Bathing Beauty

“Bathing Beauty”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

With all the fine, warm, spring weather we have been having, the birds have certainly been flocking to the bird baths. This little white-throated sparrow was having a grand time in the water.

 

 

This is dear hubby’s photo, not mine, that he generously shared with me so I could show you.

Thanks to the Birds

“Thanks to the Birds”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

For many years now we have been feeding the birds that come to our garden.  We are lucky to have a great variety of year-round avian residents, and many “tourist” birds visit, usually in the late fall to early spring.  While we appreciate our cardinals, woodpeckers, titmice, and chickadees, to name a few, it is the indigo buntings, goldfinches, and grosbeaks that really give us a thrill.  I guess it is so easy to be seduced by the “new kid in town” syndrome.  Having all these birds stopping by the many feeders means that we are constantly buying black oil sunflowers, peanuts, etc., but the birds have returned the favor in a way.  Besides having their bright colors, fliting movements and sweet songs in the garden, a few plants have been carried in by them.

This is how coral berry (ardisia crenata) showed up in the garden as well as a few other plants.  But the one that I want to share today is the bright little yellow sunflower.

 

sunflower-redu

 

These come up in the garden especially near the hanging bird feeders.  They can be anywhere from eighteen inches to four feet tall, and the flowers can be three to eight inches across.  Since I do not plant them or know if the ones for bird feeding are all the same variety, I do not know the reason for the differences in size.  It may be related to how much soil covers the seed or if the seed is just laying on top of the ground when it sprouts.  Anyway, it doesn’t matter since the the small ones are just a pretty in their own right as the larger ones are.  These have a bright, clear yellow flower unlike the ones that have a more golden color.  This bright yellow blends well with other flowers, so that I usually leave them in the garden to grow and flower.

This year, for the first time, I took a hint from the birds and planted some of the oil sunflower seeds in the circle garden where there is mostly yellow flowering plants.   I just took some seeds and poked them in the ground about every two feet.  I did this about two weeks ago and already the seedlings are about three inches high.  I feel pretty confidant that there will soon be yellow flowers to the back of the bed to complement the other yellow flowers already there.  If this experiment goes well, who knows, I may be planting more of these sunflower seeds around the garden.  I don’t think the birds will mind missing a few seeds from the feeders, after all, they gave me the idea.

Silver Lining

“Silver Lining”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

The old expression , “Every cloud has a silver lining”, has certainly proved true for us after Hurricane Gustav came through Louisiana last Monday.  One of the first things we noticed was the increase in the number of hummingbirds at our feeders.  Normally, only one hummingbird at a time comes to drink at the feeders, and there is the occasional aerial dogfight of two hummers around it.  Now, there are at least a dozen swarming around our feeders with three at one time drinking from one feeder.  We never have even two sipping nectar at one time, much less three or four.  This is how it was in North Carolina when we visited Blowing Rock.  They had feeders all over the town and hummers by the dozen would show up.  We have always felt inadequate by those standards, and, now, we finally caught up.  We don’t know why all of a sudden we have so many.  It could be several reasons: neighbors haven’t had time to put their feeders back up, many flowers were damaged by Gustav, or more have shown up because they are migrating and our feeders are the only game in town.  We don’t care; we are just having the best time watching them swarm, dive bomb, and use our feeders.

One more day brightener was observed in the last few days – spider lilies (lycoris radiata).  Around here they are commonly called naked ladies or hurricane lilies.  The latter name is especially appropriate this year.

So, extra hummers and naked ladies showing up is the silver lining Hurricane Gustav gave Louisiana.

Bamboo

This post, “Bamboo” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

When we moved here 31 years ago, bamboo had been planted as a screen by our next door neighbor.  It has slowly grown over the years and is now a lovely division between us and our neighbors.  The original owner used to trim it like a hedge.  He kept it about 12 feet high and about 3 feet wide and 20 feet long.  It grew under pine trees.

