and severity of strikes increases the farther a feeder is from the window.

Putting all this together, here are a few things you can do to continue enjoying the pleasure of watching birds at your feeder while reducing the risk of them injuring or killing themselves by hitting your window:

Aspects Transparent Window Feeder

Move your feeder closer to the window. This may be especially important if you have a lot of large windows on the wall facing the feeders’ current position. While you may not be able to move it to 1 metre from the window, any reduction in the distance between your feeder and your windows will help.
Consider setting up a feeder that attaches to your window. They can help reduce collisions, and they offer some fantastic viewing opportunities!
Take extra care to increase the visibility of your windows in late-summer/fall while birds are moving south. This can include tips in the blog post above, as well as putting Feather Friendly tape and Window Alert stickers on your windows.

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Gardens Plus top choices for 2021 in easy-care perennials

By Dawn Golloher owner/operator of Gardens Plus

First I would like to explain what makes these choices easy care and qualifies for our perennial Nursery to carry them. Not all perennials are created equal. Before you consider adding anything to your home gardens or cottage gardens consider their requirements in lighting first then overall needs. The most common error is putting the plant in the wrong amount of sunlight. Partial sun/partial shade are the same 2-6 hours of sun. East facing is a perfect example of this. South without any obstructions is full sun and North full shade. So, you wouldn’t place a Hosta in full sun or a Daylily in no sun for them to show their true colours and thrive.

Others aspects to make them easy-care include;
• not needing to be divided very often (so not invasive)
• tolerant to drought conditions or surviving by a once a week deep watering or rain
• resistance to disease and insects
• do not need to be supported by stakes
• hardy and not needing winter protection * know your zone and make sure the plant tags are made in Canada or you convert the USA zone to ours. In the Peterborough area we are mostly 5b. If was a USA tag would be zone 4b
• long blooming at least 6-8 weeks and maybe even re-bloom

Full sun of course daylilies often said to be the perfect perennial. Not the old fashioned ditch lily – I am talking about the clumping ones, like Proven Winners reblooming ones like; ‘Going Banana’s with creamy yellow 5” blooms and ‘Storm Shelter’ talk about Purple! Wowzers, I could go on and on. How about giving Siberian Iris a try. The foliage is upright like ornamental grass and then viola blooms. Check out ‘Miss Apple’ – makes a great gift for your teachers. If you like hummingbirds as much as us? Newer clumping Bee Balms like again Proven Winners selections the ‘Pardon Me series; ‘Pardon Me Pink, Lavender or Cerise’ and Nepeta ‘Cat’s Pajamas’. Also can not forget the long blooming Echinacea/Coneflowers. They do take their time showing up in the spring out of dormancy but so worth the wait. Check out ‘Double Scoop Cranberry’ or any of the many Sombrero series.

Now for Part sun/shade try; Some of the colourful even eye popping Hosta? Hosta of the Year 2020 the Gold ‘Dancing Queen’, Hosta of the year 2021 ‘Rainbows End’ 10” high This Hans Hansen sport of ‘Obsession’ boasts very thick, glossy, canoe-shaped leaves with bright golden centers, surrounded by a wide, green-black border. Blooms dark lavender on short red-purple spikes. When you see thick leaves keep in mind this also means slug resistance. Also another great blue besides the most common and wonderful ‘Halcyon’ is 14” high ‘Blueberry Muffin’ Large blue rounded leaves are rugose and puckered in unusual patterns. Attractive light mauve speckles appear on the petioles. To add more pops of interest add Coral bells like ‘Toffee Tart’ and ‘Timeless Night’. Ferns are great for adding texture. Like Proven Winners how about their first ever perennial fern added to the line up! Looks similar to Japanese Painted Fern, but the tips of the fronds are double crested ‘Crested Surf’. Taller and faster grower as well. Perfect for the damp and shady spot of the garden. With just a bit more consideration in your choices this season and looking beyond the blooms you can be the envy of your neighborhood this season with way less effort.


Remember to plant when the fear of nightly frosts have passed, plant in the preferred lighting for your selections and if you can plant when overcast. If no weekly rain then first season water deeply once a week and voila!

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

The Avant-Garden Shop offers the BEST quality bird food in the region

Seedy Business

By Andrew Jobes, for The Avant-Garden Shop

The majority of the contents in most bird seed mixes available at large stores is a blend of “fillers” that are low in nutritional value, such as wheat, red millet, and flax. The seeds in these bulk bags are often poorly cleaned, which leaves them dusty, and oils are then added to reduce the dust. So, although $10 or $20 might seem like a steal for a large bag of seed, it doesn’t fool the birds. They don’t like dust or oil and avoid them. They also sort through the feed you offer to find the most nutritional value and energy possible. The result is a lot of uneaten seed on your ground which is not only expensive to you, but can also harbour harmful bacteria as it rots, potentially harming the very birds you’re trying to help by feeding them!

