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!
We've been eagerly awaiting springtime here in Georgia and it seems that overnight the flowering trees have burst into bloom. The Flowering Crabapple tree (above) in my front yard is a glorious cloud of fuchsia that can be seen all the way down the street.
The Mayhaw, which I'd given up for dead a couple of years ago, rebounded nicely and is loaded with dainty white flowers and tons of pink buds.
The Princess Diana Serviceberry tree is in full bloom. Each delicate blossom will become a succlent berry. Birds love Serviceberries and swarm the tree when they ripen in May.
The Thundercloud Purple Plum is covered in lavender flowers followed by inky purple foliage making this the most spectacular tree in the yard.
And of course, what Georgia yard would be complete without a peach tree? This Elberta Peach sports lovely pink blossoms, each of which will become a peach. Too bad I won't get any--the deer nab the fruit as soon as it ripens. But I get to enjoy the Springtime show so I'll be content with that.
It's been a rough winter by Georgia standards. Weeks of sub-freezing temps and a snowstorm battered my plants. However, when I walked around the yard this afternoon, I saw lots of signs that Spring may not be far away. Daffodils are sprouting all over the yard and the Mayhaw tree is loaded with magenta buds.
The Saucer Magnolia's branches are heavy with fat buds.
Sword-shaped Iris leaves are showing.
Even though Catnip is an annual, this perky green patch somehow looks unaffected by the miserable winter.
And today with mild temperatures, Rusty the stray cat enjoyed a serene morning by the lake.
The thick, tangled branches of hollies are especially attractive to birds that nest in trees, providing protection from the elements and cover for the nestlings. The Yaupon continued to grow wildly throughout the summer and I wanted to cut it back, but waited, not wanting to jeapordize another nest. Besides, December is the perfect time to severely prune hollies. So, this week I had all my tree pruning done and for the first time saw the intricate Cardinal nest that almost wasn't. Pruning will be done on time from now on!
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.
I've never been happy with the steep slope of the backyard, but I'm over it. Being on high ground has its advantages. Thunderstorms rolled through early Sunday morning dumping lots of rain and flooding the marsh and part of the backyard. Our overflowing lake was even on local news last night. No wonder the lake was the highest ever--we got 6-8 inches of rain in 4 hours.
Water reached past the bird feeders. The duckings could swim under them to forage. Compare these pics to the photo on the right and you can see how high the water is.
But that's not all--a nearby lightning strike set off the smoke detectors. A couple of very nice firemen checked out the attic and gave the all clear.
Thankfully the worst is over. Water has receded leaving behind mud and debris but Mama Mallard and her brood don't seem to mind a bit.
Salvia is usually an annual, but this is the second winter the red and blue salvia survived. What's the secret? A mild winter and I didn't cut down the dead stalks in fall. The bed looked a bit ragged over the winter, but it was worth it. Now the plants that line the walkway are about 3 feet high and covered in blooms. Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies love the flowers. The blue salvia has delicate trumpet-shaped blooms.
Red, white, and blue salvia makes a patriotic display.
When the seeds form in late summer, the goldfinches flock to salvia.
If you're looking for a plant to attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, a salvia is the ticket. There are hundreds of varieties to fit any yard and the best part? Salvia is almost maintenance free.
The four goslings and eleven ducklings are still doing well. However, watching the ducklings has caused me to rethink my attitude toward this untidy part of my yard, a marshy area covered with grasses, Cattails, and weeds. Why the ducklings? Last year I had the landscaper cut back the whole area in late winter. The marsh looked cleaner, but there were no ducklings the following spring. I was going to do the same this year, but persistent rains made the area too wet to work in. This spring we have ducklings.
Coincidence? I don’t know, but it’s enough to make me question the wisdom of mowing the marsh. The tall grasses and weeds provide concealed nesting areas for ducks and seeds for birds. Even the invasive Cattails serve a purpose—ducklings swim among them for cover while foraging. The boggy area doesn’t conform to the suburban ideal of a manicured yard, but there is beauty in the marsh’s wildness.
I know that other, less savory, creatures inhabit the marsh, like rodents and snakes, but they’re part of nature, too. And it gives
them a place to call home that’s far from my house.
Even though I still dream of beautiful flower beds and a pristine lawn stretching to the lake, a manicured marsh wouldn’t seem like an improvement to the birds, waterfowl, and other creatures. The natural look is here to stay!
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.
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.