(Note: This post has been updated from its original content to correct information about the hummingbird moth caterpillar.)
I was all set to follow my last column about fall migration with a closer look at some of the songbirds, including warblers, that are heading south now and will be for the next several weeks.
That column has been put on hold as I saw something in the garden last week that just can’t wait. Experienced vegetable gardeners have likely seen this before, but it was a first for me and I was amazed at the gruesome details when I researched it online.
First, a little background. It is a first-year garden plot. I dug it during April at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Northeast. More than anything else, it was a diversion from the nuttiness going on in the world; something to keep my mind and body occupied during quarantine. I’ve never had a green thumb and I had little hope in the garden ever yielding impressive crops.
As it turns out, my pessimism was warranted. Once the leaves popped on the giant oaks that surround my property, the garden didn’t stand a chance. Tomato plants require how much sunlight? Continue reading →
There are few things more satisfying to the backyard birdwatcher than having a bird eat seeds or fruits from something planted by the birdwatcher’s own hands.
Well, that’s my opinion anyway and it was made clear the other day when a small flock of American goldfinches descended upon my small patch of purple coneflowers for a late afternoon meal.
That opening statement comes with some qualifications, most importantly if you want the birds to be eating the seeds or fruits. I don’t know why anyone would mind birds eating seeds from a flower garden. I also don’t know why anyone would mind birds eating fruits from, say, dogwood trees, crabapple trees or winterberry bushes.
If, however, the fruit is being grown for human consumption, such as cherries or blackberries, then I can understand how there would be frustration on the part of the gardener.
I used to live in an apartment owned by a family that grew some fruits and vegetables on the property. Year after year, the cherries never got to see the light of the kitchen as birds, mostly starlings, ate the fruits before they were ready to be picked. My landlord was mighty frustrated and tried everything to prevent it from happening. He tried noise deterrents and scary-looking balloons, but the starlings were unfazed by it all.
So, yes, there are exceptions to my opening statement, but edible fruits aside, I stand by it. I always get a thrill in late summer or early fall when the goldfinches perch precariously atop the coneflower and pick out the tiny seeds. As the fall progresses, I can usually find a few kinglets (ruby-crowned and golden-crowned) among the sedum.
Sunflowers are great for attracting birds, which makes sense since the best and most versatile feeder food is sunflower seeds. Goldfinches and downy woodpeckers are the most reliable customers when I grow sunflowers.
I love any hummingbird sighting, but there is something more satisfying about seeing one feed from a plant growing in the garden or hanging near the deck than drinking from a feeder.
I’ve never had much luck growing berries, but one house I used to live in had a wild black cherry tree in the front yard. I used to love to watch the robins attack the tree every fall. I would always hope cedar waxwings would come too. To my knowledge, they never did and the robins did a pretty good job of stripping the tree of all its fruits.
Planting native flowers, bushes and trees is a welcomed trend among homeowners and landscapers. It is helping birds, pollinators and other native wildlife even as we continue to take away their natural habitat.
It is exciting to see these plants come back year after year. It’s even better when you see the plants supporting other native wildlife.
I don’t have a lot of garden space on my property as it is predominately shaded. I do have a few sunny spots and I wasted no time in planting some native perennials, including coneflower. The goldfinches come every year when the flower heads start to die off. The goldfinches started arriving this week and have returned daily. There will be more photos of the goldfinches coming up soon, I’m sure.
Toward the end of last summer, I purchased a few coneflower plants at a greatly reduced price from a hardware store. I planted them in a large flower box on my deck and the plants flourished into late fall.
While in bloom, the plants made for a photogenic setting as birds perched on them before heading to a nearby feeder. Once the flowers died and went to seed, the plants were visited frequently by goldfinches, chickadees, titmice and other small birds. I certainly got my money’s worth from the plants. Here are some photos I took of the plants in action.
Since coneflower is a perennial, I was looking forward to many years of similar success from these $2 plants. Unfortunately, the plants did not come back this spring. I never transported them out of the flower box and the winter’s hard freeze killed the roots.
But something else popped up this year — at an even better price. You can’t beat free. Remember I had mentioned the nearby feeders? Well, a few of the sunflower seeds that got knocked or carried into the box sprouted. I noticed them in the spring and recognized the tiny stems as sunflowers. Wouldn’t it be cool if they grew to become full plants, I thought at the time. Fast forward a few months and I have three healthy, flowering sunflowers in that flower box. They are not towering plants by any means, but that’s probably a good thing considering their location.
