For any aspiring Golden Isles gardener, one name becomes quite familiar — Dawn Hart. The owner of ACE Garden Center on St. Simons Island has become the go-to for those looking for guidance or advice on a wealth of topics.

A popular subject is how to cultivate and maintain a bustling bird feeder in one’s back yard. We were fortunate to be able to sit down with this busy lady to pick her brain on the subject and get her ideas. Read on to learn more:

Question: What are some basic factors people should consider before purchasing and signing on as a “bird feeder?”

Answer: Our coastal climate and abundance of native plants, trees, and shrubs provide the perfect atmosphere for attracting birds to your garden for your peaceful enjoyment. To encourage birds in your landscape, a habitat should include the essentials of food, shelter, and water.

In addition to a selection of seed mixes and bird feeders available for purchase, birds will forage on fruit and berry producing shrubs and trees in your yard. Birds generally prefer feeders and seek nesting areas under the safety of tree canopies or multi-stemmed shrubs versus an open area. The screening this provides also makes for landings in calm air. Keeping seed and nectar in your feeders is important even though they don’t have to be full if rain is ruining the seeds constantly. But don’t allow hummingbird feeders to run dry as the little birds thrive on dependable feeding locations.

Question: We’ve all heard the stories of how squirrels commandeer bird feeders. What can we do to prevent that?

Answer: Using Safflower or “hot” seed is a great deterrent. Also, as bird species vary from season to season, don’t be afraid to try a new seed and remember to clean your feeders seasonally. Birds like eating off clean dishes too.

Question: What are some things to think about when adding plants to the yard if you want to keep the birds coming back?

Answer: When considering new plantings for your garden, try to select plants that fruit at different seasons to give birds a continual food source. Readily available trees and multi-stemmed shrubs that offer both a food source and shelter are key. Those include Podocarpus, Wax Myrtle, Youpon Holly, Viburum, Black Gum, Pyracantha, Red Cedar, Oaks, Magnolia, Hollies, Dogwood, Callicarpa, and Hawthornes.

Question: We love hummingbirds, of course, is there anything they can prefer?

Answer: Hummingbirds are especially attracted to the following ornamentals: Honeysuckle, Passiflora, Firecracker, Bignonia, Campsis Vines, Bottlebrush, Clethra, Firebrush, Clerodendrons, Plumbago, Oleander, Duranta, Canna Lilies, Yellow Bells, Jathropha, Flowering Quince, and Red Yucca to name a few.

An array of flowering plants and herbs that attract hummingbirds include Pineapple Sage, Catmint, Red and Blue Salvias, Zinnias, Bee Balm, Milkweed Foxglove, Delphinium, Dianthus, Cuphea (Heathers), Cleome, Columbine, Buddleia, Pentas, Verbenas, Coneflowers, Veronica, and many more.

Question: You mentioned that water is a key element. How can people incorporate that into their landscaping?

Answer: Providing a water feature for drinking and bathing, a shallow bath is recommended with a lip or other ornamental detail that will provide a place for a perch. Moving water generally attracts more birdlife but a birdbath will work if your space is limited.

With you and Mother Nature providing the food, shelter, and water, all you need to do is relax and enjoy the spectacle around you.

— ACE Garden Center is located at 2807 Demere Road, St. Simons Island. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.