About 12 years ago, he became too frail to live in the house any more. He moved to a nursing home, and eventually the house was sold.  No one wanted to trim the bamboo like a hedge any more, and so it grew into a lovely 20 foot tall vase-shaped planting.  Over the years as we have lost pine trees, more sun than before has helped it grow.  The ground was hard clay, but I started putting leaves and pine straw on my side and watering more often.  I was rewarded with an abundance of growth, but nothing that was overpowering.

Bamboo

When bamboo started to become popular a few years ago, I was happy that I already had some.  It is fairly hardy here.  We did have a bad freeze here many years ago when it got down to about 5 degrees.  The bamboo did lose leaves, but soon rebounded back.  Because there was nothing but bare ground by the bamboo, about 7 years ago, I planted holly ferns in front of the stand and mulched with pine straw. Having all the green there makes it a very restful spot.  I also placed a bird bath and small bistro set there.

The birds are also attracted to the bamboo.  Every year we have some towhees nesting there.  Also in the summer, there are birds that roost among the canes.  I never have seen them, but if I go out at dusk, I can hear them. Today, when I was out in the garden, I saw cardinals and chickadees in the top of the bamboo, flitting around and making the canes rustle.

One of the nicest things about having a large stand of bamboo is the sound it brings to the garden.  When I go into the side garden to read or just sit and look around, it is not long before the rustling of the leaves of the bamboo attract attention.  If there is a breeze, it is even better.  They say a garden needs to appeal to all the senses, and my large stand of bamboo helps do that – adding sound and visual appeal.

Birds in Winter

This post, “Birds in Winter” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Well, everything I covered survived the cold temps.  By 9 pm it was already below freezing.  The thermometer got down to 22 degrees, and it was after 11 am before it was above freezing. Some of what wasn’t covered is damaged, but I don’t think I have lost anything permanently, but only time will tell.  I was surprised to find the limelight artemesia still standing, and some of the sword fern in the garden is still bright green and fine.  The ferns were under some trees, but I would never have thought that they would have made it with such low temperatures over such a long time.  The weather service is predicting one more night of cold temps.

A ruby throated hummingbird has been staying around our feeder (they usually leave by Oct).  Two days ago another hummingbird appeared.  It is a Broad billed hummingbird.  According to Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds,  they do winter in Louisiana, but this is the first time we have had one.  It looks very similar to a Ruby throated but has a blue throat and is a little bigger.  A few years back, we did have a Rufus sided hummingbird, but we have not seen one since.  It is exciting to have a new one show up. It was at our feeder very early with the temperatures in the mid twenties; I know the poor thing must have been cold.  I wonder what these little guys survive on besides the nectar we put out? I know they are insect eaters, but what insects are out in the winter with all the cold weather we’ve been having?

I have found that attracting birds enhances the garden.  We have been feeding the birds here for about 20 years.  We used to have more birds, but I think that loss of habitat is the reason we seem to have less.  We are in an area with pine trees, but as the area becomes more developed, the trees are going and with them the birds.  In the winter we used to get hundreds of goldfinches, but now we don’t.  We used to have indigo buntings, but they haven’t showed up in years.  However, the cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, wrens, mockingbirds, chickadees, and finches keep us entertained.  The cardinals, especially at this time of year, add a great deal of color to the garden.  They are very striking in the holly bush.

In the spring and summer, the birds really liven up the garden.  They are at the feeders, bird baths, and their songs make having a cup of coffee on the patio so relaxing.  After attracting birds to our garden, I have branched out some and am trying to entice butterflies.  This past summer is the first year where I really tried to get more butterflies, and I did meet with some success.  Mostly they were attracted to the nectar plants, and this year I am planning to add more plants where they will lay eggs.  I am looking for a book that shows pictures of butterfly caterpillars because I sure don’t want to harm any that I have spent time and money attracting.   I have an Audubon’s Guide but the photos are not very good or there are none for the types of butterflies most people want to attract to their gardens.