Garden Photo of the Day

Bath Time! (for Birds)

A dozen small water features

birdbath with pink and purple astilbes and yellow daylilies

Today’s photos are from Susan Warde in St. Paul, Minnesota (Zone 4b).

I love ponds and waterfalls and fountains but don’t want to deal with the work they entail. So my “water feature” consists of bird baths—a dozen of them: four each in the front, side, and back gardens. Of course they too need some some attention. I clean them two or three times a week and bleach them once a season. And in the fall I need to flip the basins so the winter freeze/thaw cycles (mostly freeze in Minnesota) don’t crack them. Though none of the photos show bathers or drinkers, the birdbaths are heavily patronized—and not just by avian visitors. Squirrels and chipmunks come regularly, and once I even saw a fox drinking, a real treat in the middle of the city.

close up of bird bath surrounded by grasses and other foliage plantsThe crows favor this birdbath in the spring, dunking their snacks in it. I find things like soggy bagels and the entrails of unfortunate small mammals, so for a period of time it needs daily cleaning. In the foreground are sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis, Zones 4–8), a Hosta (Zones 3–9), and a daylily (Hemerocallis hybrid, Zones 3–8). Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana, Zones 3–9) to the right of and behind the birdbath is just opening. Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Zones 5–9), phlox (Phlox paniculata, Zones 4–8), and rudbeckia (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’, Zones 3–9) are also visible.

a square birdbath surrounded by foliage plants and pink flowersHere’s another front yard birdbath with Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ (Zones 4–9) and Astilbe ‘Ostrich Plume’ (Zones 4–8).

small birdbath surrounded by yellow and pink flowersAlong the sidewalk up to the house is a birdbath with a pineapple base, surrounded by rudbeckia, daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Gold’, and ’Stella Supreme’), and some vivid phlox.

small birdbath with pink flowers growing aboveThis tall phlox drops its blossoms into the small birdbath just to the right of the front steps. A neighborhood cat drinks here.

birdbath with pink and purple astilbes and yellow dayliliesIn this photo from the side yard are astilbes (the one on the left is ‘Vision in Red’; I don’t know the name of the pink ones) and ‘Happy Returns’ daylily. The evergreen is Thuja occidentalis ‘Yellow Ribbon’ (Zones 3–7).

big purple irises with small yellow ad pink flowersA small birdbath along the side path is almost hidden by a tall bearded iris (Iris ‘Sultry Mood’, Zones 3–9). The yellow blossoms are globe flower (Trollius × cultorum ‘Cheddar’, Zones 4–7), and the pink ones are a geranium (Geranium sanguineum, Zones 3–9).

birdbath on the edge of a garden bed with purple flowersI have a good view of this birdbath from the kitchen window. It’s near the bird feeders and is thus in frequent use. Decorated with snowdrops, it matches a planter on the back steps that contains herbs. More ‘Vision in Red’ astilbes light up this shady area under a small maple; I think the pink ones are Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Sprite’ (Zones 3–9). There are Japanese painted ferns (Athyium niponicum var. pictum, Zones 3–8), a tall glade fern (Diplasium pycnocarpon, Zones 3–8), and a large Lenten rose (Helleborus × nigercors ‘Winter Star’, Zones 5–9), one of the earliest plants to flower in the garden. The hostas, which have become a ground cover in this spot, are ‘Blue Mouse Ears’. Small creeping irises (Iris cristata, Zones 3–9) are in the foreground, and the chartreuse flower clusters in the lower right are lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis, Zones 3–8).

stone garden bed with ferns growing underneath and white hydrangea behindIf you look closely you may be able to see the fern design on the supports of the bench. Perched on top of it is my smallest birdbath. Goldfinches especially are attracted to this one, but this past week a catbird has been bathing in it, without much room to spare. That’s Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ (Zones 3–9) in the background, doing well after having been severely “pruned” by rabbits last winter. The ferns are Japanese painted fern (flanking the bench) and bulblet fern (Cystopteris bulbifera, Zones 3–8) in front. The tiny hostas are ‘Cameo.’

round bird bath surrounded by foliage plantsThis is the first birdbath visitors encounter in the back garden. It’s surrounded by hostas, astilbes, wild ginger (Asarum canadense, Zones 4–6), and ferns.

