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Spring Celebration and Perennials
May 31, 2011

"In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."

Margaret Atwood

I really like this quote, don't you?

I hope all of you had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.

You may have finished off your planting (plants and seeds) in your gardens.

(I did.)

Maybe you enjoyed a family cook out or other outings.

With all the activities going on, I hope and pray you took time to remember our heroes.

"Fallen and Living."

The Real Reason for the Holiday and this year it actually fell on the tradtional or original date of May 30.

Remember, "Freedom isn't Free."

Once again, our prayers go out to the storm ravaged areas and the many people affected.

It has been one of those years as the the Jet Stream keeps setting up the high and low pressure systems.

Many of us continue to get rained on and wonder when it will end.

I try to roll with the flow right now.

I'm sure by July, I will be begging for rain.

'Spring Celebration' continues.

The month of May is winding down, but that doesn't mean garden and wildlife activity is.

The intoxicating aroma from the lilacs still fill the air.

In southwest Michigan, Dogwood trees and Azaleas are in full bloom.

I finally saw my first Ruby-throated hummingbird.

Barn swallows arrived about a week ago (one of the last birds to migrate north).

Add these little acrobats to the already presence of the Tree swallows and the airways are in constant motion.

I think the Gang is all here now :-)

When the weather allows, I sit on the deck and watch them for several moments at a time.

Bird nests are plentiful as witnessed by the dove, robin, Red-winged blackbird, and Blue Jay nests.

To you right is a well hidden, Red-winged blackbird nest that is weaved into the cattails on the pond shore.

At the same time, earlier successful nests have fledged and the sounds of scared and hungry fledglings are heard when I'm out and about.

The Green herons are still in the spruce trees.

I have given up taking a better picture as I don't want to chase them away.

Karen's baby Lovebird is now two weeks old (pictured below).

What a difference from our wild birds.

Most of our backyard birds fledge within two weeks, this little guy is still mostly bald and the eyes are still closed.

A woodchuck has found my yard, and the war begins.

(Blue Jay nest.)

We start a new month this week.

That means it is time to give your feeders a good cleaning.

As the temperatures rise, so does the chance for for fungus and other issues in your hummingbird feeders.

Please be sure to offer fresh sugar water every couple days.

Everyday when temperatures are in the 90's.

Continue to offer a fresh source of water as well.

Birdbaths and other water sources turn green and get dirty much quicker this time of year.

It is best to place a bath where you are more inclined to take care of it, but keep it near protection for your feathered friends.

A good 10 to 12 feet in the open will do.

May is National "Gardening For Wildlife" month.

This week, I touch on a few perennials or must haves for your wildlife gardens.


Our 'Creator' has provided for the natural world and us to enjoy, a plethora of native flowering plants.

Many of these are native to your region or have since become naturalized and introduced.

Native plants are always better for the wildlife as they were created just for a certain area (even a whole continent).

Natives are tolerant to
many conditions and even thrive where introduced species often struggle.

Natives offer a better diet for native wildlife.

It is difficult to come up with a certain perennial that I would call a stalwart in the garden like (Amelanchier and Viburnums the past two weeks).

I have come up with a short list of native perennials that has at least one plant for every garden.

When you plant several of these, you will have a native perennial in bloom from spring into early autumn.

By offering natives, you will attract local butterflies, birds and other wildlife.

Though many loathe wild violets, there is a place for them too, as they are host plants for Fritillary butterflies.

Hopefully this short list can give you some ideas.

You may be blessed enough to have a true woodland, wildflower garden filled with Trillium, Blood-root, Dutchman breeches, woodland phlox, May-apple and other beauties.

If not, than Columbines (Aquilegia spp.) may very well be the first blooming native in your gardens.

Aquilegia canadensis (Red Columbine):

A true woodland plant found in eastern 2/3's of The United States and Canada. Ideal for the wildflower garden and a favorite for early arriving hummingbirds.

Aquilegia chrysantha is a robust, beautiful plant, with flowering stems 16 to 48 inches high.

The parent of several garden hybrids, thanks to its large flowers, A. chrysantha has hosted the usual proliferation of horticultural forms as well.

Plants bloom in full sun, but prefer filtered sun (especially in the south).

Blooms seasons for different cultivars are, from early spring into early summer.

Most Columbines are hardy from Zones 3-9 and do require a moist mulch in warmer

Lupinus perennis spp. (Perennial lupine):

The picture to your right is a Black-capped chickadee enjoying some lupine seeds in my yard last summer.

Few perennials put on a flowering display like 'Russel's Lupine'.

Each spring, gardeners fall in love all over again with the rainbow of colors, of one of the most popular garden perennials of them all - the lupines.

What many gardeners don't know is that the colorful flower spikes they enjoy in the garden are very close hybrid cousins of some of the most magnificent native wildflowers in North America.

