For our Singing Feathered Friends

By Michelle Domocol
Back to Inflourish: Cebu

October in Cebu brings steady rainfall and a daily chorus of bird calls. Healing Present’s (HP) headquarters is located in the bustling, concrete landscape of Cebu City. It sits far below from the farm’s upland vegetation and pocket forests.

Photo 1. Features in Bird-friendly garden behind HP headquarters–A: Assorted foliage plants; B: Fruiting vines; C: Flowering ginger lilies; D: orchids attached to post

Although the headquarters are surrounded by cement homes and ragged roads, we manage to create an oasis for local birds (Photo 1). It’s truly awe-inspiring what a collection of potted plants, raised beds and vines can do (Photo 1). Without fail, every morning and afternoon, we are visited by local avians like black shamas, sunbirds, flowerpeckers, and more.

In general, adding plants that attract local birds benefits you and the local ecoystem. Birds visit urban gardens for food, water, and temporary protection from predators.

In turn, they grace us with relaxing songs. For some, birdsongs are reminders of our unique ecological heritage. These urban bird oases are also wonderful venues to teach children about nature without traveling too far from home.

Here are 3 strategies to create your own bird-friendly garden.

1. Offer a Fruit & Nectar Buffet. Add fruit-bearing and nectar-rich, flowering shrubs, vines and trees. If you live in a smaller space with a balcony or small courtyard, select dwarf fruit trees or shrubs that grow well in containers.

In urban Cebu’s humid, rainfall, and tropical climate, we can plant so many combinations of tropical fruit or berries. Try adding your favorite local fruit. I’ve seen birds flock to gardens with batwan, biasong, lomboy, or seryales.

If you have a larger space, add mature native trees and vines. As your fruit/flower garden matures, birds will appreciate the free food and nectar. You can add non-fruiting plants too. Birds like to protect themselves amongst large leafed plants (Photo 1) like elephant ear, ferns, crotons or other foliage.

2. Leave the fallen leaves. In Cebu, there’s a compulsion to constantly clean up old leaves. In a bird garden, fight this urge. You can sweep the leaves and debris under the plants. But please don’t throw them and worse yet, burn them. These precious leaves return nutrients to your plants. They also attract harmless insects birds love to eat.


3. Discourage cats. Cats can threaten and attack local birds regularly. In Cebu, sometimes it’s difficult to protect your garden from stray cats. If you have your own pet cat, try to keep it inside or away from your garden. You can also put a bell on your cat’s collar so birds are warned as it approaches.




Photos 2 to 5 are my sample designs to inspire your next bird-friendly garden.

Each design illustrates an outdoor space with bird-attracting flowering and fruiting plants. Native and endemic plant varieties are also highlighted.

“Tropical Lounge” (Photo 2)
Photo 2. “Tropical Lounge”

A: Outdoor seating area with cluster of native Phalaenopsis orchids, flowering Heliconia latispatha, and a local variety of Dwarf Lakatan bananas.
B: Bignay fruit tree (Antidesma bunius) and Kamagong (Diospyros blancoi)
C: Dwarf lakatan in container
D: Large-leafed foliage plants

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“Relaxing Patio(Photo 3)
Photo 3. “Relaxing Patio”


A: Kamuning shrubs (Murraya paniculata) around a pond
B: Talamisan Citrus tree (Citrus longispina) with Vanda orchids attached to trunk
C: Mix of Luy-a (Zingiber officinale), ginger lily (Zingiber spectabilis), and ferns
D: Reclining outdoor chairs to observe birds and rest

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“Garden path” (Photo 4)
Photo 4. “Garden Path”


A: Walkway with bordering gardend. A mix of cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) and local Santan shrubs (Ixora philippinensis).
B: Native Dendrobium orchids growing on decorative boulder
C: Behind the flowering borders, you can add large-leafed foliage like taro. If you have more space, you can plant trees like Cebu Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cebuense) or Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa)

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“Terrace” (Photo 5)
Photo 5. “Terrace”


A: Islands of Gumamela varieties (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
B: Dwarf Limonsito (Calamondin spp.) tree in a large circular raised bed with attached circular seating
C: Group of dwarf papaya growing in containers
D: More hibiscus shrubs in front of a slightly raised terrace

I hope these designs inspire some enthusiastic brainstorming for our feathered friends. Till next post, enjoy the rest of October’s birdsongs.

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