Attracting, Supporting & Observing Wildlife in the Late Autumn Landscape

November 19th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Wild Turkey Wander in My Country Neighbor’s Meadow, Beyond the Roadside Saplings. Wild Turkey are Omnivores, Feeding on Fern Fronds, Buds, Seed, Fruit, Berries, Insects, Grubs and Amphibians. Turkey are Often Spotted in Open Fields, Pastures, Wetlands and Orchards by Day. By Night, Turkey Seek the Cover of Mixed Forest, Where They Roost in Trees. Find More Information About Wild Turkey on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Website, Here. 

One of the benefits of rising early  —and commuting to and from various landscaping projects in and around the backroads of southern Vermont— is the opportunity to spot wildlife in fields, rivers, and forests at the break of day. Deer, fox, turkey, squirrels and songbirds all tend to be on the move around sunrise and sunset. I enjoy watching wildlife in my garden, so I make an effort to attract birds and squirrels by providing feeders filled with supplemental food and shallow dishes of fresh water, in addition to naturally occurring berries and seeds provided by native species of trees and shrubs planted in my landscape.

In addition to his horticultural pursuits, my father is a lifelong, avid outdoorsman, and my interest in the northern forest and its wildlife was both inspired and encouraged by him. Although I now take for granted the ability to identify birds by both sight and sound, this information was slowly taught to me by my father, when I was very young. By placing a small bird feeder or two and source of water (such as a shallow, frost-proof birdbath), near the kitchen window, a child’s natural curiosity will be sparked by observing a source of wild activity. Once introduced to bird watching, learning to identify different species and recognize other wild creatures becomes an exciting challenge. Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology website, All About Birds is a free, and excellent source of accurate information for budding birders. In addition to feeders, planting even the smallest of backyard gardens will almost immediately attract a wide variety of creatures (some more welcome than others, no doubt), providing endless opportunities for kids to encounter and observe wildlife. Tips for creating bird habitat are available on the Cornell website, linked above. You may also want to check out the Audubon website and publications like Birds & Blooms Magazine (online and in print), for more backyard garden ideas.

Ozzy, My Resident Red Squirrel, and His Friends Gather Each Morning to Forage Nuts and Seeds, Scattered About the Terrace. Red Squirrels are Most Commonly Spotted In and Around Native Conifer Forests (Particularly in Stands of Hemlock, Spruce and Fir). Read More About the Red Squirrel in My Previous Post, Here.

Black-Capped Chickadees Seek Shelter in the Hedge of Physocarpus opulifolius, while Taking Turns at the Feeding Stations Below. Chickadees are Omnivores. The Natural, Late-Autumn & Winter Diet of a Black-Capped Chickadee Includes Foraged Seeds, Berries, Insects and Spiders. Chickadees Cache Food in Hidden Spots for Later Use. Learn More About This Curious, Social Bird on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Website Here. 

New gardeners are often more focused on flowering plants, and pay less attention to the overall landscape. Yet, from a songbird or chipmunk’s perspective, the woody plants in your yard are of far greater significance. By planting deciduous trees, shrubs, conifers and ornamental grasses, gardeners can create vital shelter for birds and small animals in the landscape. When planning and planting new gardens, consider nut and fruit producing shrubs or small trees and seed producing ornamental grasses —particularly native species— as a backdrop to flowering perennials. If you enjoy seeing wildlife in your garden, leave seed producing perennial plants standing over the winter, to provide both food and cover for small creatures on the move. Resist the urge to cut or mow the wild, natural areas, for these are the spots to enjoy wildlife over the winter months. Visit the Audubon website for more ideas on how to create, protect and preserve natural, wildlife friendly areas in your community.

Native Winterberry Branches (Ilex verticillata) Provide Sustenance for Hungry Birds, Squirrels and Other Creatures. Find More Garden-Worthy, Fruit and Seed Producing Plants in My Previous Post, Here.

