Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Song Sparrow Meets Robin

a robin sitting on a nest below a white flower in a viburnum shrub.

Hello, fellow lovers of all things green,

The routine of a family of Robins nesting in the Doublefile Viburnum outside the kitchen window did not happen this year. Let’s just say aggressive fall pruning done by someone who lives here inhibited the protection of the thick canopy of branches and leaves. It’s true, the viburnum needed pruning that should have been done right after the bloom: the shoemaker and her shoes, no time for my garden (smile). And so this year, a Song Sparrow invites a Robin family to nest in another spot.

A Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Mariesii' coated with white flowers

Doublefile Viburnum – Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Mariesii’

The Doublefile Viburnum is a popular nesting spot. 

Over the years, I pruned the Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Mariesii’  to become a small tree requiring some finesse. Its gracefully cascading branches from the multi-stem trunk were stunning. However, without seasonal pruning, it can impede views from the bay window (and protect the late afternoon sun from heating the house, I might add). Besides, watching the broods of the Robin families is well worth the lack of views of the rock garden.

I didn’t realize until it leafed out how disfigured the plant is now. I could only enjoy the flowers from the second floor, where the lacey white blooms coat the branches. But I still enjoyed the little white angel petals when they dropped to the ground. I’ll restore my beloved shrub tree with tender, loving care and careful pruning. It’s where my dear Sara, two dogs ago, once took afternoon naps.

a birds eye view of nest of baby robins in an evergreen shrub.

While protected on the sides, the nest on the top of the small tree was exposed.

So the Robin family nested in the Juniperus rigida ‘Pendula,’ a weeping form of the Needle Juniper. While protected on the sides, the nest on the top of the small tree was exposed. I was worried about that, and sadly, the hatchlings were snagged. Gratefully, I didn’t witness it. And I was soothed by watching a little brown bird, a song sparrow, successfully nest in the Japanese Snowball Viburnum outside the screen porch.

a white dog with black ears standing with front paws on the chair rail on a screened porch. A Robin family is making a fresh start.

Two weeks ago, I glanced up from my writing spot to see a robin in the Beech tree, the sun augmenting her orange chest. I’ll call her a she. Maybe she was a he. They work together as a team. Perhaps they are the ones who built a new nest in the Snowball Viburnum. Jolee jumped onto the chair rail to take a look. Sure enough, a Robin flew out of the shrub as the other sat in the tree. Perhaps it’s the same family whose first brood was snagged, making a fresh start.

The Song Sparrow finished using her nest. After the first call with Jolee, we walked around the front to enjoy the brook. I looked in the little nest, the surrounding leaves painted with white streaks from the experiments. A little brown bird took flight and landed behind the neighboring shrub. Jolee went for the chase.

“Leave it, Jolee. He’s just learning to fly.” She returns to me knowingly.

a robin sitting on a nest below a white flower in a viburnum shrub.

Mrs. Robin is sitting vigil.

a Japanese Snowball Viburnum loaded white snowball-like flowers

The Song-Sparrow is now the Robin Family’s Nesting Spot (Viburnum plicatum ‘Grandiflorum’)

A Song Sparrow Chased a Robin Family

You may recall when a Song Sparrow chased a Robin family from nesting in the viburnum outside the kitchen window. It was around Memorial Day eight years ago, a holiday set aside in memory of those who served. It’s heartwarming to see folks setting up the American flag, our symbol for the United States of America, especially given the divided state our country seems to be in and still is all these years later.

It seems to me there is plenty of room in the viburnum to share. Though the birds look different, they are very much the same. They need the same nourishment and water and have the same instincts to build a nest and raise their families. They also face the same challenges of lousy weather and invaders who may steal their eggs or young. So, to think this family of Song Sparrows generations later may have encouraged Mr. and Mrs. Robin to take advantage of their successful nesting spot warms my heart, and I hope yours too.

We are all one in this world that we share with wildlife and vegetation, and we can choose to live peacefully. Kindly. It starts at home and in our yards, neighborhoods, and communities.

Garden Dilemmas? and your favorite Podcast App.

Enjoy more to the story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast (a soothing 10 minutes):

Related Stories you’ll enjoy:

Doublefile Viburnum Angels – Blog Post

Robins of Renewal in the Garden – Blog Post

One World / Memorial Day – Blog Post of when the Song Sparrow chased the Robin Family

Ep16. One World, Robins of Renewal



Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.