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!
Uh oh! Do you remember the post a few days ago about the Beaver munching grass at the edge of the marsh? Well, clever devil--he was really a scout, sent to survey my yard for tasty treats. He struck last night in a brazen attack, clipping a few branches from a Butterfly Bush and a Beauty Berry. I've seen enough of the furry lumberjack's mayhem to recognize the clean cut of a Beaver's teeth. Beavers raise water levels in order to access vegetation more easily and now that the marsh is flooded, they have an easy route to my yard. Guess it's time to haul out the chicken wire an wrap a few trees because he'll be back.
I was admiring the Canada Select Red Chokeberry tree and spotted this Tiger Swallowtail butterfly enjoying the nectar. A blooming Chokeberry means that Spring flowering tree season is almost over. It's one of the last trees to flower, but worth waiting for.
This fast-growing native tree sprouts bright green leaves in Spring followed by racemes of delicate white flowers. After the blooms fade, the leaves turn a deep maroon for the summer. Chokeberry blooms attract butterflies and lots of bees. The small red fruits that follow are a favorite of birds and wildlife.
I didn't know anything about the Chokeberry when I asked the local nursery for a tree that would attract birds and butterflies. It's certainly does that, but I had no idea that the Chokeberry would provide four seasons of enjoyment for me, too.
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.
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.