A lot of people want to attract birds to their property, which is great, yet the common practice is to plant a whole heap of nectar-providing plants, e.g. Grevilleas and bottlebrushes. A customer came to my nursery the other day, and I said to her, “take a look around you. What’s in flower? Only the odd wattle here and there, and yet it’s thriving with bird life. Dense, layered vegetation, tall grasses, (yes, even the wretched panic grass plays a part), and many prickly plant species are making it a good place for birds to visit or to live and breed.
One plant which is just perfect, particularly for small birds, is Pittosporum viscidum. It’s common name is birds nest bush which clearly tells you that birds will use it as a nesting site, often finches will make it their home. It is a shrub which reaches generally around two metres in height, but can get up to four or five metres given perfect growing conditions. The stems carry many thorns, so I wouldn’t plant it where you are going to brush past it. The new growth is a lime green colour which can look very vibrant at certain times of the year.
It has very small cream/yellow tubular flowers which are ideally shaped for small honeyeaters and butterflies to extract the nectar from. The fruit, which is about the size of a pea, is initially green then maturing to black.
If you pick one of the ripe fruit and give it a squeeze, small, brown, flat and sticky kidney-shaped seeds will ooze out, (hence the species name of viscidum). All pittosporum fruits have seeds which are surrounded by a sticky substance. That ‘goo’ acts as a germination inhibitor. It’s therefore important to remove as much of it as possible when preparing them for planting. I give the seeds a good soak, usually in warm water with a drop or two of detergent and stir them about in the water. After that, if they are still sticky, and they usually are, then I will put the seeds onto a piece of paper towel and try and wipe them clean.
The birds nest bush would make a good screening plant and can tolerate a range of soil types. It can also be planted in full sun or part shade.
I would just like to add one thing: times are tough right now for many people, including our local small business owners. Peter Bevan, (Pete’s Hobby Nursery) and my nursery both rely heavily upon our market stalls as an outlet for selling our plants. With a ban on all markets, we both have a heap of plants that need to go to loving homes. There are ways of getting plants to you without contact, so please consider this if you are looking for activities to do while in lockdown.