Monday, November 29, 2010

Winter water for the birds

Birds need water to drink and bathe in year 'round, just as do we humans. The first few nights below freezing remind me that it's time to dig out the bird bath de-icer and position it in the round plastic basin which is attached to the railing on our back deck. An extension cord plugs into an outlet on our screened porch, and the element turns on when temps dip below 32 degrees.
This simple apparatus cost me some $15, I suppose, and it's functioned well for years. In the off-season it lives in a kitchen drawer, near the cupboard where the thistle seed is kept.

I place a small rock on top to prevent dislodging in high winds, or by over-enthusiastic critters. Of course, the basin gets cleaned every few days to keep things safe for our avian friends.

Even after all these years, it's still a thrill to see finches, wrens, chickadees and other birds taking a drink of clear water in the depths of winter when most other sources are frozen.

Mother Nature appreciates every little bit of help.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Late Color in the Garden

By now, most garden color is usurped by dry leaves strewn on the lawn and the blue wash of sky above. But some vibrant hues remain. Salvia 'Victoria' is still standing tall and blue. Buddleia 'Lo and Behold' retains flower panicles for late butterflies and bees. Hamamelis 'Jelena' sports bright yellow leaves, as does the 'Goldmound' spirea just outside my front door. The dangling flower buds on pieris 'Mountain Fire' are bright red, and honeysuckle 'Alabama Crimson' boasts not only sprightly yellow leaves, but clusters of orange flowers.

But the best of the lot is the oakleaf hydrangea. The last shrub to color up in my semi-shady backyard garden, it boasts large interestingly-shaped leaves of mingled purple, green, red and burgundy. Dried summer flowers in ivory hues add to the intrigue of this native, underused shrub.

It's possible, even deep into November here in southern New England, to have color in the garden. Makes one glad to be a tiller of the soil.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Monster Swallowing our Trees

Early November is the best time of the year to recognize Asian bittersweet, that invasive interloper who's taking over our forest edges. Most of the leaves are off the hardwood trees, but the round leaves of bittersweet are bright yellow and will persist for another week or so.

Go outside and look up. Do you see a yellow-leafed vine scrambling up your trees & over your shrubs? It's most likely bittersweet and it needs to be cut down before it envelopes the trees like the picture above. So get out the clippers, loppers and hand saw. Some vines will be as big around as a man's arm, and will eventually kill a tree by either crowding out the sunlight, squeezing the trunk, or making it so top-heavy that it will break the trunk or topple in a strong wind.
Try to uproot the beast, (the orange roots are diagnostic) but if you cut the vine, it will sprout next year, so plan on going back and recutting next spring. Keep after it!
If each of us kept our patch of Mother Earth clear of this monster we'd go a long ways towards eliminating a major threat to our woodlands. Otherwise, our forests here in the Northeast will eventually look like the sad picture above.