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Gardening (is) for the Birds

Gardening (is) For The Birds

Every few months, I get down about my yard. My garden isn’t quite what I imagine it could be. I love those beautiful Asian gardens, with the koi ponds and little bridges and cleanly kept beds. I adore the wilder country gardens with their weedy herbs tucked in so tenderly and green medicine burgeoning from every corner. The English gardens with their sculpted roses and carefully tended pathways are among my favorites, too. I often imagine how I might adapt my favorites to my own space.

Imagination, however, seems to be as far as I actually get. I have beds, but they’re not exactly well-tended. Early summer allergies knock me off my feet every year, and the bindweed takes right over. It’s truly a losing batttle, but that’s not the real trouble. When I’m feeling down, like I was this past week, I see the real trouble quite clearly. I’m just too lazy to get out there and care for my outdoor space.

You can see how down that kind of thinking is. I sit on my couch staring out the front window at the Sherrif’s almost sterile garden across the way, and the judging thoughts rise up like a horde of locusts, eating away my peace of mind. Not a single false dandellion or stem of bindweed dares touch his space. The beds are all perfectly edged and filled with fresh bark. Always. Even the lush, green grass seems to grow perfectly evenly with nary a blade longer than desired.

Spring Lemon Balm or Melissa Officinalis

Lemon Balm in my spring garden before it went to the birds!

My own yard is replete with false and common dandelions and, right now, dormant (brown) grass. The grape vines have climbed right up the Blue Flower bushes, which themselves look a little like giant vagabond heads of wild, spiky hair. The raspberries are managing to keep on growing amidst the too-tall grasses and wild blackberries that both threaten to take over that whole bed. My lemon balm has been faded yellow and brown stems of seeds and probable firehazard leaves for weeks. I really ought to have trimmed it to the ground by now. But, I haven’t.

Every time I get down, someone manages to point out the real reason my garden refuses to resemble the sanctuaries of my dreams. This time, it was a tiny flock of Lesser Goldfinches, a bright yellow and olive green fella with his two mates. They perched in the lemon balm and ate the seeds therein with utter delight. They wouldn’t bother to grace the Sherrif’s yard with their joyous presence. He’s got nothing at all for them there.

In fact, I rarely see birds across the way, while I have many feathered friends stopping by my space. I’m sure the birdbath and bird feeder make my space that much more attractive, but more importantly, my space offers a plethora of wild foods and safe perches. I’ve probably got more insects, too, for that matter. The sheer number of spiders I see making their webs out there speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

So, once again, Mother Nature has reminded me that it takes all kinds of gardens to make the world a happy place. Mine may not make my human neighbors all that happy, but the rest of my neighbors are quite content with my space. Lesser Goldfinch is number 39 on my Oregon list, and that particular sighting came with a reminder to value and enjoy my space as I keep it rather than get down on myself for not conforming to the ideas and ideals of our crazy human world.

Plants birds and bees love and how to keep them

  • Lemon balm, aka Melissa: Bees love the early blooms. Finches and other small birds love the seeds in early fall through spring. Let lemon balm to it’s growth cycle, then wait until the other plants are starting to bloom and lemon balm’s first new leaves are growing to cut away the previous year’s growth.
  • Calendula, aka pot marigold: bees love the flowers, particularly in early spring and late fall when the weather warms for just a day or two.
  • Grasses: birds love the seeds. Let ornamental grasses bear seeds. Wait to trim them until early spring when new shoots are beginning to emerge.
  • Raspberries, blackberries, and other berries: birds love berries. Leave some of your harvest on the canes, especially late in the season for overwintering birds.
  • Elder, aka elderberry: birds love the berries, especially through winter; flies and other insects like the flowers in late spring and early summer. Let elder grow as it will, but be sure to leave a goodly sum of berries behind for the winter birds when you harvest for your own medicine in early fall.
  • Douglas fir and other pines, firs, and conifers: birds love the seeds and insects they find in the pine cones. Let them drop and linger through winter. Sweep them up in the spring once other plants have begun to bloom and provide food for our feathered neighbors.
  • Spearmint: bees love spearmint. Trim it back mid-summer for a healthy crop of fresh leaves in late summer, then let it bloom for the bees through fall.
  • Shrubbery of all kinds: birds find shelter and safety in thick, lush hedges, shrubs, and other large, leafy plants. Let them grow in the habit they generally desire with loose shaping or trimming rather than trimming them close to offer easy access for birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and other flying insects. Plant a variety of heights, offering cover liw to the ground as well as higher up for a wider variety of visitors.
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