How do squirrels know the exact moment to plunder? The serviceberries have ripened and this little pest is the first to gorge. Although I'd prefer that birds get the succulent berries, there's no stopping a squirrel.
These delicate white flowers belong to the Hawthorn, the last fruit tree to bloom in spring. Bees are swarming the trees now, in fall the Hawthorns belong to the birds. Serviceberries and cherries produce fruit in late spring or early summer, but red Hawthorn berries, called Haws, don’t ripen until fall when there’s not much fruit around. In late October, the tree is swarmed by birds plucking the tasty berries.
When the leaves drop away in winter the reason for the Hawthorn name becomes obvious. You can see it’s covered in spiky, dangerous-looking thorns, which are about 2 inches long. In fact, it’s wise to take off the branches that are low to the ground so you won't inadvertently get tangled up with those thorns.
Hawthorns aren’t a common landscaping tree here in Georgia so they’re hard to find. Luckily, I now have two—a lush Washington Hawthorn in the backyard that my landscaper found and a sapling Winter King Hawthorn in the front. This is the first year the Winter King has bloomed which is a big relief. I ordered the tree two years ago from an out-of-state nursery and it was shipped as dormant, bare root stock. I wasn’t sure it would survive, but surprise—the Winter King is thriving.
All those blooms mean a bumper crop of fall berries. Even though other trees have more brilliant fall foliage, seeing Cardinals and Waxwings nimbly navigating those thorny branches and gorging on the scarlet berries makes the Hawthorn the best fall tree in the garden.
If you're looking for a hardy tree that's sensational in all four seasons and attracts birds, the Serviceberry is the answer. In spring, clusters of delicate white flowers cover the tree followed by bright fruit that birds love. In fall, the lush green leaves of summer turn to striking gold and red. In the dead of winter, shapely branches lend interest to an otherwise bleak landscape.
There are many varieties of serviceberries. The pictures above are the blossoms of the Princess Diana serviceberry. The Princess Diana is about 20 feet high after twelve years. It’s thrived despite being mauled by a beaver two years after I planted it.
These are flowers of the Autumn Brillance Serviceberry. I'm so excited because this is the first year the trees have flowered, even though they're the same age as the Princess Diana. The two Autumn Brilliance didn't do well in the first location. The ground was too hard and dry so I transplanted them about 8 years ago. The trees took off but the new location was too shady. Now they're tall enough for the upper branches to get more sun.
Serviceberries aren't that common here in Georgia, but they should be. Every yard needs one of these versatile trees. The birds agree with me, too.
Color is hard to come by in the winter garden, but I recently noticed a nice patch of ruby red in the front yard. It was a group of three Firepower Nandinas glowing in the sun. The shrubs are several years old, but never came into their winter glory because they were planted in a shady spot. I moved them to the front yard and for the first time, the Nandina leaves turned to the signature red right after New Year’s.
I never thought much about Nandinas because they are so common here in Georgia. After seeing how much the Firepower amped up the yard, I began looking for other Nandinas. I spotted this Heavenly Bamboo Nandina in a bed near the entrance to the community pool. The foliage has a purplish tint and the berries look like they’re illuminated from within.
Hardy in zones 6-9, Nandinas require little care. They do best
in well-drained soil with full to partial sun. Here’s another plus—deer don’t
like Nandinas. The Firepower variety is a dwarf shrub, growing only 2 feet high
and doesn’t flower or produce berries. Heavenly Bamboo grows to be 6-8 feet
high and produces panicles of tiny white flowers in the spring and sports
bright berries in the fall and winter.
I’m glad this is another transplant story with a happy ending. In the spring I’ll have to dig up that Heavenly Bamboo Nandina that’s been limping along in the shade of a cypress tree. Maybe this time next year I’ll be able to post a picture of my own Heavenly Bamboo berries.
I haven't started on Christmas decorations yet, but the big weeping Yaupon Holly is already decked out for the holidays with more festive red berries than ever before. I'm surprised about that since we had a dry summer. Some think that a bounty of berries means a hard winter. I hope that isn't the case.
The Yaupon Holly is a hardy evergreen tree with graceful, downward cascading branches and small green leaves. It can grow up to 30 feet high. In the spring it’s loaded with tiny white flowers that attract bees. When fall arrives, the berries ripen to a stunning red. Weeping yaupon hollies are hardy in zones 7-9 and like full or partial sun. I fertilize this one several times a year with fertilizer formulated for evergreen plants.
I always enjoy decorating for Christmas but it's even better when Mother Nature gives me a head start.
Several days ago I spotted a large flock of brown birds swarming the Yaupon Holly and Crabapple tree. They were about the size of mockingbirds, but more the color of sparrows. I took a few pictures and was delighted to see the characteristic black mask and yellow tail tip of the Cedar Waxwing.
The Cedar Waxwing is mostly frugivorous, which means it eats fruit. In fact, it’s one of the few birds that specialize in fruit, being able to survive on fruit alone for several months, especially in winter. They also eat insects and can catch them on the wing, like flycatchers. In the northern part of their range, the cedar berry is a large part of their diet.
I haven’t seen any waxwings for a couple of years. These nomadic birds travel in large flocks searching out fruit. After they exhausted pickings in the front yard, they discovered the ripening Serviceberries near the deck. What great timing--they lingered there long enough for me to get some great pictures.
Hawthorns are a four season tree. In spring, the tree is covered in small white blossoms, which attract droves of bees. In summer, the blossoms give way to green fruit, almost invisible against the green foliage. In fall, the berries ripen to a radiant red,and the leaves become a mixture of pink, yellow and green. The leaves drop away in winter revealing shapely branches and the reason for its name becomes obvious. It's covered in spiky, dangerous-looking thorns, which are about 2 inches long. In fact, its wise to take off the branches that are low to the ground so you won't inadvertently get tangled up with those thorns.
Hawthorns aren't that common here in Georgia so finding a replacement wasn't easy. Luckily my landscape contractor came through. I didn't expect it to flower this year because it's a young tree. I was thrilled yesterday when I saw it was absolutely covered in lacy white blooms. There will be hawthorn berries for the bird this fall!!
I have lots of hollies in my yard, but none are quite as magnificent as this English holly in my Mother's yard. Heavily laden with bright red berries, it's about 50 years old and another real heirloom. She rooted it from a cutting of my Grandmother's holly. It's probably 25 feet high now, but these slow-growing giants can reach 50 feet.
This hardy evergreen tolerates a wide range of soil, moisture, and light conditions which allows it to spread and choke out other trees and shrubs. English holly can grow in either single or multiple trunks. Bark is smooth and silvery grey. The leaves are shiny and have sharp spines along the edges. Holly is often used in Christmas decorations, but beware--the vivid berries are poisonous to humans.
Every time I see my Mother's holly covered in berries, I think of Christmas. We could decorate several houses with holly garlands, wreaths, and sprays and never make a dent on this tree!!
Here in Georgia where it's been in the 90's most of the summer, we welcome any sign that cooler weather in on the horizon. The bold amethyst-colored Beautyberries I spotted today tell me that crisp autumn days aren't far away.
These colorful berries appeal to a wide variety of birds, judging from the seemingly ravenous attacks on them. Birds strip the Beautyberries with lightening speed. One day the bushes are loaded with hundreds of purple berries and a few days later they're bare.
Beautyberries aren't as plentiful as last year, probably because of our recent drought and the hard pruning I did in spring. There's still enough for the birds to gorge themselves, unless those aggressive Blue Jays hog the bounty.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Eagle Cam 2013 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.