Garden Trellis and Bird Feeder

Double-duty project pleases vines, birds and gardeners.


| September/October 2008



Garden Trellis

Nate Skow

Composite illustrations by Nate Skow

When we built our house on the outskirts of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1972, we were in the middle of what had been, the previous spring, a cornfield. Huge patches of 8-foot-high, wild, rough sunflowers grew in the unfarmed areas waiting for development. We delighted in the antics of sunflower-feeding goldfinches, the songs of meadowlarks perched on the back fence, the calls of cock pheasants in the distance at sunset, and, from the nearby slough, the croaking of frogs at night. Jackrabbits provided sport for our poor, slow dog who slogged back panting after each futile chase.

As the fields around us were developed, the remnant prairie wildlife was mostly replaced with eastern forest inhabitants such as nuthatches, house wrens, English sparrows, downy and hairy woodpeckers and occasional flickers, although the goldfinches, mourning doves and a few other species still visit. I don’t recall when we first started feeding the birds, but we didn’t get serious about it until we spotted cardinals perched atop the snow clinging to the branches of our next-door neighbor’s blue spruce.

With a little research, we learned that cardinals prefer to feed on open feeders where they apparently feel safe because they can exit the area without obstruction; black oil sunflower seed is their preferred food. So, I decided to build a feeder with the recommended open top and fill it with sunflower seed. And cardinals did come, along with many other types of birds. The squirrels arrived too, of course, and continue to eat more than the birds and provide at least as much amusement. And cottontails, at night, fill the snow under the feeder with their tracks as they clean up the spillage.

I’m not sure whose idea it was to put that feeder atop a trellis. It might have had something to do with the fact that we had fallen heir to some cedar lumber salvaged from our elder son’s deck remodel, and there was plenty to build something more elaborate than a simple post to support the feeder. That clematis-covered trellis adds beauty to the yard and some cover for the birds feeding there.





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