The topic of bird seed may not seem all that exciting at first, but learning more about it can help you support the species you want to and even exclude those you don’t want “hogging” the offering. Here are a few tips to help you, whether you’re reading labels or asking a sales associate for help.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are high in fat and protein and are used by many species, which makes them a favourite for the birds and therefore the most common in bird seed mixes. Bulk bags of bird feed often contain a lot of “blanks” – husks without kernels or very small ones – which makes them little more than fillers. Here are a few considerations when selecting sunflower seeds:

  • Black oil seeds are high in nutritional value and have thin shells, which makes it easy for smaller birds to access the contents. The shell protects the kernel from the elements, making them suitable for large feeders that don’t get filled as frequently.
  • Striped seeds are also highly nutritious, but their thicker shells are harder for smaller birds to open. You can actually use this to your advantage if you wish to exclude species such as House Sparrows and blackbirds from your feeder.
  • Hulled seeds of either type are nutritious and help birds conserve the energy they would use to hull them during deep cold. They also result in less mess on the ground under the feeder. However, hulled seeds spoil more quickly without the protection of their shell, so it’s best to only put out enough for 1-2 days at a time. It’s also best to avoid tube feeders for hulled seeds, because moisture can collect and cause mold.


  • White millet is highly nutritious and used by several species, especially ground feeders. As with hulled sunflower seeds, millet spoils quickly, especially when spread on the ground, so it’s best to only put out enough for 1-2 days at a time.
  • Golden millet & red millet have poor nutritional value and are often used as filler. They get sorted and dropped by birds seeking seed with more nutritional value and become contaminated with mold and bacteria.


  • Thistle seeds were once used for bird feeders, but thistles can be a highly invasive plant species, so the industry switched to niger (nyjer) seed, a daisy-like flower.
  • Nyjer seeds are loved by the finches, such as American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins and are best placed in a feeder specifically designed for these tiny seeds.

We carry Only High-Quality Bird Feed

We pride ourselves in carrying high-quality bird seed that is non-GMO and bee-friendly, and we’d be happy to help you find what’s best for your feeder setup.

If you’d like to learn more, we have several Garden Gate episodes about seed on our YouTube page (2-3 minutes each):

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Do you like Humming birds, Bees and butterflies in the garden?

Do you like Humming birds, Bees and butterflies in the garden?

How about a plant that can take full sun or part shade as well?  Oh my we are so excited to add 6 more varieties of  Monarda/Bee Balm to our Easy care perennial list.

You maybe thinking Bee Balm spreads, is really tall and gets mildew!  Not these newer ones.  They are resistant to mildew and clump.  They are also fragrant and don’t need lots of water.  The other great thing is they are offering many in shorter heights.    Love these new Sugar Buzz series .  Varieties like;  Cherry Pops, Grape Gumball and many more 14” to 24” high.


With them taking part shade to full sun they mix well with  Coral Bells ‘Pink Fizz’ , ‘Catching Fire’ and even Hosta.  If planting in full sun plant them with coneflowers and reblooming daylilies.  Also Siberian Iris ‘Pink Parfait’ and Salvia ‘Bumbleberry’ or ‘Pink Dawn’

They bloom in June to July/August so they’d mix in well.  For a bright and vibrant addition to any garden.  Oh, forgot to mention they’d look great in a container.  Yes, perennials in containers too!  Just remember to plant back in the ground in September so you can reuse them next season.    At Gardens Plus we strive to make gardening a pleasure not a strain.

Dawn Golloher  owner/operator of Gardens Plus


Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Tips and tricks to attract hummingbirds and orioles to your garden

Tips and tricks to attract hummingbirds and orioles to your garden

purple flowersBy Brenda Ibey, The Avant-Garden Shop

On a recent episode of The Garden Gate (Airing bi-weekly on CHEX and also uploaded to YouTube) I offer a few tips about hummingbirds and some tricks to help you attract them!

A hummingbird flaps its wings up to 70 times per second; its heart rate can reach 1,260 beats per minute.

Hummingbirds can extend their long, skinny tongues twice as far as the bill, which helps them reach nectar deep inside flowers.

Their tongues dart in and out of flowers at 15-20 times per second

When it comes to making up the nectar, do not use honey or sweeteners.  Just plain white sugar. Boil some water and add the sugar at a ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Let cool then put the sugar mix in your feeder. Extra nectar can be kept in the fridge.  Change the liquid every 3-4 days. More often in hot weather.  If black spots appear on your feeder or in the liquid, that’s mold and it needs to be cleaned well. Use hot water to clean and a drop or two of bleach if the mold is serious. Rinse well with water.