Native, Broadleaf Cattail Provides Excellent Habitat for Wildlife (Typha latifolia). There is Much Debate Surrounding the Native Status of Narrow-Leaf Cattail (T. angustifolia) and the resulting hybrid between it an T. latifolia, T. x glauca. Although Some Consider Cattails “Invasive”, In Addition to Providing Food and Habitat for Wildlife, They Also Help Stabilize Wetlands and Filter Pollutants from Moving Water. When Choosing Cattails for the Landscape, The NWFS Suggests Planting the Confirmed, Native Broadleaf Species (T. latifolia).

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) Is An Important Source of Food for Wildlife; Including Crow and Other Over-Wintering and Migratory Birds. Read More Here.

Nuthatch Foraging on Tree Bark. Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Sapsucker Visiting a Suet Feeder. Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Titmouse Lighting on the Branch of a Backyard Tree ⓒ Tim Geiss

Some Additional, Excellent Resources for Gardeners and Wildlife Enthusiasts …

The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher: Birdfeeders and Bird Gardens

The Backyard Bird Feeder's BibleThe Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible: The A-to-Z Guide To Feeders, Seed Mixes, Projects, And Treats (Rodale Organic Gardening Book)

projectsforbirdersgarden200Projects for the Birder’s Garden: Over 100 Easy Things That You can Make to Turn Your Yard and Garden into a Bird-Friendly Haven

 Special Bird Photographs Taken for This Post Are, As Noted, ⓒ Tim Geiss. All Other Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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The Sublime Beauty of Spring Twilight & Melancholy Song of the Hermit Thrush…

April 16th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

Swollen Buds of Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’ in Silhouette Against the Sublime Beauty of Spring Twilight

The melancholy song of the hermit thrush —rising and falling; a flute amongst the hemlock boughs of moody twilight— is a sound I eagerly anticipate each spring. As soon as winter’s ice begins to recede and the scent of warm earth bubbles up from melting snow, I begin to long for the thrush’s familiar trill in the forest.

If you know the sweet sadness expressed by this shy, cinnamon-colored bird, you will likely agree that it’s near impossible to describe. And yet, to me, the song of the hermit thrush captures the fleeting beauty of time better than words could ever express. Summer is coming, and every year the seasons seem to pass quicker; racing forward like a fast moving stream, strewn with springtime petals and chased by musky autumn leaves.

The Sound of April Twilight: Click Here to Listen to the Hermit Thrush’s Song & Explore Other Birdsong at Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Interactive Website

Travel back to a previous post on woodland wildflowers, songbirds and the ephemeral beauty of springtime, by clicking here.

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina for The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Springtime Awakenings …

April 14th, 2012 § 5 comments § permalink

North American Black Bear (Ursus americanus), Emerging from the Compost Trail in My Garden (photo taken from inside the house!)

I had a surprise guest in my garden this morning: Ursus americanus, the North American black bear. Long time readers will recall a similar encounter last summer (see photos here). Coincidentally, while sipping my cup of coffee and browsing the morning paper, I was entertained by a story about the Vermont Governor, a bare-naked Peter Shumlin, chasing four black bear from the bird feeders on his backyard porch. I happen to know Governor Shumlin pretty well, and got a bit of a chuckle out of the story (and if you happen to read this Pete, I apologize, but the mental image of your bare butt being chased by bears was quite amusing).

On a more serious note though, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife does issue public warnings each spring, advising residents to remove bird feeders. Hungry bears emerge from hibernation at this time of year and begin to forage for food, and backyard bird feeders are simply too tempting for them to resist. It’s also worth mentioning however, that although bears-at-birdfeeders make headlines, bears and myriad forms of wildlife —including raccoons, possum, coyote and other creatures— are attracted not only to bird seed, but also to compost bins, trash cans, and any other potential food supplies as well; including fresh produce in gardens. The good news is that as Mother Nature’s springtime supply of food increases, bears and other animals will usually retreat back to the forest. Still, at this time of year it’s important to reduce the “free meal” temptation by bringing bird feeders inside and securing trash cans behind closed doors. But what about compost bins? Well the truth is, a hungry bear can destroy most anything in its quest for food. So I’ll likely halt my compost production for at least a short while.

