Friday, February 15, 2019

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day & Foliage Follow-Up February 2019: Reflections From the Garden

February Garden
Welcome to my garden! Where does the time go? I started this blog back in February of 2010 and have been enjoying writing and communicating with other garden bloggers ever since. Blogging has become a part of who I am and thanks to the meme called Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, created by Carol of May Dreams Gardens and Foliage Follow-Up, created by Pam Penick of Digging, this monthly post to show what is happening in the garden has become a meaningful routine. Over the years, my lifetime passion for gardening has developed into a career, and writing brings me joy as I share my experiences and passion for all things green. As I celebrate nine years of blogging and writing, come along as I share a tour of my February garden.
Gold Lace Juniper against Hydrangea Dried Seed Heads
The past few winters in the garden have been unpredictable (to say the least) and this February has not been any exception. Between the end of January and start of this month, the temperatures have experienced a fifty-nine degree fluctuation, with daytime lows in the single digits (6 degrees) at the beginning of the month to temperatures topping off at 60 degrees by February 5th. Snow has been scarce, with the exception of a light dusting a few days ago, which quickly turned to ice then rain. The garden is showing signs of both winter and spring.
Globe Montgomery Blue Spruce Foliage
For the winter months, I rely on the beauty of evergreens to serve as the backbone to the garden, while blooms serve as an added bonus in the warmer months. This Blue Globe Montgomery Spruce is a personal favorite for its color and compact shape.
Golden Variegated Sedge 'Evergold'
Golden Variegated Sedge has also become a stable in my garden. It tolerates shade, stays evergreen all year long and requires very little maintenance. I've only had to clean it up a bit by removing winter-burned foliage in the spring, which is an easy task.
Rhododendron Buds and Azalea Foliage in Winter
As we walk around to the back of the pool area, the foliage of Azalea 'Hino Crimson' has turned to its deep burgundy color against the green of Rhododendron 'Elegans' in the backdrop. I love how some of the evergreen foliage changes in winter.
Rhododendron Buds Forming in February
It's pretty early for the buds to be so large on the Rhododendron. They were sparked by the milder temperatures. A similar situation occurred last year, then we got a cold snap in March and April. The buds did just fine, as Mother Nature has a way of allowing the plant to adapt.
Squirrel Visitors
The squirrels have been having a fun time trying to get onto the feeder, as the openings close up with their weight, but there's plenty of seed to go around. I watch them do acrobatics as they hang upside down and every which way, as they are on a mission to win over the scientifically developed device. As the birds throw the seed to the ground, the feast is on!
Hellebore Buds!
You can have blooms in winter, as Carol may say, and Hellebores can do just that. These are forming their buds, which grow larger by the day. They are a little behind schedule this year, but I am expecting some blooms soon, hopefully next month. 
Garden Love!
There's nothing like a little bit of whimsy in the garden and this latest addition showing the love shared by a young girl and her kitten just makes me smile every time I look at it. Over the years, I have become very sentimental when it comes to statues.
The infamous Skyland's Golden Oriental Spruce! (with Coral Bark Maple in Backdrop)
If you have been here before, you know about the infamous Golden Skyland's Oriental Spruce which I planted as a memorial to my mom back in 2008. I just love this tree and everything it symbolizes, and even planted a smaller one in the back pool garden. The tree is beautiful with its golden foliage and in winter time the bark on the Coral Bark Maple behind it turns a vivid red. It is one of my favorite viewing spots in the garden.
Bird Visitor
Around to the backyard, a visiting bird enjoys the birdbath, which is located right near the feeder. It is a daily ritual for the birds to hang out in the neighboring evergreens waiting for their turn to feast and bathe.
Nellie Stevens Berries
The berries on the Nellie Stevens Holly are abundant at this time of year and the birds enjoy them too!
It seems like every month when I go on the tour of my garden, the same Mockingbird looks down at me from the branches of the Magnolia tree. He seems to have claimed the Magnolia 'Royal Star' as "his tree". As you can see, the buds are already getting to be a pretty nice size.
More Garden Love!
You can never get enough garden love and here is an example of one of the many statues I have placed throughout the garden. This one resides right underneath the Magnolia tree, and is surrounded by Black Eyed Susan in the summertime.
Spring Bulbs!!!
Spring bulbs!? The Hyacinths started coming up in February. Is the garden confused? I would say so. There is also new foliage on the Carlcephalum Viburnum in the back garden.
Winter View
The patio garden is resting for winter. I enjoy how the view changes in each season, but would sure like to see the ornamental grasses and blooms in spring!
Sparrow Friends
Here are some more visiting friends. These Tree Sparrows are abundant in our area and enjoying hanging out together in groups. I often wonder what they are thinking as they watch from above.

