Archive for October, 2013

Birdscaping: A Few Native Plants Appropriate to the Northeast

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum):  This bush grows to about 12 feet and has pretty fall color with blue bird-friendly berries.  Zone 2-8

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum): This bush grows to about 12 feet and has pretty fall color with blue bird-friendly berries. Zone 2-8

As nurseries and landscapers begin to notice that we bird lovers spend many, many millions of dollars (billions?) on birding each year, some have begun to carry native, bird-friendly plants.  We have gradually been replacing the non-native deer fodder in our yard (e.g., Rhododendron, Hosta and evergreen Azaleas native to Asia) with attractive, low maintenance native plants that bear fruit to attract birds and butterflies.  Our local birds and butterflies evolved with these plants and they thrive when they feed on the food sources they evolved with.  There are many great sources of information and plant suggestions.  My “Bible” has been C. Colston Burrell’s Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants” .  Another good, more comprehensive one is  Steve Kress’ Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds, but more and more books are available on the subject.  I looked around the yard with my camera and here are just a few good candidates:

Winterberry (Ilex verticulata):  In the winter, the red berries brighten the landscape until the birds eat them all.  This bush grows to about 12 feet and is hardy from Maine to Florida.

Winterberry (Ilex verticulata): In the winter, the red berries brighten the landscape until the birds eat them all. This bush grows to about 12 feet and is hardy from Maine to Florida.  Be sure to get one male plant to go with the females.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida):  Many birds enjoy the fruit of this lovely small tree.  It is hardy as far north as Zone 5, has pretty fall color and very showy flowers in the spring.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida): Many birds enjoy the fruit of this lovely small tree. It is hardy as far north as Zone 5, has pretty fall color and very showy flowers in the spring.

American Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum):  This large handsome shrub makes a great summer screen for the patio.  The flowers resemble the non-native lace cap Hydrangeas and have bright red berries in the fall.  I have seen only Cedar Waxwings on mine but (according to Steve Kress' Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds, Brown Thrashers and Ruffed Grouse also favor them and 29 other bird species will eat them.  Hardy in Zones 2 to 7.

American Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum): This large handsome shrub makes a great summer screen for the patio. The flowers resemble the non-native lace cap Hydrangeas and have bright red berries in the fall. I have seen only Cedar Waxwings on mine but according to Steve Kress’ Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds, Brown Thrashers and Ruffed Grouse also favor them and 29 other bird species will eat them. Hardy in Zones 2 to 7.

Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia):  This shrub grows to about 8 feet and has red berries beloved by birds.  We have to move these because it doesn't like to be near our Black Walnut trees but it will be a great one after we do that.  Zones 5 to 9.

Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia): This shrub grows to about 8 feet and has red berries beloved by birds. We have to move these because it doesn’t like to be near our Black Walnut trees but it will be a great one after we do that. Zones 5 to 9.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana):  You get butterflies galore when you plant this 4' bush which has pretty blue flowers in late summer.  These are followed by the purple berries which provide food and moisture to the birds for several months.  Zone 7 and south.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana): You get butterflies galore when you plant this 4′ bush which has pretty blue flowers in late summer. These are followed by the purple berries which provide food and moisture to the birds for several months. Zone 7 and south.

Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica):  These fruits don't last long once the Yellow-rumped Warblers are done with them.  Be sure to get female bushes along with one male!  Zones 2-6.

Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica): These fruits don’t last long once the Yellow-rumped Warblers are done with them. Be sure to get female bushes along with one male! Zones 2-6.

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…and Then There Were Three!

He seems to have inherited his Father's nose.

He seems to have inherited his Father’s nose.

I should have heeded your warning, Marjorie, and put one by the front door and one here by the side door on the porch!

They've decided to watch me while I'm at the kitchen sink.

They’ve decided to watch me while I’m at the kitchen sink.

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Now there are Two “Squash Bugs”

I like these Squash Bugs much better than the kind I usually encounter!

I like these Squash Bugs much better than the kind I usually encounter!

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Fun with Squash

Yesterday we visited the New York Botanical Garden and enjoyed their Haunted Pumpkin Exhibit.  I was inspired to create a critter from one of the giant zucchinis that have revealed themselves as the leaves died back.  My little guy has black walnuts for eyes and twigs for legs.

Zuke Bug

Zuke Bug

More traditional squash activities of late are the harvesting and storing of our butternut squash. I grew a small variety this year, enough for two, as leftovers squash from the larger ones sometimes goes unnoticed in our refrigerator until it has become a “science project.” I picked them, leaving at least an inch of stem, washed them off them dipped them in a mild bleach solution. I then air dried them and put them in our cool cellar for storage.

These have been dipped in a weak bleach solution and have been set out to dry

These have been dipped in a weak bleach solution and have been set out to dry

Our youngest son left his wine rack when he moved out and it makes the perfect storage spot for squash as they like good air circulation. I cooked up any with skins that have broken, mashed them and froze them in one cup containers for pies and squash rolls later.

Wine racks make great places to store squash.

Wine racks make great places to store squash.

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I’m Back and Planting My Garlic

We’ve been traveling (twice to Maine and one long trip to Namibia and Botswana for birding), hence my lengthy absence.   We came back to find that fall had come to the garden, so it is time here in the Northeast U.S. to plant garlic, the first crop of the 2014 growing season.   You want to plant it about six weeks before hard frost.  Before I get to the garlic, I’ll share one photo of birds from Namibia (the garlic is pretty monochromatic, so this will add some color to my post!)

Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters just returned to their nesting colony on the banks of the Kavango River.

Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters just returned to their nesting colony on the banks of the Kavango River.

Now to the garlic.  First you need to separate the heads into cloves, picking the largest, plumpest ones to plant.  The larger the clove, the larger the head next July.  I plant four varieties so I carefully keep them separate and labeled.

The best cloves, all sorted and labeled.

The best cloves, all sorted and labeled.

It’s important to choose a spot where you haven’t grown garlic recently.  I plan to plant the garlic where I just removed old, spent broccoli, and because broccoli is a heavy feeder, I amend the soil with some organic fertilizer as a “quick fix.”  I rake back the salt hay that was around the broccoli, take out any weeds and scatter the granules of fertilizer.  I then dig over the area with my spading fork.

All clear for planting.

All clear for planting.

Because the soil is very loose (not walked on in years), I put down a small sheet of plywood to kneel on as I plant.  I make a furrow, place the cloves (pointy end up, root end down) evenly across the row about 5″ apart and push them down into the soil about an inch.  Then I rake the soil back into the furrow and firm it with my hoe.   I label each variety and move on to the next, alphabetically just in case a label gets moved somehow.

Space them in furrows about 5" apart.

Space them in furrows about 5″ apart.

Tonight rain is expected so I’ll leave the salt hay off until it rains, then spread it back over.  It’s important that the garlic only develops its root system now and not send up leaves, so I will put a thick cover of leaves (maple is good) over the spot, once we get raking.

Tamped down, labeled and waiting for rain.

Tamped down, labeled and waiting for rain.

I’ll end with one more Africa picture.

Springbok at the waterhole in Okaukuejo Camp, Etosha NP, Namibia.

Springbok at the waterhole in Okaukuejo Camp, Etosha NP, Namibia.

 

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