Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Birdernaturalist Becomes Gardenernaturalist!

Last I wrote here I had just returned in late January from four weeks in Brazil for my 50th birthday celebration. Seems like years ago, as a lot has happened, and the world looks very different now. Given how things are with the people around the entire globe doing what they can to prevent the spread of coronavirus (except for a few really stupid people), you’d think I’d have lots of time to keep up on my blog, but I really have been busier than ever. My next five tours have been canceled, or at the very least postponed for a year or more. But I was planning on being at home for most of April and May anyway, getting my garden ready for a summer of growing and house ready for living and having guests over.

So much for having the guests over…and I’ve actually done very little work in the house, with books still not in bookcases and most framed objects still in a pile. So in the next few months at least, this blog will mostly look rather like a gardening journal. The goings on in my yard include what’s growing, what I’ve planted, and what wonderful birds, bugs, and other critters I’m seeing in the yard. As I said, I’ve been busy, but things have become less urgent in recent days, and so I’m back to blogging.

As a teaser, here are four photos to show from afar what I’ve been doing.

The front yard on February 12. I’ve already whacked the Phygelius (Cape Fuchsia) back and dug up the advancing roots that were taking over a huge area. I’ve cut back last year’s growth on some of the perennials, and you can see green clumps where this year’s growth is already appearing. I need to prune the two peach trees in front of the porch soon.

The front yard on May 3. The biggest single chore was removing the lilac at the NW corner of the house. It had been damaged in the huge snow storm last February and its panic response was to put out suckers that reached out up to 8 feet away. It was about to become a gigantic lilac thicket, and that wasn’t going to do. It took a couple of weeks of digging down about 3 feet deep, but I persisted, and it’s gone. I pruned the peach trees (as well as another peach elsewhere in the yard, two plums, and an apple). You can see I finished spreading mulch – a fir bark mulch on top of a layer of cardboard boxes to get rid of the lawn and a shallower layer of organic compost in the perennial beds to help with the soil and work against weeds. I reduced the size of some plant clumps, moved some to elsewhere in the garden, and completely removed any and all Centranthus ruber, or Jupiter’s Beard. It’s just too large, reseeds too widely, and doesn’t offer enough to natives in my opinion. I also added some plants, but I like to start small, so they’re not really obvious in this photo. I’ll highlight them in future blogs, perhaps.

The back yard on February 12. I’ve layered the cardboard, but I still have about half of the 38.5 cubic yards of fir bark mulch to distribute. You can see the beginnings of where I’ll create my brush pile. Notice how the evergreen Clematis armandii is leaning over the fence; it’s supported on a piece of what’s called hog wire fence, not really strong enough for its weight, and I’ve come up with a plan. Also notice the pot with the pansies on the deck.

The back yard on May 3. I think it looks beautiful without the lawn, and all that area of bark mulch will become home to native and useful plants (useful to me in the sense of food, but also fragrance and aesthetics). Native plants are almost by definition useful to wildlife. The pansies are filling the pot with colors, and the clematis is extremely happy on its new trellis that I’ve built. I’ve also extended wires for the vines to continue on, which will offer additional privacy to the back yard. The brush pile became complete with the addition of the fruit tree prunings, the lilac, and finally topped with trimmings from the staghorn sumac in the front on March 5. The very next day, a Fox Sparrow declared it home, and for the next weeks it owned it, though it did allow more migrant Fox Sparrows, Golden-crowned Sparrows, and others in the next weeks.

I did actually take two trips abroad since late January, so I’ll blog about those trips in between gardening updates.

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