Waiting for Spring!
As we end the garden tour for this month, it's time to venture back inside. As you can see, our Himalayan kitty also enjoys looking out at the garden (and birds) just like her mom!
Indoor Blooms for February
It's inside blooms for now as I dream of warmer days ahead.
Thanks for Visiting and Come Back Often!

February Garden

I hope you enjoyed your stroll through my February garden. Please feel free to stay a while and catch up on some past posts and perhaps visit my author page (link below). I am also celebrating two months since I published my latest book, Dream, Garden, Grow!-Musings of a Lifetime Gardener. Special thanks go out to our hostess Carol at May Dreams Gardens, who makes it possible to see blooms on the 15th of every month with her meme Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Also, special thanks to Pam Penick at Digging who has hosted Foliage Follow-Up for all these years, a meme I will still continue to honor. I am also linking with some other wonderful hosts and hostesses at Floral Friday Fotos, Macro Monday 2, Nature Notes at Rambling WoodsDishing It & Digging It on Sunday with Angie the Freckled RoseImage-in-ing weekly photo share every Tuesday with NC Sue and Gardens Galore Link Up Party every other Monday with Everyday Living. I am also happy to join the Homestead Blog Hop on Wednesdays.

~As Always...Happy Gardening! ~

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening,© Copyright 2010-2019. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 1, 2019

This Month in the Garden: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Winter Garden-Plant Suggestions

This Month in the Garden
Welcome to This Month in the Garden. Winter can be a challenging time for backyard birds as food sources, water and shelter become scarce. Shorter days mean less time for foraging and many insects are in hibernation, making it even more difficult for birds to obtain food. In addition, many seed-bearing plants have already been consumed, while deciduous trees have lost their leaves, no longer offering protection from the harsh winter winds. With freezing temperatures water can also become inaccessible. 

There are steps you can perform in creating a bird-friendly garden that can be beneficial, and even life-saving for our feathered friends. For starters, planting a mixture of evergreens and deciduous shrubs provides shelter during winter months and nesting areas for birds during springtime. Generally, Juncos and Towhees prefer to nest beneath bushes, while species such as Cardinals, Morning Doves, Mockingbirds and Nuthatches prefer the sanctuary of dense foliage. Depending on species, a bird's food preferences can vary, but most enjoy feeding off insects, berry producing shrubs and trees and the dried seed heads of perennials. Here is a list of bird-friendly plants that you can incorporate into your winter garden.
 Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst' (American Beautyberry)
The first is Callicarpa or Beautyberry. Callicarpa maintains a tidy habit of 3-4 feet high by wide, displaying beautiful arching branches and loads of colorful fruit. Clusters of pale lavender-pink flowers form in summer and develop into masses of glossy amethyst berries in fall. The fruits tend to persist longer on the shrub than others, offering some (but limited) winter interest and are a desired food of the Northern Bobwhite. Callicapra is hardy in USDA zones 5-8, prefers full fun to partial shade and a moderately moist soil.
Juniperus communis-Common Juniper (Photo Credit Wikipedia)
Common Juniper is an evergreen found across the northern United States and southern Canada, which is also native to Europe and Asia. This small evergreen can be an excellent plant for backyard wildlife gardeners, forming bluish-black berries that are an attraction to a variety of birds including catbirds, thrashers and woodpeckers. Juniper is slow growing, hardy in USDA zones 2-6 and prefers to be grown in full to partial sunlight. The plant reaches a mature height and width of 5-10 feet by 8-15 feet; however there is a dwarf variety, Juniperus communis 'Compressa', that grows to a height of just 2-3 feet. Besides Juniper communis, other edible species include Juniperus drupacea, Juniperus phoenicea, Juniperus deppeana, and Juniperus californica.

