Category Archives: Wildlife

A Goodbye to a Much Loved Garden

Cherry tree - 1

When you have to move and have to relinquish a garden that you have nurtured for twenty eight years, every moment you have left becomes precious.  As spring approaches, I spend as much time as possible walking the grounds and basking in the memories of each small vignette:  The twenty eight foot Weeping Spruce growing in the secret garden that my son brought home one day from school after an Earth day program his kindergarten year. He proudly presented it to me in a small paper cup. The Beautiful Cherry that dear friends gave us in a gallon pot when our daughter was born. The Hostas I dug up and transplanted from my first house.  The stand of Brunnera a girlfriend shared from her own garden and the different varieties of Pulmonaria I collected through the years now in glorious bloom, just as I am getting ready to leave. As gardeners, we all know that a gift of a plant will always have meaningful memories attached to it and long lasting  life. As such, I walk away with an ache in my heart but with the realization that the plants will endure and hopefully will give joy for many years to come.

Pulmonaria goodbye - 1

My wish is that the new lucky owners of this piece of land, home to nesting birds that return from migration to this patch year after year, home also to the bunnies who eat non stop and the deer who make their morning and evening rounds,  home to frogs and garter snakes that keep pests in check and the woodchucks who eat the dandelion flowers as they are fresh each morning . The squirrels nesting in its trees and the chipmunks who dig tunnels in the most inconspicuous places. They all belong here more than us.  My message to these lucky new owners (as of this point, unknown) is that they can draw peace and inspiration from its beauty, bask in the shade of its mature trees and receive joy from the song of its many resident birds as we did for so many decades.

I face a new beginning in my gardening journey, moving South to zone 9 in Central Florida, fauna and flora quite different from Pennsylvania which affords me the opportunity of learning new plant families and create gardens that require less water and more sun. I will explore the rich world of Cacti and Succulents and experiment with some tropical plants and fruit trees. I am eager to explore and share my journey with you and hope you continue to join me in the adventures to come!

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

Beautifully Done Documentary

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Brilliant documentary produced by Disneynature, directed by Louie Schwartzberg and narrated by Meryl Streep.  Totally worth an hour and twenty minutes of my time.  It focuses on our hardworking pollinators: Bees, Hummingbirds, bats and butterflies. Showing us impossibly close shots of the beauty of the flowers and the specialty pollinators they depend on, and yes that includes us as well! The photography is breathtaking, The message worth promoting. Enjoy!

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Gardening and Nature

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Amazing the transformation that happens in spring! not just in nature, but in our own consciousness. After decades of gardening, an understanding naturally engulfs us from the practice of caring for our landscape plants and spending time outside.   As gardeners, we hold in our hands the health of everything around us. The health of the soil that feeds our plants.  The health of the insects that, by the millions, work indefatigable to make a living on our plot of land. The web starts there.  But we have to understand our ecosystem.  I have visited beautiful gardens that are dead.  Not a living insect or bird can survive in a land laden with pesticides and fertilizers. As I wrote in my post “Why Organic?” synthetic substances in the soil break the web of life. In our search for perfection we sometimes forget the delicate balance of the natural world around us. So, as the new gardening season begins, lets agree to be more conscientious of the world that surrounds us and weigh our actions against the impact we may have on the wild creatures that share our habitat.

Happy Spring!

“Plants are not optional on this planet.  With a few exceptions, neither we, nor anything else can live without them.  We invariably take plants and the benefits they provide for granted”   Douglas W. Tallamy

Misconseptions about Wildlife Corridors

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Talking with a colleague in the Landscaping and Gardening business, I was shocked to hear that she though the the term “Wildlife Corridors” meant that it was required to be planted with only native plants.  But the term refers to creating a highway of vegetation connecting garden beds or enlarging existing ones to assist small mammals, reptiles and insects to move safely though the land for the purpose of finding food, shelter and reproduce. In a sense expanding their habitats.

In the photo above, I have an example of an existing bed in my on garden. The Canadian Hemlocks planted twenty years ago and heavily shaded by many oak trees next door, have become very thin in the bottom and no longer provide the privacy screen they were originally planted to achieve.  I see this as a perfect opportunity to enlarge and add plantings for my benefit and to help biodiversity.

hemlock bed 21

Follow the guide lines in my 2009 post: creating a new planting bed. Determine the space to use, layer with newspaper to kill the grass, wet paper so it stays in place and add mulch (here I used leaf mulch created from last years leaf collection) and presto!

