Subscribe to our Blogs

Entries in birds (2)

Monday
Apr062015

Pollination: The Importance of Sex in the Garden

Heliconius Melpomene Madiera AKA Piano Key Butterfly feeding on Pentas at Butterfly World in Florida.Birds, bees and butterflies are more than beautiful, living garden accessories. They are essential fauna for our flora. Plants need to be pollinated. Some can be pollinated by the wind, like corn and wheat, but these flying wonders do much of the heavy lifting for other plants and are vital for them to produce berries, seeds and fruit. Seed development and fruit production are important for a plant’s continued survival. More than three quarters of all plants rely on pollination for survival. One third of the food we eat is reliant upon pollination to be produced. Chocolate, fruits, vegetables, coffee, even livestock that are raised on grains and vegetables are all dependant on the pollinators. 

Our beautiful gardens do so much more than visually stimulate us. They support an ecosystem. Flies, beetles, bats and moths are also common pollinators, but in a typical residential landscape, we prefer to open our gardens to the elegant birds, bees and butterflies. There are several things to consider when making an inviting environment for our pollinators. 

A common bumblebee hanging out on a centaurea. Scent, color and shape are some of the biggest factors in attracting pollinators to a garden. Clumping plants together in a mass makes it easier for a pollinator to find them. Red, orange, yellow and other bright colors serve as a beacon to attract them. In our gardens we prefer the pleasant scents of lilac, privet, roses, iris, catmint and herbs and so do bees. While bees cannot see red (butterflies and birds can) they are attracted to other bright colors and having several masses of different flowers is the best option to attract them. When you mass flowers, it not only creates a beautiful palette of plants to enjoy it is also beneficial for both the pollinator and your plants. They can easily locate these plants so they can return and don’t have to go far to find additional nourishment. The more colors you have, the more diverse a spectrum of pollinators you can attract.

A typical hummingbird feeder. Note the red plastic flowers to catch their eyes!Birds are attracted by sight to flowers as they don’t have a sense of smell to guide them to nectar. Birds also eat the creepy crawly critters we don’t want in our flowers while pollinating at the same time! Berries are an important food source for birds especially when the weather is cold and there are no insects to munch on. Any plant that can offer shelter for nest building and a hideaway from predators is a bonus for our winged friends. Winterberry, holly, black-eyed Susan, coneflower, millet, liatris, sunflowers, dogwood and juniper all offer berries and seeds for birds. You can also add a bird feeder to supplement their diet during lean, cold months.

A fuzzy yellow moth and an elegant orange Monarch butterfly on a purple butterfly bush.Hummingbirds are a popular bird we try to attract to our gardens and there are several ways to do so. Besides offering them attractive, trumpet shaped flowers you can also put out a feeder (which may also work for butterflies). Make sure to have a LOT of red to attract these hovering beauties and to follow the directions on filling the feeder with the best mixture to attract these interesting creatures. Hummingbirds have been observed sipping nectar from summer flowers like lantana, fuchsia, petunia and begonia. They may also visit coral bells, geranium, bee balm, honeysuckle (make sure it is a non-invasive cultivar), trumpet vine, butterfly bush, weigela, and crabapple. In the Northeast, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird can be spotted during summer months only as they migrate south for winter. If you can’t catch a glimpse of a hummingbird, many of these plants also attract butterflies.

Like hummingbirds, butterflies are also attracted to the color red. However, unlike hummingbirds that can hover while they sip, butterflies need a landing space, a wide petal or leaf to perch upon while they feed. Butterfly weed, yarrow, coneflower, black-eyed Susan, butterfly bush, and herbs like thyme and chives have either leaves or sturdy clusters of flowers to perch upon.

A small fountain or birdbath will provide water as well as style.No matter which plants we decide upon together, it is important to have a succession of blooms throughout the season to make sure you have a constant array of pollinating visitors. There is convincing evidence that pesticides and herbicides have contributed to the honeybee’s population decline. Make sure to reduce toxins in the garden. One of the ways to do this is to avoid open flowers if you have to spray anything to reduce likelihood of contaminating their food source. Choose liquid over powder as powder can stick to a pollinator’s body much like pollen does.  One last requirement for our fluttering friends: have water in the garden! Pollinators need water and having a small dish, birdbath or fountain adds a sculptural element and a necessary source of water for them in the garden.

