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Decline in Bird Numbers
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology recently published the astounding results of a study on bird populations. According to their report, the population of breeding adult birds in the United States and Canada has declined by a staggering 2.9 billion since 1970. These numbers took the birding community completely by surprise.
One of the most startling facts from the study is that the sharp decline is completely across the board. One might expect that the declines represented birds that may already be threatened or endangered. However, they found that the affected birds came from almost all habitats, including some of the most common birds found in our own backyards, including cardinals, sparrows, juncos and more.
The loss of important habitat, along with the wide-range use of agricultural pesticides have contributed greatly to the declines, especially for migrating birds that require a healthy habit in their breeding grounds, migration stops and their winter locations.
How Can You Help
What can you do to help? You can participate in programs like “Project FeederWatch” through the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and help monitor bird species in your neighborhood. The Cornell Lab is the foremost source for all things related to wild birds.
You can also start by transforming your backyard into a bird-friendly habitat. Add native plants to your landscape and resist the urge to cut down dead trees when you can. Provide nesting boxes on your property for birds like house wrens, chickadees, bluebirds, swallows, owls and woodpeckers. You can also help by putting up silhouettes on windows to cut down on bird vs. window deaths during both the spring and fall migrations.
Join the BGC Bird Club
Finally, you can become a member of the BGC Bird Club at Burlington Garden Center. You can send an email to email@example.com to sign up for the monthly newsletter or follow the BGC Bird Club on Facebook. The club shares photos and valuable information about species in and around the Burlington area, as well as seasonal tips for products that will help you to maximize your enjoyment of backyard birds.
Contact Burlington Garden Center
If you need some assistance with creating your bird-friendly habitat, you can contact Burlington Garden Center and have a designer visit your home. You will receive tips on where to place bird-friendly plants, as well as help in setting up the right bird feeders and/or water features. A 1-hour visit is $50 and includes a $10 coupon for the store. If you need to see a visual representation of what your habitat will look like, a computer-generated option is also available.
Burlington Garden Center is dormant for the month of January through the middle of February, with regular hours starting up again on or about March 1st. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact us at the email address or phone number below to schedule an appointment, sign up for the newsletter or answer any of your gardening or backyard birding questions.
Landscape Designer/Backyard Bird Enthusiast
Burlington Garden Center
What was your first houseplant? Perhaps a spider plant, an African violet, or a succulent. Maybe it’s a Christmas cactus that was your grandmother’s. Nurturing living things brings us joy and purpose as they depend on us for their basic needs and houseplants are no exception. They can improve air quality as well as mood quality. Whether you are a new or a seasoned plant parent, houseplants are a fun way to decorate and try your hand had growing something. Even if every plant you’ve had has died, here’s an encouraging truth: everyone has watched a plant or two die under their care.
It's not a matter of having a green thumb or not, it's more about finding the right plant that will thrive in the light and cultural conditions of the place in which you live. When choosing a houseplant, always consider the light factor first, then consider the plant's watering and fertilizing needs. If you are starting out, choose one that's easy to care for and is forgiving if you forget it’s weekly watering. Hoyas and Snake plants (Sansevaria) are two easy houseplants that can go 2-4 weeks between waterings and don’t need much light.
It seems that we aren’t the only ones that love houseplants. Cats and dogs like to chew on them to calm upset tummies, to remedy nutritional deficiencies, or to use as a chew toy. Many houseplants are toxic to pets, but pet parents can also be plant parents. It’s always best to keep plants out of the reach of pets, but the following are recognized as being non-toxic to cats and dogs:
African Violets (Saintpaulia ionantha)
Air plants (Tilandsia)
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi)
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltatan)
Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
Hoyas (Hoya carnosa)
Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
The list of pet-safe houseplants is actually quite extensive - over 20 plants! So with a little homework, you CAN safely green up your living space for you and your pets.
A Field Guide to Raising Butterflies
There is a magical process that takes place starting in late spring through fall in our area. It is the complete metamorphosis of a monarch caterpillar to a butterfly. Looking at the caterpillar, one of the first things that goes through your mind is how does this striped caterpillar become a butterfly? What part of the caterpillar is the wings? Which part is the thorax? Do the legs become wings? It is a wondrous process to witness the transition.
When it breaks through the chrysalis and crawls out, the monarch's wings are completely crumpled up. The thorax or body is huge and filled with fluid. It’s first moments as a butterfly are spent pumping fluid from the thorax to fill and expand the wings. You have to be quick to capture the process. After it looks like a typical monarch, it will rest and occasionally flap its wings to dry them.