I do enjoy wildlife and although it’s true that a threatened black bear can be dangerous, when viewed from the safety of the house, my passing visitor made for a fascinating and beautiful morning surprise!

Read more about the North American black bear on the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website, here.

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina for The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Autumn’s Kaleidoscopic Color Wheel: Glorious Patterns & Back-Lit Beauty …

October 27th, 2011 § Comments Off on Autumn’s Kaleidoscopic Color Wheel: Glorious Patterns & Back-Lit Beauty … § permalink

 Purple Beautyberry, Smokebush and Maiden Grass Make a Brilliant Grouping (Callicarpa dichotoma, Cotinus coggygria and Miscanthus)

Though it Often Spreads Aggressively, North American Native, Hay Scented Fern (Densntaedtia punctilobula) is a Gorgeous and Durable Ground Cover for Tough, Shady Spaces. Taking My Cue from Mother Nature, I Like to Position this Autumnal Favorite Where it will Catch the Long, Low Light

For Intense, Late-Autumn Foliage Color, One of My Favorite Woody Plants is North American native Fothergilla (Here: Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’). The “Witches” —As I Often Refer to Members of the Hamamelidaceae family— in My Garden Include Fothergilla, Hamamelis, Parrotia, and a Few, Lesser-Known Apprentices. Due to Her Chameleon-Like Costume Drama, Fothergilla Plays Well with Physocarpus, Cotinus, Ornamental Grass, Conifers, and Most Other Autumn Beauties. Read More About these Spellbinders in my Past Post, “Must Be the Season of the Witch”.

Late October. Cold winds are kicking up now, lifting leaves high into topaz skies where they twirl about as if riding on a Ferris Wheel. And on rainy days —when the air is damp and still— moody fog swirls about the high walls and along the pathways, softening the hard edges of stone and the skeletal remains of flowers. The second half of autumn can be a dramatic time for late season garden color; with Witch Hazel, Smokebush, Dogwood and Japanese Maple foliage coloring up in fine, fiery hues. The sensual ornamental grasses and colorful Viburnum — so many shrubs, loaded with plump, brilliant fruit— continue to perform beautifully, while the Beautyberry, Cotoneaster and Winterberry are just beginning to put on their seasonal show. Here’s a quick tour of what’s going on in my garden, with notes on some favorite ways to use valuable, late-season plants; making the most of their theatrical talents …

Japanese Maple Leaves (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’) Offer Stunning Autumn Color and Sculptural Form Throughout the Seasons. Many Japanese Maple Trees are Smaller in Stature (A Number Reach 15′ or Less at Maturity), and Most Prefer a bit of Shade, Making them a Perfect Choice for Shadowy Urban Courtyards and Gardens with Limited Space

Reliable as the Change of Season Itself, The Blue-Green Dragon (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’) Always Hits It Out of the Park. This Small Tree (approximately 14′ high at maturity) is a Rare, Upright, Cut-Leaf Form of Japanese Maple. Beautiful When Backlit and Combined with Autumn Golds, the Color of This Specimen Shifts from the Color of Ocean Waves to Fire to Smoldering Embers 

Mossy Stone Walls Offer a Subtly Beautiful Contrast for These Fiery Leaves (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’)

Some Trees are Natural Show-Offs in Autumn Sunlight, and for Spectacular, Stained-Glass-Like Fall Foliage, it’s Hard to Compete with Japanese Maples (Dancing in the Sunlight Here: Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’). For Best Effect, Position Japanese Maples and Similar Trees in Places Where the Foliage will Filter the Rays of Light in Morning and Late Afternoon

