Monday, November 30, 2009

Inviting Birds Into Your Garden

Nothing can be more satisfying in your landscape than a bird garden outside the living room or breakfast nook window. The birds' motions and colors, their songs, and the background scenery of foliage and blooms combine into an improvisational bird theater performing just for you.

Situate your bird garden under an existing tree, providing shade, a place to hang feeders, and a landing place for birds to investigate before coming closer. If you don't have a tree, plant one that is already eight to twelve feet tall. It's very important to create several layers of plants to attract birds - a tall tree (oak), a smaller understory tree (dogwood), large shrubs (oakleaf hydrangea), at least one evergreen shrub for winter cover (pieris), small shrubs, perennials and groundcovers. Add spring bulbs there too, so you can enjoy the early blooms while watching the cardinals.

These different levels provide "steps" that the birds can take to the feeder, branches for the species who fly away and roost to break open the seeds, and a place for subordinate birds to wait their turn.

Water is an essential ingredient in your bird garden. You can use a birdbath on a pedestal, on the ground, or build a pond. The water should be clean and cool. Replenish the water in a birdbath daily, especially in the summer months. A fat robin can empty half the water with one lively bath.

For supplemental feeding, include the following three types of feeders:

• A hanging feeder: Birds that feed from hanging feeders include finches, titmice and cardinals. You may want to have more than one hanging feeder, to provide different seed mixtures.
• A suet feeder: A coated wire cage with purchased suet cakes is easy to find by woodpeckers. All suet feeders should be hanging. They may be homemade from onion bags, pine cones, or a hollowed-out log.
• A ground feeder: Juncos, towhees, and quail are some of the birds that feed off of the ground. I use the simplest of ground feeders: the ground. By spreading out the food, there is less competition when several birds try to feed at once. Some bird watchers build a slightly elevated table. You may want to use a shallow pan or a flat stone in your garden. White proso millet and cracked corn are favored by ground feeders.

These three feeders will take care of almost all the birds that come to your garden. If you like, you can add other feeders to your garden, like a hummingbird feeder, or a thistle feeder to attract finches.

What do the Birds do for You?

Besides the entertainment value of the actions, songs, and colors of the birds that come to your garden, they will eat vast quantities of insects. Your garden's best defense against insects is a healthy bird population. Over half of a chickadee's winter diet is comprised of aphid eggs. Some birds also eat rodents and baby snakes, helping to keep these populations in check.

Things to keep in mind:

• Over two million birds a day are killed by raccoons and house cats. Cats are one of the few animals that hunt for the thrill of it - it doesn't matter how much you feed Kitty. Hawks are another feared predator. This creates a puzzle. The shrubs in your bird garden that provide cover and protection from hawks also provide great hiding places for a stalking cat.
• Choose feeders that are easy to clean and clean them regularly with a solution of vinegar and water. Do not use household cleaners or bug repellent on bird feeders. Throw away any moldy feed that could give bacterial infections to the birds.
• Keep chemicals away from your bird garden. The birds are your best method of insect control.
• Use an organic mulch with no black plastic underneath. Pine needles, shredded bark or leaves have a natural look and texture that encourage wildlife. Several birds, including quail, like to scratch around to look for insects and seed. This habit has rarely damaged any of my plants.
• A well-illustrated book can help you identify and learn more about the birds that visit your garden.

A Half Dozen Great Bird Plants:

The best plants for birds offer food and protection for the birds, plus beauty and structure for your garden.
• Blueberry (Vaccinium) – This native provide berries that birds love, plus spring blooms and fall color for your landscape.
• Beautyberry (Callicarpa) – Massing this native plant at a woodland edge provides a thicket for birds, plus a ‘step down’ from tall trees into your landscape. The bright magenta berries are loved by birds and contrast beautifully with the golden fall foliage.
• Dogwood (Cornus florida) – We’re the ones that enjoy the beautiful spring blooms and russet fall color, but the birds appreciate the winter berries and the chance to use this small, native tree to step down from treetops to bird feeders.
• Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) – This evergreen native can reach 10’ or more and is available in a weeping form. The dense, twiggy structure is perfect place for nesting or sheltering from winter winds. The red berries provide food for the birds.
• Junipers (Juniperus) – There are many beautiful and fun varieties of junipers now available, including sculptural small trees. Junipers provide evergreen protection and berries for birds. Other conifers also offer protective cover.
• Viburnums – This large genus includes several with twiggy growth, evergreen foliage and/or berries.
Other plants that attract birds include barberries, crabapple, coneflowers, figs, grapes, grasses, hawthorns, hollies, honeysuckle, mahonias, maples, oaks, pines, pyracantha, roses that produce hips (seed pods), serviceberry, spruces, sumac, sunflowers, and yew

