Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mockingbirds - Part Of The Wildlife In My Garden

My favorite movie (and book) is To Kill a Mockingbird. Not because of the symbolism, which is powerful, but because I somehow identify with the three children in the movie. I've watched it dozens of times and will watch it dozens more. In the movie, Atticus Finch tells his son Jem "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird". When Jem asks Miss Maudie about it she says "Mockingbirds don't do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

 I love mockingbirds, but the truth is that mockingbirds are bullies. They are often tyrants at the feeders. They are like a 6-year-old who hasn't learned to share and fly in to a feeder proclaiming it "Mine! Mine! All mine!" I've noticed this with the apples I put out for the birds. The mockingbirds spend most of their time scaring away the other birds, rather than eating the apples. However, mockingbirds are a valuable ally to other birds. They will charge after any threat to their families. If another bird sounds an alarm call, the mocker is the first to investigate and pitch in. 
Although mockingbirds do make their own original music, they get their name from their ability to imitate other birds' songs. They also imitate other sounds such as the squeaking of a rusty gate or a whistle they hear every day. 

The favorite food of the mockingbird is fruit. However they also enjoy mealworms, bread, suet, millet, and a variety of berries such as holly berries, cedar berries, mulberries and blackberries. 

One of my favorite gardening memories is from last year. It was extremely hot and I'd been working in the garden all day. I decided to take a break and sat in the shade of the Pin Oak with my cold glass of ice tea thinking "it just doesn't get any better than this!" But then it did... a mockingbird landed in the tree above me and began singing his heart out. I enjoyed his concert for the remainder of my was heaven!

I can't imagine the garden without "my" mockingbirds. We have two that are here everyday whether it's sunny, snowing, or raining. I always know I can count on them for some free entertainment. I love mockingbirds!

Happy Gardening!

Words and Photos Property of Christy's Cottage Wildlife Garden

References: the BACKYARD Bird Feeder's BIBLE/Sally Roth/ 2000
To Kill a Mockingbird/1963

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Collection of Bird Houses

I love bird houses. Bird houses help our feathered friends and I love to decorate with them. I think bird houses and cottage design go hand-in-hand. Not only did I design my garden in the cottage style, but the inside of my home is also decorated in cottage style. I think I enjoy cottage style so much because it's comfortable, cozy and says "come on in and relax". We have quite a collection of bird houses, both inside and out. I'm always on the lookout for new ones and we also enjoy making birdhouses. Come and take a look....

We made this birdhouse as a garden decoration. We put it on a small baluster so it's only about three feet off the ground. We never thought it would actually be used, however the Chickadees use it year after year!

This little bird house is a decoration on my front porch. Once spring arrives, it will be surrounded by flowers.

Even the winter pillow on my front porch bench has a bird house on it.

And of course, the best bird house of all....a nest. This is a Mockingbird nest in the Cleveland Pear tree in our front yard. It's pretty small and there were three babies in it last year. I was lucky enough to see them leave the nest and wander around the front yard looking for insects. Even as a child I was captivated by birds' nests. It is absolutely amazing to me how they make these. This one has been through forty mile an hour winds and still looks good as new!!

I decorate the inside of my home for each season. Of course, bird houses are always a part of the decorations! There are big bird houses.....

....and small bird houses!

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my bird houses. What type of decorations do you like to use in your garden or home?
Happy Gardening!

Words and Photos Property of Christy's Cottage Wildlife Garden.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Birds, Birds, Birds!!

We've had an increase in bird activity lately. I'm not sure why because we haven't changed the food we put out for them. Maybe word is getting out that this is the place to be...plenty of food, water and houses!  These were all taken the same day! I hope you enjoy seeing some of the wildlife in our cottage garden!

 Red-winged Blackbirds and a few Grackles.

 Cardinals and lots of Goldfinches.

A tree full of male and female Cardinals!! They are all waiting for their turn at the sunflower seed feeders. Notice the small screens we put under the feeders. This way more birds can eat at one time.

