These were taken on a winter walk in the park. The nandina, with their stark red berries hanging like tiny ruby grapes, and the tall holly tree decorated in red, were like jewels against the fresh snow. The purple tinting on the leaves of the nandina and azalea added even more color to a season most people think of as shades of gray and brown.
But these trees and shrubs add much more than beauty to the winter landscape. They add shelter and food for the birds and small animals wintering over in a frequently harsh environment. Small insects survive amid the leaves and twigs that gather at the base of the plants, and even more birds and small animals survive on these insects. The berries of plants such as the holly, Yaupon, privet, and cedar are a vital food source for both seed and insect-eating birds, including the migratory cedar waxwing, one of nature’s most distinctive and elegant birds. Now is the time to pick and plant the things that will enliven your yard year round.