Ever-Beautiful, North American native Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) is Particularly Stunning When Positioned to Capture Light. When I Work Delicate Grasses Like This One into a Garden Desing, I Like to Place Them Where They Can be Seen, Touched and Enjoyed Throughout the Autumn and Early Winter. This Mature Specimen. Located at the Edge of a Pathway Junction in My Garden, Captures Light at Sunrise and Again at Sunset (The Textural, Dried Flower at the Bottom of the Photo is Solidago)

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ Changes Hue from Pale Ivory with a Hint of Lime to Rose-Kissed Ivory to Rust. To Make the Most of Her Color Changes, I’ve Positioned Her Beside the Dark Foliage of Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’, and Surrounded Her Feet with Colorful Ground Covers (Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni Kaze’ and Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’). I Love the Relaxed Mood Created When Blossoms Spill Upon an Autumn Walkway

Somehow Escaping Jack’s Icy Fingers, these Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’ ) Look Just Stunning Against a Backdrop of Scarlet Sumac (North American native Rhus typhina)

Surrounded by the Confetti Hued Leaves of the Burkwood Viburnum (V. x burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell), Doctor Woo Looks Like Part of a Seasonal Display as She Surveys Her Vole Hunting Domain (Also in this frame: Frost-Kissed, Yellow Hosta Leaves, Rudbeckia & Adenophora Seed Pods and North American native Hydrangea quercifolia in Back of the Border)

The Border Pictured Above Contains Two North American Native Favorites,:Oakleaf Hydrangea and Arkansas Blue Star (Hydrangea quercifolia with Amsonia hubrichtii); Work Together to Create Drama with Their Contrasting, Autumn Foliage Colors and Textures

Hinting at Large-Scale, Design Possibilities, the Scarlet and Chartreuse Patterns on This Japanese Maple Leaf (A. palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’) Command Attention in the Shadows, Especially on a Drizzly Day!

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Oh, What a Fashionable Dresser! Meet Widget the Walking Stick …

September 30th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Hello Widget! What a Snappy Outfit You Have There …

Meet Widget the Walking Stick. And isn’t he the most fashionable fella? While installing a new garden for a client last week —design post forthcoming— I happened to notice what appeared to be a colorful stick, stuck to my boot. As I bent down to get a closer look, I met the curious gaze of a rather large and beautiful Walking Stick (I later learned this friendly guy is a well-known, local resident; dubbed ‘Widget’ by his human friends). Luckily my camera was nearby, and when I sat down to snap a photo, the dapper little gentleman decided to march up my leg to have his portrait taken. How thoughtful! Turns out he was as interested in me and my moving camera lens as I was in him and his colorful costume …

Look at the length of his bright orange antennae! 

According to Whitney Cranshaw’s Garden Insects of North America (a great book for gardeners and backyard entomologists, by the way), Walkingsticks or Stickbugs (Diapheromera femorata) can be found throughout North America —more frequently east of the Great Plains— and are most common in the northern and mid-Atlantic regions of the continent; particularly surrounding the Great Lakes. Although they rarely cause significant damage, all walkingsticks are leaf chewers. The diet of these curious insects includes the leaves of black locust, black cherry, oak, basswood elm, birch and hickory trees. Females lay eggs in soil throughout the latter part of the summer and fall, which will generally hatch in spring. However in colder climates, eggs can remain dormant for up to two years.*

During my brief encounter with Widget the Walking Stick, I observed a naturally curious —dare I say “intelligent looking”?— and very friendly insect. Amazing what you can find in the garden, when you slow down and open your eyes! One of the greatest rewards of organic gardening is the opportunity to meet such fantastic creatures. To help protect fascinating insects like Widget, remember to limit or altogether eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides in your garden. Keep in mind that even organic insect controls should be applied in a carefully considered and targeted manner, and only when absolutely necessary. Widget thanks you, and so do I!

*Entomological Information Source: Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw, is available by clicking here, from amazon.com

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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