Place your feeders near flowers that they like. Hanging geraniums, honeysuckle, fuchsia, coral bells, bee balm, morning glory. The list goes on. You can also add a red scarf or flag to attract. But once they find your feeders those can be removed. They won’t forget where your feeders are.

The feeder should be hung in part shade and out of the wind. Among the flowers is best.

Hummers are very territorial and will protect a feeder from other hummers. Place 2-3 feeder around your home in different spots out of sight of each other. The male can’t defend all of them at the same time.

Get your feeders out about a week before you expect them to return. There is a better chance they’ll stay if you get it out early enough. First reports received here at the shop were on May 3rd.

Make sure the feeder is easy to clean, that they keep ants out and also wasps. We have ant moats and bee guards plus leak proof feeders that are guaranteed for life.

Oriole are quite similar to hummingbirds. They drink nectar but also like orange halves and grape jelly.  The grape jelly cannot have any artificial sweetener in it. So only the best!

Orioles are attracted to orange just like hummers are attracted to red. Often you’ll see the orioles when the apple trees are blooming.  If they find a good reliable food source they may stay and nest but most often they continue to fly north with the blooming of the apples. Look for their nests in the trees. It like a big long tangle of sticks and moss. They also can disappear when they are nesting so don’t give up. They may shop up just when you take the feeder away!

We have a large selection of hummingbird and oriole feeders to choose from. Pop by the shop for some helpful advice to choose one for your garden.

Visit our YouTube channel to watch this episode.

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

Ultra Violet – The colour of the year!

Ultra Violet – The colour of the year! 
By Victoria Whitney of Griffin’s Greenhouses


The gardening community was excited when Pantone, a well-known colour expert company, announced that the Colour of the Year for 2018 was Ultra Purple. Last year, to stay “on trend” the colour to integrate in your garden was Greenery – how easy was that? In 2018, adding tones of purple will be intentional. Splashes of lavender, purple and rosy blues will POP amid green leaves and will contrast with variegated leaves.

For annuals (and yes, all good gardens have a combination of colourful annuals and valuable perennials) consider the beautiful blooms of petunias, impatiens and geraniums. Each of these garden basics bloom in many shades, but one of the most popular for all three is violet or purple. In impatiens (and yes, they will be back, in small quantities, in many local garden centres) mixtures with bright violet or even violet on its own will shine in shady gardens. Always be careful though, in deep shade gardens to avoid too many deep, dark colours; rich dark shades are lost in the shadows and it’s best to add in white or lighter shades of the same dark hue to brighten the darkness.

Other annuals to consider in hues of violet:  african daisy (pictured), salvia, dahlias, ageratum, cleome, coleus, fountain grass, ornamental cabbage and kale, alyssum and verbena.

Purple or violet blooms are not as common in perennials; some to note may not bloom purple but feature purple leaves: heuchera (coral bells), lupins, ground phlox, tall garden phlox, coneflowers malva, delphiniums and flowering shrubs such as weigela, ninebark and hydrangeas.

A simple, less permanent way to integrate a specific colour in the garden is to add colourful accents. How about purple outdoor cushions on patio furniture? Or why not paint metal furniture, a trellis or a wire obelisk with a can of Ultra Violet spray paint? Have fun and be “on trend” for 2018!

Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog

A new season is in full swing!

Wow!  What happened to spring?  It seems like we’ve gone from a long cold winter into summer with 25C+ temps!  This makes things super busy at all the Garden Route businesses.

The plants at Griffin’s, Johnston’s, Greenhouse on the River, Keene on Gardens and Gardens Plus have just surged into super growth! And Brenda can barely keep up with customers who are popping by for some garden accessories at The Avant-Garden Shop.  She has many beautiful new items available.

Now is the time to drop by to purchase plants. All chance of frost (should be) past. And in the coming weeks, drop by again to have a more relaxed visit to the garden centres to view the display gardens and pick out something special for this seasons garden.

Click the links on the right to take you to each Garden Route business’s page.


Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog
Gardens Plus is celebrating season #21!

Gardens Plus is celebrating season #21!

So many new introductions in the easy care perennial line up this season.


Excited to carry some combinations for Pollinators, Hummingbird Magnets

and always have been growing  pesticide/chemical free.  So all bee friendly too.


Check out the web site for a complete list of offerings along with details and pricing.

You can even pre order for both pick up and shipping.  If you drop in the green houses always

have a great selection pre-potted to offer.

Change of hours:


Due to the amount of light hours in a day…  Gardens are closed on Monday and Tuesdays


All a benefit to you when you come so staff are not preparing orders for pick up and shipping.

Gardens/Green houses open 10-4 Wednesday to Sunday

With the exception of Friday evenings until 7pm from May 11th until July 29th for 2018

They will also have limited shrubs available in May until sold out.


Posted by GardenRoute2017 in Garden Route Blog