In the Thick of Things


Some of you may have had a similar experience as Kim had not too long ago. She looked out her window at the lump of tawny twigs and yellow flowers that calls itself forsythia and noticed lots of activity in its center.

This basically useless plant in the landscape was, in fact, acting as habitat for a collection of birds. The dense twiggy cover provided protection and saftey for the winged wildlife. This fact, to some of us, is kind of annoying. In many of our circles forsythia do not have any value in the landscape, at all. Except for maybe bringing in long cuttings in February to force for cheerful yellow blooms in the bathroom (anyone else?).

But here it was, this forsythia providing cover, acting essential.


Thickets, according to the US Audubon, are some of the most important habitats in the northeast. This scrubby, twiggy type of growth not only feed resident birds but millions of migratory birds each year. This habitat is so important the US National Fish and Wildlife Service has created  the Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge in the Northeast.

We do not carry forsythia and our primary crop are herbcaeous in habit, but we do have some offerings that will help you create a forsythia-free thicket providing the essentials in a habitat for birds and other wildlife.

And this from Larry Weaner:

Precisely because of their thicket-forming characteristic, clonal shrubs are some of the most weed-suppressive, soil-stabilizing and wildlife-friendly plants you can put in your garden.

To create your thicket some plants you may want to consider are:

Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Button Bush NMN

New Jersey Tea (Ceonothus americanus)

Ceonothus NMN


Shrubby St. John’s Wort (Hypericum prolificum)

Hypericum Prolificum NMN

Of course there are many more shrubs perfectly adequate for thickets. Plants like sumacs, iteas and shrubby dogwoods work for this situation as well.

You can even think about vines as groundcovers instead of plants to be elevated, let them roam over rocks and stumps (and forsythia?) in tangled masses birds will love:

Trumpet Honeysuckle  (Lonicera sempervirens) may be a great candidiate for this application.


Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

Virgin’s Bower (Clematis virginiana)

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Of course leaving your perennial seedheads to stand also can be used for thickets as well.  And don’t forget those grasses. Including a variety of tall grasses can also provide security for your wildlife.

Solidago odora seedhead

Seedhead of Solidago odora, Sweet Goldenrod, can provide shelter and food for your garden’s winter residents.



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