A few years ago, I started collecting monarch eggs or small caterpillars and started bringing them inside. Why would I do that? One more thing to take care of, one more thing to worry about. But if you have heard the news, you know monarch populations have dropped off considerably. We have good years, but overall, there are fewer monarchs.
There is a strong statement typically made about monarchs, that they produce a taste that is offensive or toxic to predators. That is true to an extent, but predators get around that sticky issue. First, ants, tree frogs and other predator insects will eat the entire egg. If the monarch survives to hatch, it may still be consumed by those insects and tree frogs.
The bluebird has apparently learned how to eliminate the toxic part of the caterpillar so it can be fed to its hatchlings. That leads to the conundrum of who is more important; the bluebird or the monarch? No fear, by bringing the caterpillars inside your home or inside a protected enclosure, the monarch is protected from food predators. But more importantly it protects them from being infected with one of several diseases which also kills the monarch.
So what can we do to make it easier for the monarch if you cannot provide them a protected home? Giving them plenty of native plants along with various forms of milkweed is a great way to start. Plants like Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium or Eutrochium macrolatum), Meadow Blazing Star (Liatris ligulistylis), and Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens) along with many more, will feed your monarch butterfly once it is released. Milkweed or butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is important for the butterfly to lay eggs, so keep those within an area of your yard. If you find common milkweed too invasive, swamp milkweed(Asclepias incarnata) is an excellent substitute that is native to our area and is less invasive.
We still have many monarchs to marvel at as summer slowly wanes. Look for chrysalises on Milkweed plants, watch the butterflies emerge, and make plans to actively raise them next year.
Beth Martin is a Master Gardener here at Burlington Garden Center where you will find many plants helpful to the butterfly lifecycle.
Feel free to contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In August's early days, time seem to pause suspended in deep summer. The harvest stills momentarily, bees buzz on intoxicating nectar, and a relaxed mood dominates when it's too hot to do anything but sit in a hammock under the shade trees.
It's during this time that landscapes are filled with the lacey blossoms of hydrangeas. Some have been blooming since June, but by now there should be a pretty display of white, blush, pink, mauve and even deep red varieties. The selection is vast and can be confusing as to which one to choose. Following is an explanation of hydrangea types. Read on to discover the one that is best for your landscape.
Smooth Hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) are better known as Anabelles and are native to the south eastern part of the US. They are the earliest blooming group typically showing flowers in June. Annabelle's family is quickly growing as more members are introduced such as 'Lil' Annie', 'Wee White', 'Incrediball', 'Invincibelle Spirit, and 'Ruby', and 'Mini Mauvette'. Newer versions of Annabelle have either sturdier stems, larger flowers, or a more compact habit. Flower colors are either white or pink and do not respond to soil pH levels. Most hydrangeas in this group can take sun or part shade. CARE TIP: flowers on new wood; prune back to 18" in late fall or early spring.
Big Leaf (Hydrangea macrophylla), also known as mopheads, have large colorful balls of florets. Plant in morning sun and afternoon shade, and playing with the soil pH can generally change the colors from blue, purple, and pink. Mature sizes range from 3-4' tall. CARE TIP: Most macrophyllas die back to the ground every year in our area. In spring, prune off dead wood and fertilize. Varieties to look for: any from the 'Cape Cod' series are hardy to zone 4 and are beautiful!
Panicle Hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) are woody shrubs that can take six or more hours of sun, and have large, cone-shaped flowers ranging from white to shades of pink and red. 'Quick Fire' is the earliest blooming variety, but by August they all are spectacular! Need something compact? Look for 'Bobo', 'Little Quickfire', and 'Little Lime'. Other varieties can grow 6-8' tall making a great living screen. 'Zinfin Doll' and 'Pink Diamond' are among the fragrant varieties. Many panicle hydrangeas are now available in tree form making them the perfect focal point in a small space garden. CARE TIP: Prune back by one third in early spring.
Mountain (Hydrangea serrata) is a smaller group of hydrangeas originating from the mountains of eastern Asia and are hardy to zone 5. The lace-cap flowers are purple or pink depending on the soil pH. Mountain hydrangeas like morning sun for best flowering which bloom on old and new wood ensuring new flowers all season long. Leaves from the 3'x3' shrubs are used in tea. A variety to look for is 'Tuff Stuff' from Proven Winners.
The final group of hydrangeas is Oakleaf (Hydrangea quercifoia). The leaves resemble oak leaves, and the panicles of flowers are lovely lace-like florets in whites maturing to mauves. Leaves turn a deep burgundy in fall adding another element of interest. When grown in full sun to part shade, they can mature 4-6 feet in height. A variety to look for is 'Jetstream'.
Hydrangeas not only add grace to the late summer garden, but cut stems of most varieties can be enjoyed indoors fresh or dried.