The birds are already using them as perches. I just saw a chipping sparrow on one a few hours ago. Now I can’t wait until later this summer and fall when birds start picking seeds out of the flowers. You know I’ll be posting plenty of photos when that starts to happen. Talk about getting your money’s worth out of a bag of sunflower seeds.
Has this or something similar happened in your garden? Drop me a line and let me know. You can comment on this site, Facebook (Birds of New England), or email me at email@example.com.
Gardener’s Supply Company Warming wraps infused with essential oils can provide relief to those suffering from sore shoulder and neck muscles.
By Melinda Myers
Ease into the hectic holiday season with the help of aromatherapy. The fragrances of plant-derived essential oils have long been used to improve the health of our mind, body and spirit.
Boost your energy and increase your focus as you work to balance work, family and holiday fun. Peppermint has long been prized for this and so much more. You’ll find it also helps relieve headaches and indigestion.
Freshen your home with the scent of grapefruit. It’s the perfect solution when unexpected guests drop by for a visit. You may also find the grapefruit aroma, along with your company, help to lighten your mood.
Use eucalyptus essential oil in the fight against colds and flu this winter. Just place a few drops into a diffuser on your desk at work, in your bedroom or family room. The diffusers come in a wide array of shapes and sizes. Some use heat, ultrasonic vibrations, fans or wood wicks to disperse the fragrance throughout the room. Others, like the Eden Aroma Diffuser, allow the fragrance to seep through the porous portion of the diffuser pot and into the room.
Or use a eucalyptus eye mask to help relieve sinus pressure and sooth tired eyes. Just gently heat or cool the mask, cover your eyes and relax into a bit of relief.
End your day with relaxing lavender. It helps reduce anxiety, relieves headaches and improves sleep. Turn up the heat and fragrance Continue reading →
Credit: Longfield-Gardens.com ‘Red Pearl,’ a newer variety of amaryllis, has huge red velvety flowers that are deep crimson, overlaid with burgundy and maroon.
By Melinda Myers
Brighten those gray winter days with a few colorful, easy-care amaryllis. The 6- to 10-inch trumpet shaped blossoms are sure to generate a smile and brighten your mood. And consider sharing the fun of growing these beauties with friends and families. Watching the bulbs transform into beautiful blossoms is an experience everyone will enjoy – and it’s a gift that requires no dusting.
When buying amaryllis, purchase large bulbs for the biggest and longest lasting floral display. One jumbo bulb will send up multiple flower stems over several weeks. Smaller bulbs can be planted two or three to a pot to create a living bouquet.
Try some of the newer varieties like ‘Lagoon’ and ‘Red Pearl’. Their ten-inch blossoms are sure to enliven any indoor decor. Grow the ‘Nymph’ series of double amaryllis if you prefer large flowers on shorter stems. ‘Cherry Nymph’ has a rose-like beauty with layers of fire engine red petals.
Photo by Longfield-Gardens.com Unique daffodil varieties like Lingerie offer double flowering.
By Melinda Myers
Daffodils have a cheery presence in the spring garden and are a surefire way to chase away the winter blues. These fall-planted bulbs are also reliable perennials that require no maintenance and are not bothered by deer or other pests. The National Garden Bureau has declared 2017 the Year of the Daffodil, and with the fall planting season right around the corner, now is the time to choose your favorites.
Yellow trumpet daffodils are classics, but there are many other flower styles and colors to choose from. Double-flowering types like white and yellow Lingerie and long lasting lemon-yellow Sherbourne feature multiple rows of petals and some varieties look more like peonies than daffodils.
Multi-flowering varieties like Beautiful Eyes, display several flowers on each stem. This variety’s white and orange blossoms have a gardenia-like fragrance. Miniature Continue reading →
The GreenWell water saver contains and concentrates the water where it is needed during a tree’s critical root establishment phase.
By Melinda Myers
Whether planting a tree to add seasonal beauty, grow backyard fruit, provide a bit of shade, or reduce energy costs, it’s a big upfront investment. Make the most of your money spent by giving your tree its best chance at survival with proper planting and care.
Now is a great time to plant trees. Cooler air temperatures make it less stressful on newly planted trees and the gardeners planting them.
Select a tree suited to the growing conditions. Make sure it tolerates the sunlight, soil and temperature extremes. Check the tag for the mature height and spread. You’ll have a better-looking plant that always fits the space with minimal pruning.
Plant it correctly to insure your tree thrives for many years to come. Dig a Continue reading →