Morning Coffee with the Eastern Phoebe

September 5th, 2013 § 2

Eastern Phoebe - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com An Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), Perches Upon the Rusty Metal Garden Bench in Front of Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’

As part of an ongoing effort to savor every last drop of summer, I’ve vowed to take my work and meals outside whenever possible. For the past few days, I’ve been lured out to coffee on the sunny, stone terrace by the perky morning song of an Eastern Phoebe. A few years ago, this friendly, summertime garden resident built a nest beneath the steel balcony —just above the Secret Garden door— which it refurbishes and reuses each year.

If you are new to birding, the Eastern Phoebe is a relatively easy species to ID. One of the earliest of the migratory birds to return to my garden in springtime, and one of the last to depart in autumn, this flycatcher likes to announce itself —often, rather loudly— by calling out its name, “Phoebe, Phoebe, Phoebe”. Lately, I find one or the other member of this pair, twitching its tail on the armrest of my rusty garden bench. Although it’s an omnivore —consuming small fruits and nuts in addition to live prey— the Phoebe’s diet consists mainly of flying insects; including flies, beetles, moths, wasps and ticks as well as other insects and arachnids. Some years the Phoebes raise two broods in their moss-lined nest; making the Secret Garden a fun spot to observe fledglings as they experiment with new, wobbly wings.

Eastern Phoebes - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Eastern Phoebe and Family in a Moss-Lined Nest Above the Secret Garden Door 

Listen to songs and calls, view photos and videos and learn more about the Eastern Phoebe and other bird species on Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website,  All About Birds, by clicking here.

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/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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Purple Finch & Springtime Blossoms: Rejoicing as Sleeping Beauty Awakes . . .

April 24th, 2013 Comments Off

Purple_Finch_Copyright_2013_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com_no_use_without_permission Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus) in Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

It’s been a raw and chilly April in Vermont, and yet springtime songbirds, undaunted by the lingering chill, have flocked to my garden in search of sustenance. Some species are merely passing through, but others will settle and set up summer residence. This month’s standout is the Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus, pictured above), with plum-stained plumage and a sweet, rich, warbling song. An occasional winter-guest at my bird feeders, the Purple Finch may be scouting for nesting territory (learn more about this beautiful native species at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, here). I am grateful for the brilliant-colored beauty and musical backdrop provided by my winged, garden guests and the delicate buds and blossoms, decorating my hilltop.

pussywillow_michaela_medina_harlow Harbinger of Springtime: Native Pussy Willows (Salix discolor), Shimmer Like Grey Pearls on a Misty Morning

 With cold, grey days and bare branches on trees, I find my eyes drawn to even the slightest hint of color. Blossoming maple —ruddy tipped twigs glowing against low clouds— stain the hilltops a subtle shade of raspberry. With cooler-than-usual temperatures, native Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) and shrubs like Vernal Witch-Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), have extended their early-spring show. I love how the early-season buds and blooms catch light; like drops of berry-colored jam and sweet, golden honey in the sun . . .

crocus_tommasinianus_Copyright_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com_no_use_without_permission Crocus tommasinianus in Morning Light

Hamamelis_vernalis_April_sunset_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com A Flower I Normally Associate with March, Vernal Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) Continues to Seduce with Luminous, Golden Beauty and Honey-Sweet Fragrance

Crocus_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Sunlit Crocus: Beautiful, Brilliant Colored Reward for Garden Clean-Up

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/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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Attracting, Supporting & Observing Wildlife in the Late Autumn Landscape

November 19th, 2012 § 1

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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Swing Season: Falling for September’s Slow, Sultry Color Shift . . .

September 14th, 2012 § 1

Bits of Early Color: Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ and Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens Glow Like Stained Glass in the Last Rays of Low Sunlight

The last days of summer: golden light, cricket chorus, scampering squirrels and vibrant colors. It seems Mother Nature —ready to rest from a long growing season— has decided to stretch out in a meadow of tall grass and soak in the warmth of September’s sun. This is the swing season. Nights are getting nippier and a star-filled blanket of inky darkness spills out across the sky earlier and earlier with each passing day. In her final transition from summer to fall, the garden is slowly shifting hues and textures. Once opaque green, even the forest canopy is showing signs of early color; tints of autumnal scarlet, saffron and bittersweet kiss leaf edges and margins.

Although I look forward to all of the seasons, It’s true that I enjoy autumn more than any other. Viburnum, Windflower, Fairy Candles, Flame Grass, Yellow Wax Bells, Asters, Toad Lilies, Monkshood and Glowing Moss; at this time of year, my favorite plants are just beginning to get gussied up for for their grand, garden soiree. And I’m ready to pour myself a glass of Sweet September Sangria and join Mother Nature for a moment in the late summer sun. Here, a few of my current, swing-season favorites in the garden . . .