 More Cardinals.

A Mockingbird and Sparrows at the suet feeders. We have two Mockingbirds that always seem to be in the yard. In the last couple of weeks they have started getting very protective of the apples and chase away the other birds that try to eat them. 

 The snow had just begun falling as this Cardinal landed on the pergola. His bright red color really stands out and it appears he's looking right at the camera.

 The Mockingbird trying to decide which type of suet to eat!  Oh, decisions, decisions!

 Look at the ground on the left side of the gate. There are several Doves relaxing.

Happy Gardening!

Words and Photos Property of Christy's Cottage Wildlife Garden

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Creation of Morrow Park

 In August of 2012 we decided to enlarge our front flower gardens. When I say enlarge, I mean ENLARGE! We decided this new area was going to be called "Morrow Park" and is dedicated to our loved ones...both human and animal. Since we had a severe drought last year we decided to make this area a bit different than our other beds by planting more shrubs than perennials. The first four pictures are from August, 2012.

 This is what the area looked like before we started.

 The first thing I do when designing a new bed is to draw it out on paper. Next, I use marking paint to draw the outlines of the bed on the ground.

The first section we put in was the seating area. A couple of weeks after this picture was taken we put stepping stones under the table and chairs to make a little patio. This is where I take my breaks while working in the front gardens.

 The first step is to outline the beds with rip-rap. We pick up each piece from the local quarry and then bring them home and put them in place. Next step was to put down weed fabric in the bed where the shrubs were planted. The round bed you see was planted with Sage, Veronica, Coneflowers, Phlox, Daylilies and I threw down some Poppy and Larkspur seeds this Fall. I am anxious to see how they look this spring!

 The picture above and the remaining pictures were taken today. We woke to a light dusting of snow and 14 degrees! I just made this little sign! 
This picture and the next five pictures are phase I of Morrow Park. The shrubs include different varieties of the following:  Spiraea, Carpet Roses, Weigela, Butterfly Bush and Crepe Myrtle. The tree was the second tree we planted (2005) and is a Zelkova Serrata.

 I'm looking forward to spring when I can see the shrubs start to mature a little bit.
I found the double washtub at an antique store. Right now it's planted with violas, but they will be replaced in spring.

The round perennial bed will be pretty when everything starts growing. 

 Along each side of the sitting area are Veronicas, Mums, Gaura, Phlox, Sage and Violas. I will plant new annuals in spring.

 Our main water line runs under this little area, so I decided to plant in pots only. These will be filled with annuals in spring.

 This little area is also on the water line, so it is only planted with annuals. I planted Poppy and Larkspur seeds in Fall, so they should look wonderful in spring!

Now, any of my gardening friends will tell you that I'm always changing my gardens. Even though initially I was only going to have shrubs in Morrow Park, phase I, I have decided I MUST have more flowers, so I will add beds along the paths so that more flowers can be planted.

The picture above and the one below are phase II. Phase II was started in October, 2012. So far the shrubs include: Pearlbush, Abelia, Fothergilla and Weigela, but more will be planted. The square you see is going to be something VERY SPECIAL!!!  It will be completed in spring and I can't wait to show it to you!
 You can see the small beds on each side which will be planted with annuals.

 These last two pictures are the final phase. Phase III was started in December 2012. So far there are only two shrubs planted, a Deutzia and a Hydrangea. More will be planted in spring...we just ran out of planting time!  We will add screened topsoil and lots of compost to the soil area you see and then it will be planted with annuals (seeds) and perennials.  We placed the path right over the main water line.

 Right now you can see that the path ends in a little circle. I've changed my mind (again) and will bring the path towards the rip-rap so there are two entrances. 

So, these are a few of the projects we will be doing in spring. I will update you with posts along the way to show you our progress. I think it's going to look awesome when it's done!

Happy Gardening!

Words and Photos Property of Christy's Cottage Wildlife Garden.