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New planting area ready and marked.  I will trim the hemlocks a bit in the spring so the shrubs will be outside the drip line. In this case I have chosen Aesculus parviflora or Bottlebrush Buckeye, very shade tolerant, large and just dense and tall enough to provide the needed privacy in two or three years depending on the size planted. And Yes, this is a native shrub that is also deer resistant!

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Albert Einstein

Monarchs and Milkweed

Asclepias Incarnata1 Asclepias Incarnata2

Asclepias syriaca or common milkweed, is one of the milkweeds growing in my garden.  A wonderful plant, grows close to five feet tall with wonderful fragrant flowers that attract all sorts of pollinators. It does have a tendency to spread by runners and take up quite a large space in the garden but if you have a sunny location with plenty of moisture this is a worthwhile investment in the life of our native ecosystem.  I adore Asclepias tuberosa or butterfly milkweed for its showy orange flowers and a more compact better behaved habit. But milkweeds are important because they are the host plant of the Monarch Butterfly which is endangered due to lost of habitat.  Eastern Monarchs are experiencing a dangerous decline in the recent years. We can help by planting patches of Milkweed in our gardens as well as nectar producing native plants. The Butterflies rely on the milkweed to lay their eggs.  The poisonous sap make the plant and the larvae unpalatable to predators.

Asclepias tuberosa.

Asclepias tuberosa.

If you are interested in getting more involved you can visit The Monarch Watch Organization for information on creating a Monarch Waystation and become a citizen scientist by helping to monitor and document the Monarch population in your area.

Here is an amazing video of the Monarch life cycle. It is just amazing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZKbZdLtBoM

Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life.  And everyone deserves a little sunshine. 
~Jeffrey Glassberg
We could have saved the Earth, but we were too damned cheap. 
~Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

 

 

Garden Reflections

What a wonderful feeling to be in the garden from morning to night!  It is true, I can easily ‘pot around’ the garden all day… but not necessarily “work” all day.  There is a lot of reflection, the observing of nature at work and the changing of the landscape day by day.  There are breaks for snacks, planning and just finding a cozy spot to take in some sun.  Oh, I don’t mind saying it, I love to stay home and just enjoy my wild space out back.  Old friends come around again,  Yesterday, the House Wren arrived from his winter home. Straight to my back porch to the trellis were their bird house hung last year and they raised their brood.

House wren and her brood

House wren and her brood

Could it really be the same bird?  He knew exactly were to perch. There it sat singing loudly for his mate to come and join him!  And then there is this squirrel that lost half of its tail last year, -to Misha, my neighbors semi feral cat- I saw  it this morning digging around the garden for its forgotten acorns.  The hummingbirds always arrive the first week of May.  Last year, I was a bit late setting out the feeder and one hovered right in front of the french glass door for a good 30 seconds… right in front of me! it was magical, we stared at each other and it was as if it was saying:  Helloooo, were is my syrup?

So besides all the chores, the garden cleaning and planting, the mulching and composting, the rewards are in the sense of creating a small habitat outside your door that is both healthy and inviting and in a sustainable way, harbors life for so many other creatures.  Many we don’t even see or know are there. That is my reward.  Every creature and plant a prayer of hope.  Happy gardening friends!

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” 
― Rachel CarsonSilent Spring

Planning for Spring

First Day of Spring… Really?

First Day of Spring… Really?

 

And planning  is all we can do at this point considering what is going on out side! I was expecting a balmy day. Huge contrast to the last two years when I wrote about out great weather in early march.

As a continuation of my last post: Anticipating Spring, I realized there are more garden chores to add to the list.  After spending just one day doing much needed pruning on my shrub borders, I noted that the extreme freeze-thaw cycle we experienced caused many plants to heave out of the ground.  It is advisable to tend to them as soon as you can. Tamp them back in and add a bit of good garden soil around the roots to anchor and strengthen their hold. It was also a good opportunity to fix some of the protective netting that shelter some plants or areas from deer browsing and retying the stakes of young trees that had come loose.

Lets not forget our birds! Best time to clean and repair bird houses is now. I go over the inside of the box as well with a bar of soap.  A light coating prevents wasps from attaching their hives in the inside of the bird house. As long as there is a coating of snow in the ground I continue to feed the birds stopping when the ground is clear to encourage them to forage.  They do tend to get “hooked” on the feeders! If you are interested on learning more about birds, go to my favorite site at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, were the experts really know their stuff!

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.  ~Charles Dickens,Great Expectations

Related Reading:

Feeding Birds

Nest Boxes