A Floriferous Late Summer Favorite, Bush Clover (Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’), is Popular with September Pollinators as Well. I Often Include This Blowzy Beauty in My Garden Designs, and Grow Several Cultivars Here at Home; Including the Glorious, Fuchsia-Colored ‘Gibraltar’.

Windflowers are Some of the Most Beautiful Late-Blooming Perennials. ‘September Charm’, ‘Party Dress’, ‘Robustissima’ and Silver-Tipped ‘Serenade’ are Among the Loveliest. Pictured Above: Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’

Ornamental Grasses are Truly the Queens of the Late Season Garden. Here, Mauve-Tinted Tips of Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’) Echo the Colors of a September Dawn

I Like to Position Ornamental Grasses Where Their Late-Season Tassels Catch the Low, Golden Light. Pictured Here is Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens)

Light Filters Through Maiden Grass Tassels in the Late Afternoon, Greeting Me Home

Late Summer Colors Grow Richer in the Shade as Well. On Cool, Still Evenings, Luminous White Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’) Fill the Secret Garden with Beautiful Fragrance; Reminiscent of Ripe Concord Grapes

Though the Golden Flowers are Stunning from Late August through September, Beautiful Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow Wax Bells) Grace the Dappled-Shade Garden with Emerald Green Foliage Throughout the Year

With Their Exotic Looks and Late-Season Resilience, Toad Lilies Have Earned a Special Place Among My Favorite Flowers. Tricyrtis hirta is Particularly Hardy (tolerating extreme cold temperatures to -30 Degrees Fahrenheit – USDA zones 4-9). Though a Bit Less Sturdy, Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ Has Always Stopped Me in My Tracks

With Late Winter to Early Spring Blossoms, Leathery Green Leaves, Ornamental Berries and Vibrant Fall Foliage, Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’ is a Four Season, Garden Beauty. But to Me, the Autumn is When She Always Shines Her Brightest

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

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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Singing for Their Supper: Gardening to Attract Migratory Songbirds . . .

August 23rd, 2012 § 3

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ Fruits in the Garden – A Cedar Waxwing Favorite

Late in summer, when tall grass sways in golden light and crickets sing long into morning, the garden begins to ripen in shades of red, orange, violet and plum. In August, migratory birds —making their way to exotic, tropical destinations— flock to my garden like jet-setters pausing for a gourmet meal and quick rest at a hip, mountain-top resort. Cedar Waxwings, with their high whistling calls, are the happening crowd this week; flitting about and flashing their glorious plumage and dark masks in fruity Viburnums …

Photo of the week - Cedar waxwing (MA)Cedar Waxwing ⓒ Bill Thompson/USFWS

Beautiful birds are as important to my garden as any of the plants growing within it. In order to attract and support birds, I’ve planted a wide variety of fruiting trees, shrubs and seed-producing perennials in the landscape. The Viburnum genus is especially attractive to songbirds, and with so many species and cultivars to choose from, it’s easy to find more than one to fit in any garden. Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum (featured previously here) is a beautiful shrub that provides season-spanning support for wildlife. In addition to Viburnums, I grow a number of Dogwood (Cornus) species, Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Juniper, Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Ornamental Sumac (Rhus typhina), Elderberry (Sambucus), Buckeye (Aesculus) and many other fruit-bearing shrubs.

Nannyberry Viburnum (V. lentago) Fruits Ripen from Citrusy Hues to Blueish Black. The Coral Colored Stems Make a Stunning Contrast to the Dark-Hued Berries. Although Birds Eventually will Pick the Shrub Clean, There’s Plenty of Time to Enjoy the Visual Feast as Well…

Creating a bird-friendly habitat also means providing water —fresh, clean birdbath or water feature— and shelter. Conifers and shrubs with dense branching patterns offer excellent cover and protection from predators and the elements. Hemlock (Tsuga), Spruce (Picea), Fir (Abies) and Cedar (Thuja) are important sources of both food and shelter for birds throughout the seasons. For more information on attracting birds, visit Cornell-University’s Lab of Ornithology here. And for additional photos and berry-good planting ideas, click back to my earlier post —Oh Tutti-Fruitti— here.

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa) Berries Provide Sustenance to a Variety of Birds and Squirrels From Late Summer through Early Winter

Magical Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issi’ is Not Only a Beautiful Ornamental, but a Magnet for Feathered Garden Guests as Well!

Cedar Waxwing Photo is ⓒ Bill Thompson/USFWS  – Courtesy of the Photographer, via Flickr Creative Commons 

All Other Photographs 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

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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