Are you interested in attracting pollinators to your garden? We would love to answer your questions about flora and fauna. Call (631) 271-6460 or email us and talk to a professional landscape designer today!

 

Written by Ashley Palko Haugsjaa

Photos by Ashey Palko Haugsjaa

Friday
Feb132015

Adding Sense to the Garden

Most of our gardens are designed and appreciated for their visual beauty. We love color and for the most part this gives us great pleasure. We do not often consider the notion of appealing to the other senses of smell, sound, touch and taste, but imagine how much richer our appreciation of the garden would be if we did.

SMELL - Have you ever been within sniffing distance of a lilac and not stopped what you’re doing to breathe in the incredible fragrance? In early spring, a well-placed Viburnum carlesii, near a door or window, will intoxicate you with its sweet spicy scent, as will Calycanthus and Clethra alnifolia in the summer months. One of my favorite trees, Magnolia grandiflora, with its gorgeous leathery foliage and large, waxy camellia like flowers, will captivate you with its citrusy scent in early summer. Fragrant vines such as Wisteria, Honeysuckle and Fragrant Clematis will enchant you, as will other plants like Jasmine, Camellia, Peony, Casa Blanca Lilies, Lavender and Lily of the Valley. Many herbs are fragrant with rosemary at the top of the list. The lingering scent from the simple act of rubbing your fingers on its foliage will take with it all the stresses of the day!

Water tumbles over the rocks into the pond below creating a soothing melody.A birdhouse offers shelter for different songbirds in the garden.SOUND - Water in the garden, whether in the form of a small recirculating pond with a bubbler or a formal fountain, is one of the most peaceful sounds in nature. So is the sound of songbirds, and attracting them to the garden is relatively easy. Offer the shade of a tree, a large shrub for cover from prey and a food source of berries, worms and nectar for sustenance. They will delight you with their melodies from dawn to dusk. Bird baths, feeders and houses are delightful garden accessories that will also attract birds year round. Wind chimes offer a less organic, but effective way to add sound to the garden, however, be careful to choose one with a pleasing tone and melody.

Smooth, leathery Croton accents light, feathery Angelonia.TOUCH - The sense of touch is less obvious in the garden than the other senses, so the design elements, whether a stone sculpture, bench or urn, need to be more obviously placed so that one cannot help but touch them. From the exfoliating bark of River Birch to the soft touch of moss, plants offer an endless combination of tactile appeal. How can you stroll past the fountain grass without wanting to feel the softness of the foxtails or the plumes of Miscanthus. The succulent leaves of Sedum, the soft and silky foliage of Lambs Ear’s, and the leathery flower petals of Magnolia grandiflora, all beg to be touched and should be planted within easy reach. When designing your garden consider plant combinations with contrasting textures. Coarse textured plants, whether from foliage or flower, tend to be accents in the garden and should be combined with large groupings of fine textured plants.

TASTE – Today, most gardens are designed for beauty and visual enjoyment, but there appears to be a renewed interest in getting back to the time before supermarkets, when gardens were organic and sustainable. Dwarf fruit trees in the lawn, a berry patch, grape vines on a pergola, hanging baskets of cherry tomatoes on the porch, a trellis of cucumbers or containers filled with various vegetables and herbs on the patio not only give us personal enjoyment and satisfaction, but also feed the soul. What tastes better than a tomato freshly picked from your garden or grapes from the vine? Where space is limited, container gardening is a great option and can be placed wherever there is at least 6 hours of full sun and water is available, hopefully near the kitchen. Garden centers, web sites or your favorite garden designer, can help choose the right container and plants for you.

By choosing to explore and implement these possibilities beyond the visual experience, we will most assuredly be rewarded with a greater appreciation and enjoyment in our garden. 

Written by Maria Morrison-Ferrero

 

If you would like to get in touch with Maria please contact her via email: maria@goldbergandrodler.net