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Special Invitation for December 3rd, benefiting the new Horticulture Complex

Andrew Downs & Company
Invite you
To commence the Season
With a Celebration of Ornamental Trees,
Decorated Wreaths, Holiday Arrangements,
And Flowers of the Season

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia

Thursday December 3, 2009
10 am to 7 pm
Seasonal Spirits will be served in the afternoon

Admission $15

All proceeds will benefit the new
Horticulture Complex at the Botanical Garden

Let the Holidays Begin!

1737-B South Lumpkin St. 706-549-9325

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Save the dates! - Symposia on Native Plants, Garden History

Two all-day Symposia
at The State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens

2450 South Milledge Avenue, Athens, Georgia 30605
Pre-registration required.
Call 706-542-6156 or register online at

Native Plant Symposium
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
8:45 am - 3:30 pm
Garden Club of Georgia, Terrace Room
Friends members $45; non-members $50 (lunch included)
Co-sponsored by The Garden Club of Georgia and The State Botanical Garden of Georgia
Native plants are uniquely adapted to local conditions, having co-evolved with other plants, animals, pollinators, and soil biota. Therefore they require little maintenance and withstand temperature and moisture extremes. Most importantly, native plants provide diverse sources of food and shelter for a wide variety of insects and birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles, etc. in the complex web of life. Join us for a day-long program that considers gardening with wildflowers and other native plants along with related conservation issues. Learn how to incorporate your appreciation of these plants into your home landscape plan.

8:45 Welcome and Announcements
9:00 Landscape Design for Planet-Friendly Gardens
10:00 Break — Plant Sale
10:30 The Right Plant for the Place: Natives in the Landscape
11:25 Native Perennials
12:00 Lunch
1:15 Promoting Natives: From Ecology to Heartstrings
2:15 Break
2:30 Botanical Illustrations of Southeastern Native Plants--A Walk Through the Calendar Year

2010 Southern Garden Heritage Conference
Friday, February 19, 2010
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Callaway Building Auditorium
Friends members$95; non-members $110
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is pleased to host the Southern Garden Heritage Conference, which brings an audience from throughout the Southeast. Robin Salmon will open the conference with a lecture about garden sculpture and close the conference with a presentation about Brookgreen Gardens, one of America's finest sculpture gardens. Sue Burgess will provide a brief history of efforts to save the historic Root House in Marietta and create a garden of the period. Keyes Williamson will provide an update on work being done to preserve the Elizabeth Lawrence Garden in Charlotte. John Waters and Jim Cothran will provide a look into the architecture and gardens of Savannah and their interrelationships. And Gerard Krewer will speak about some of Georgia's rare and unusual fruits-some familiar and some unfamiliar. Amateurs and professionals alike are sure to find this conference interesting and informative.

9:00 - 9:15 Opening Remarks
9:15 - 10:00 A Brief History of American Garden Sculpture
10:00 - 10:30 Break
10:30 -11:15 The Root House, A Mid-Nineteenth Century Middle Class Merchant’s Home: Challenges of Recreating the Historic Southern Landscape in a Hostile 21st Century Urban Environment
11:15 - 12:00 The Elizabeth Lawrence Garden
12:00 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 1:45 The Architecture and Gardens of Savannah
1:45 - 2:30 Rare and Unusual Fruits of Georgia
2:30 - 3:00 Break
3:00 - 3:45 Brookgreen Gardens Past and Present
3:45 - 4:00 Closing Remarks