Since the Beaver decimated most of my big Hollies, there aren't many berries this year. However, this Holly near the front yard escaped the furry lumberjack's mayhem and is loaded with festive berries!
Overnight freezing fog left a light glaze of ice on plants and trees for the first morning of Winter. It's pretty but treacherous. The slippery patio steps thwarted distribution of mealworms. Sorry, birds, but I have to stay undamaged so you can have mealworms every day!
When I looked out of my screened porch to the side yard, I though it seemed unnaturally sunny. Then I realized that the beaver had climbed halfway to the front yard over at least a dozen terraces to decimate the native Sweet Shrub, a Weigelia, and the Annabell Hydrangea. Lower down he got my heirloom Oakleaf Hydrangea with its fading rosy blooms. He knocked over several pots dragging his prizes away.
The Beaver's mayhem has been confined to the back yard, so this is a new tactic. The area around the lake is brimming with tasty trees but I guess he might be looking for some variety. It's still pretty bold, though. I'm really sad to lose these beautiful shrubs, but everhything he's mauled before grew back really well. The hollies he stole in the spring have already sprouted new growth. I guess nature's landscaper decided my pruning wasn't up to speed!
My favorite Lily is the elegant Stargazer. Its bold color and sweet fragrance make it a perfect cut flower. Alas, I have to enjoy mine in the yard because Stargazers are extremely toxic to cats. They cause acute kidney failure which could be fatal.
I'm used to seeing turtles in the yard laying their eggs, but never one like this. This turtle is a Spiny Softshell Turtle and even though it's not obvious from the picture, she's big--at least a foot across. We usually stereotype turtles as slow, but when she saw me, this one covered the 20 or 25 feet to the lake in just a few seconds. I've seen her in the yard twice so I guess she's laying her eggs. If her babies are as fast as the Mother, then they won't have any trouble outrunning predators when they hatch!!
Do you deadhead your flowers to encourage blooming and make them tidy? I used to, but when I realized that birds love to mine the seed heads, I quit. Even though it's early summer, some plants already have seed heads that attract colorful birds especially Goldfinches. They swarm the Black-eyed Susans and Catnip. This is the reason Goldfinches nest later than most birds--availability of seeds makes feeding their young a lot easier.
Goldfinches aren't the only birds that flock to seed heads. I didn't realize until yesterday that their cousins, Purple Finches, do the same. The one below landed on the Catnip and stayed for a while ferreting out tasty seeds.
Now that I have quit deadheading, my flowers look a little unkempt, but who cares when they're decorated with colorful birds?
Yesterday was the first day the Bluebird dad brought his fledglings to enjoy meal worms on the deck. It looks like the nesting produced at least three big healthy babies. Obviously mom and dad did a great job feeding them because these babies look bigger than dad!! They still have to be fed, but I noticed this morning a couple of them were eating meal worms on their own, but still asking dad to feed them!!
I haven't seen the female for several days. Bluebirds can have two or three nestings in a season. These babies fledged several weeks ago so I'm hoping that she's on the nest again!
Did I say I liked having a beaver colony in my backyard? I still do like the industrious creatures but there are a few drawbacks. I didn't know that they loved hollies, but they have a seemingly insatiable appetite for the lovely shrubs. I had some big beautiful Nellie Stevens and Savannah hollies but the Beaver has decimated them. I found two more gone last week. Now nature's lumberjack is at it again! Last night the Beaver burgled another big Savannah Holly.
He didn't take it with him but look how clever he was to submerge the end of the trunk in water so his prize will stay fresh and tasty until his return .
I'd hate this creature if he wasn't so interesting!! I'm getting out the chicken wire to save the rest of my hollies!!
There are dozens of wild willows he could snack on but obviously he prefers cultivated trees.
These pretty yellow and orange blooms are Tulip Poplar flowers. Although this tree is called a poplar, it's really a member of the Magnolia family. Tulip Poplars, or Tulip trees, are large, growing as tall as 120 feet high! The flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds; birds and squirrels eat the seeds. This one is located in my neighbor's yard between our houses. It must be hardy because the tree withstood building of both houses and continued to flourish even though several mighty oaks nearby died due to the construction.
Would you expect to see a Sandpiper visiting an inland fresh water lake? Because of excellent camouflage, I almost missed the Solitary Sandpiper wading back and forth in the shallows of the lake looking for tasty morsels. Sandpipers are thought of as beach birds, but the Solitary Sandpiper inhabits fresh water lakes. They’re big travelers, too, breeding in the woodlands of Alaska and northern Canada and wintering in Central and South America. This one is probably on a rest stop back to his northern home since these birds often visit lakes and ponds along their migration route. And as for their name--Solitary sandpipers aren’t really loners, but they don’t travel in large flocks.