short bird bath stacked on stones surrounded by foliage plantsHere’s another low birdbath in the back garden, surrounded by more wild ginger (left) and a mat of Sedum ‘John Creech’ (Zones 3–8). Hostas and ostrich fern (Matteucia struthiopteris, Zones 3–7) form a backdrop.

bird bath surrounded by fernsI need help flipping the top of my largest birdbath, seen here among ferns. The ones arching over the kitty are long beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis, Zones 2–5). To the left are more Japanese painted ferns. Behind the birdbath you can see ‘Lady in Red’ (Athyrium felix-femina var. angustum, Zones 4–8) and to the left of them the fertile fronds of royal fern (Osmunda regalis, Zones 3–9). The small maple is Acer × pseudosieboldianum North Wind’ (Zones 4–8), a replacement for a tree that snapped in half during a heavy snowstorm last April 1.

small bird bath in the gardenLast but not least is the birdbath in the very back, enjoyed by the more timid visitors. The tall white-flowered plant in the background is black cohosh (Actea racemosa, Zones 3–8).


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    musabasjoosue 09/13/2023

    What a lovely collection of birdbaths artfully placed throughout your beautiful garden! My favorite is the one decorated with snowdrops.

  2. [email protected] 09/13/2023

    Love the idea of replacing big water features with different sizes of lovely. I am like you I want water but not the maintenance part of it! I might try to use your idea in my garden....thank you, your garden looks wonderful🙂

  3. nwphilagardener 09/13/2023

    This is a great GPOD post! The collection of very distinct bird baths was exciting to see. The design of these bird baths are elevated by comparison with the other encountered upon visiting the garden. Susan's careful description of surrounding plants was helpful as well. But it is clear that cleaning out the water is a serious commitment of time every few days. Otherwise, these handsome features become mosquito breeding centers. Truly inspirational.

    1. User avater
      cynthia2020 09/13/2023

      I agree with everything nwphilagardener said.

  4. Oxdriftgardener 09/13/2023

    Beautiful Susan. That is a LOT of birdbaths! I only have one birdbath and have yet to see it used but we have a pond with a waterfall right outside the living room window and if you take the time to sit and watch the birds put on quite a show. Our most frequent bathers are robins and evening grosbeaks. It's not unusual to see a couple dozen grosbeaks in there at a time as we have a couple big feeders out there as well.
    Your plantings surrounding the birdbaths are colorful and artistic as well. Good job.

    1. bottlegreen 11/16/2023

      You're so lucky to have all those grosbeaks visiting! I hope your birdbath is now attracting visitors.

  5. btucker9675 09/13/2023

    This is a truly beautiful post - both your birdbaths and your garden are so lovely. I have two birdbaths currently - one is a hanging pottery one my husband gave me for Christmas and the other is a large glazed pot saucer on top of a tall tree stump. You have inspired me to put in some more!

  6. User avater
    cynthia2020 09/13/2023

    Susan - I enjoyed reading your text and looking at all the photos. I especially liked the healthy ferns growing under and around the stone bench and seeing the lovely purple of the Sultry Mood iris. Thank you for sharing.

  7. foxglove12 09/13/2023

    I love your color schemes. Just perfect. And all your bird bath vignettes. Great job. I now know it’s ok for multiple bird bathes. 👏🏻

  8. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 09/14/2023

    Refreshing to see, and of course even more so for the frequent visitors who have chosen their favorite :=)

  9. User avater
    simplesue 09/14/2023

    You have some of the best bird baths I've ever seen- I like your sense of design!
    The photo of the garden bench is such a pretty scene, I love what you've done with your garden! I finally bought an electric bird bath heater and really recommend it for your garden- I just know you would love seeing all the birds use it in the winter. I attached a sort of blurry photo of how the thawed water really attracts thirsty birds. I bought a "K & H Pet Products Ice Eliminator Super Birdbath Deicer" for $35.

    1. bottlegreen 11/16/2023

      Oh that's wonderful! I love it (and obviously so do the birds)! But there's no electrical outlet near any of my birdbaths...

    2. bottlegreen 06/13/2024

      Just seeing this now, after all these months. I love your winter birdbath! Such a good idea.

  10. janetsydoruk 09/14/2023

    Your birdbaths are wonderful. It’s worth the work. Thank you. The birds and knitters thank you too.

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