Ilex (Nellie Stevens Holly)
One of the most attractive of hollies, 'Nellie Stevens' Holly is a vigorous grower with dense branches, making it an excellent screening plant. 'Nellie Stevens' grows in a pyramidal shape to a height of 15-20 feet tall by 8-12 feet wide, while displaying oblong, glossy, dark green leaves with spiny margins. Inconspicuous greenish-white flowers appear in spring followed by abundant amounts of berry-like bright red fruits which ripen in fall and persist into winter. Ilex 'Nellie Stevens' is hardy in USDA zones 6-9, prefers full sun to partial shade and a moderately moist soil. This species of holly will form berries without cross-pollination; however, planting near a male Chinese holly will promote more fruit. Nellie Stevens Holly are especially preferred by Blackbirds for food and nesting.
Sambucus (Elderberry) Photo Credit Wikipedia
Elderberry is known for its white flowers followed by blackish-red fall berries which can be harvested for making elderberry wine and jam, or left on the plant to attract birds and other wildlife. This shrub grows to a height and width of 6-8 feet tall by wide and is hardy in USDA zones 4-7. Elderberry prefers full sun to partial shade and a moderately moist soil, but is adaptable to most sites. A new cultivar of Elderberry known as 'Black Lace' is a stunning development in Elderberry breeding, displaying intense purple black foliage, pink flowers in summer, followed by blackish-red fall berries. 
Viburnum 'Cardinal Candy'
Viburnum 'Cardinal Candy' displays creamy white flowers in spring followed by bright red, berries that make for a stunning display in the fall. Fruiting appears to be strong even without another pollinator in the area and are favored by birds and butterflies. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, Viburnum 'Cardinal Candy' matures to 4-5' tall by wide and prefers to be grown in full sun to partial shade. Its well-branched habit allows it to fit nicely into the landscape. This variety of viburnum has improved hardiness compared to other dilatatum varieties.
Mahonia (Oregon Grape Holly)
Hardy in USDA zones 5-9, Mahonia aquifolium is an evergreen shrub that is noted for its mildly fragrant yellow flowers in spring followed by clusters of edible blue-black berries in late summer that resemble grapes. Holly-like foliage emerges red-tinted in spring, maturing to glossy dark green by summer, turning a purplish hue in fall, followed by a burgundy-bronze tone by winter. Berries are somewhat sour fresh off the plant, but make excellent jellies and are a favorite food source for birds. Plants grow to a height of 3-6' tall by 2-5 feet wide, prefer partial shade and a moderately moist soil.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata ) Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Winterberry is a favorite of several species of birds including Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing and Woodpecker with its profusion of bright red berries. This native deciduous Holly requires a pollinator (such as Jim Dandy) for a beautiful display of berries on bare branches in winter. Winterberry is hardy in USDA zones 4-8 and prefers to be grown in full sun to partial shade. It is a slow grower, reaching an eventual height and width of 3-5 feet in the landscape.

Echinacea (Coneflower)
Echinacea, or coneflower are found in eastern and central North America, where they grow in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. This family of perennials includes a vast selection of species, ranging in both size and color. Hardy in USDA zones 4-9, Echinacea prefers to be grown in full sun and in a well-drained soil. Flowers emerge from mid-summer to mid-fall forming a showy, upright clump which is a favorite feeding station for many butterflies. After blooming, seed heads are a huge attraction to a number of bird species, including Blue Jays, Cardinals and finches.
Eastern White Pine Seed Cone
Eastern White Pine is a rapid-growing, long-lived, needled evergreen tree that is native to the northeastern United States and hardy in USDA zones 3-9. Pyramidal in its earlier years, this evergreen matures to a broad oval habit with an irregular crown, reaching a mature height and width of 50-80 feet tall by 15-20 feet wide.  Soft, bluish green needles appear in bundles of five, accompanied by cylindrical, brown cones at maturity, which are a favorite food of finches, chickadees and woodpeckers.
Ornamental Grasses
Ornamental grasses include a large selection of species ranging in size and shape, mainly taking the form of an upright clump of arching green leaves. Most are hardy in USDA zones 5-9 and prefer a well-drained soil in full sun. Green or variegated foliage is followed by spikes of soft mauve plumes in fall, that turn to buff or tan as they dry. Plants usually remain attractive well into winter and seeds from the plumes are an excellent food source for over-wintering birds.
How to Create a Bird-Friendly Winter Garden
While natural food and shelter are important in creating your bird-friendly habitat, also be sure to provide a water source for over-wintering birds. In addition, I enjoy making sure that a bird feeder is available during the winter months. Establishing a desirable habitat is the main key and including species of plants such as those mentioned above will not only benefit wildlife, but will add all-season color and interest to your landscape. When planning your garden for next season, consider incorporating some of these selections into your space.
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~As Always...Happy Gardening ~

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening,© Copyright 2010-2019. All rights reserved.