I didn't find any Cat's Whisker plants (my favorite annual) this year, but I did get one their first cousins, a pink Cleome. These bushy annuals have softball sized flowers with long stamens, giving them the nickname Spider Flower.
They can grow 3-6 feet high and will bloom all summer. Hummingbirds and butterflies love them, too. Although similar, Cat's Whiskers have pyramid shaped flowers with curved stamens. My Mother loved Cleomes and had a big bed of lavender and white ones. I've never seen a pink Cleome before and wish I had gotten to the nursery earlier--this was the only one left!!
It's tick season as I was reminded yesterday when I found one of the nasty pests lodged near my collar bone. A trip to urgent care for removal and a round of antibiotics should take care of the matter. Of course I asked about contracting Lyme Disease and the Physician's Assistant told me that it was unlikely. However, he did mention that there is something similar to Lyme Disease here in the south--STARI or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. I had never heard of it before but it is carried by the Lone Star tick, one of the three ticks prevalent in the South. The good news is that if the tick is on you for less than 48 hours, possibility of transmission isn't likely. Be careful out there and check for ticks after being outside!
It seems as though every Rose in the yard flowered at the same time. Roses can be fussy, but to be honest, other than pruning and fertilizer, I don't do a lot for mine. They still bloom so I guess I found the right spot for these lovely plants.The one above is the fiery Fourth of July Rose. I love the variegated petals.
Below is a Knock Out Rose. They are low maintenance and bloom wildly all season long. Too bad that the deer love to munch on them.
This Red Climbing Rose is a true heirloom plant that brings back memories because it was my Grandfather's favorite rose. My Mother loved it, too, and rooted cuttings which lined our back fence when I was growing up. This one came from her rose plant.
This is my favorite Rose, a Pink Sweetheart. My grandparents had a massive one in their yard. I always think of them when this rose blooms.
I just realized that most of my Roses are red--maybe I should branch out a little next year with some yellow and lavender!!
Great excitement on the lake--we have ducklings!! I spotted the Mother Duck and her brood yesterday. The babies are probably newly hatched because they are so small. I counted 14!! Mother Duck is going to be tired keeping up with them.
It's very rare to see the Beaver out and about after dawn, but this morning when I raised the shades, I spotted him in his little lake. He started gnawing on a decent sized wild willow trunk and a mere 10 minutes later, it dropped. The Beaver gnawed on the stump for a short time then started eating the branches. Guess he was ready for a "fresh" meal after a night of hard labor maintaining his little kingdom. What an amazing creature!
Right on cue for Easter, the bare branches of Dogwood trees are filled with their signature creamy blooms. This small native tree only grows to about 20 feet high. Dogwoods prefer part shade. Morning sun is best.
This year seeing Dogwood blooms on my trees is special. About 10 years ago, I planted three seedlings. However I put them in too much shade under three huge oak trees and they never flowered. Last year, those oaks died and after they were removed, morning sun began to filter in. For the first time, my Dogwoods are loaded with blooms and that part of my yard looks just like I had hoped all those years ago. Sometimes nature is a better gardener than humans.
The spicy-sweet scent wafting through the yard signals that the Sweetshrub, or Carolina Allspice, is in bloom. This native plant grows wild along the east coast from Pennsylvania to Northern Florida and west to Mississippi. Sweetshrub can tolerate full sun but part shade is much better. The one in the pictures is a true native--it somehow escaped the bulldozer when my house was built. Lucky for me--it's nice to have such a lovely fragrant shrub in my yard.
If you are looking for a low maintenance shrub with arresting spring color, the Loropetalum or Chinese Fringe Flower is an excellent choice. I have a group of three on a bank near my driveway and the mass of vivid hot pink blooms is gorgeous. Loropetalum is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 15 feet high, but can be pruned after flowering to control the size. There are also dwarf varieties for smaller spaces.
The Belted Kingfisher searches for fish from his high perch in the Birch tree, then brashly dive bombs into the water for his catch.
These stocky birds nest in burrows excavated in river and lake banks. They don't often fish from my side of the lake so it's a special treat to see one in the Birch tree. Happy New Year to all from the creatures and birds of Georgia Backyard Nature!
I have lots of heirloom plants from my Mother's garden, but these Spider Lilies bring back bittersweet memories. When she was in the nursing home, my Mother never stopped thinking about her garden. Once when visiting she told me it was time to dig up some of her Spider Lily bulbs to put in my yard. I had always admired their autumn beauty lining her driveway so I hoisted out the shovel.
They had multiplied wildly over the years so I found enough to festoon my yard and those of a couple of friends. Even though her health was failing, Mother was so happy knowing that I'd enjoy her Spider Lilies for years to come. She was right. Every fall I love Mother's last spectacular contribution to my garden.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Eagle Cam 2014 This camera streams the activities of the eagle nest located 110 feet up, in a tree on the grounds of the US FWS National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.