There are over 200 wild species of lupine, and most are North American natives.

Yes, wild lupine are found from coast to coast.

Wild lupines are usually blue, but can also be white, yellow, or with some species, even red.

Zone Hardy from 4 to 8.

Blooms in mid to late spring to early summer (depending on location).

They enjoy well drained soil and a good drink every now and then.

Lupines are short lived perennials, be sure to allow some to reseed.

Gaillardia (Blanket flower):

Gaillardia covers much of Canada, the northern tear of states and the western states.

Now cultivated for all regions.

Bloom Time appear in early to mid-summer and continues to bloom well into autumn (especially when fed and watered).

The daisy-like flowers are usually multi-colored with yellows, reds and oranges common.

Attracts bees and butterflies.

Deadhead for continued blooming, but leave some dead flowers in late season to feed your birds.

Drought tolerant and well drained soil, but a good drink always helps.

Hardiness Zones are from 3-10.

Rudbeckia spp. (Black-eyed Susans):

Notice the American goldfinch doing what comes natural, feeding off a seed head.

Rudbeckia is another favorite of many gardens.

"R. Goldsturm " seems to be the favorite Blacked Eyed Susan for its showy display from mid summer into early fall.

While cultivars such as "R. Goldsturm "
put on a showy display in mid summer, many of the fuzzy leafed, wild forms (and now newer cultivars) have a longer bloom season and are less susceptible to deceases and are more drought tolerant.

While I have a Goldsturm, I prefer the more attractive fuzzy leafed plants (wild and cultivated varieties).

I enjoy cultivars such as 'Autumn Colors', 'Prairie Sun', 'Indian Summer', and more.

The fuzzy leaves are also less appealing to rabbits and deer (woodchucks too).

Natives are more drought tolerant than many of the newer cultivars.

Depending on the species, they are zone hardy from 3 to 8 and possibly Z9.

Some are sold as annuals and many are considered biennial or short lived perennials that freely reseed, when you leave some heads on the plant.

Favorites of bees , hoverflies, and butterflies as they search for nectar.

Leave the seed heads for your birds, as you will often spot a goldfinch dining on your plants.

Side Bar:

Black-eyed Susans (R. Goldsturm) are susceptible to a number of leaf spot diseases.

Septoria leaf spot is one of the most common fungal diseases, characterized by small, dark brown leaf spots that range in size from one-eighth to one-quarter inch in diameter.

The disease progresses rapidly during wet weather or with regular overhead irrigation, resulting in plants that seem to turn black and die overnight.

There are other fungal leaf spot diseases than afflict black-eyed Susans, but they are not generally as severe as septoria leaf spot.

I have yet to have this issue on fuzzy leaved plants.

Echinacea spp. (coneflowers):

Coneflowers are well known to gardeners. They're North American natives from the East, Prairies and Great Plains.

Cultivated varieties (cultivars) are now sold over most of North America as well as the world.

However, these are not your mother's coneflowers.

Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'.. Purple coneflower.

That was pretty much it a generation or two ago.

Now we have coneflowers with names like 'Razzmatazz', 'Coconut Lime', 'Hot Papaya', 'Sunup', 'Sundown', Tiki Torch', Tomato Soup', and many more.

(My Razzmatazz pictured from last year.)

Colors in red, white, lime green, reds, oranges, yellows and bi-colors.

All thanks to our native Echinacea and scores of breeders around the world.

Echinacea is zone hardy from 3 to 9 and is drought tolerant, yet with added water, your plants will grow larger and bloom time will be much prettier and last longer.

Flowers attract many bees and
butterflies, while the seeds offer food for many species of wild birds.

be sure to offer Coreopsis, (Tickseed), Liatris (Purple gayfeather), Helenium (Sneezeweed), Helianthus, (perennial sunflower) Hibiscus moscheutos (Hardy hibiscus) , to your bird and butterfly gardens.

Natives like Penstemon (Beard tongue), Agastache (hummingbird mint) are major hummingbird attractors.

Both so well in well drained soil and are drought tolerant. be sure to plant on higher grounds.

Phlox paniculata spp. (Garden phlox) attract bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds.

Monarda (Bee balm), no hummingbird garden is complete without this native cultivar.

Many cultivars now come in tall or short form.

If you need to keep plants short, proper pruning will keep tall plants shorter and more full.

Agastache, while native to the Southwest, a few species do well in Zone 5, and will bloom from mid summer until it gets too cold to bloom.

They do well and over winter in my Z5 Michigan gardens.

Hardy Asters add fall color and offer pollen and nectar for butterflies and bees.

Many of these plants are indeed deer and rabbit resistant.

There are scores of native bloomers for your wildlife gardens that offer flower power from spring to killing frosts

A well planned garden will offer pleasing colors for you and vital food sources and protection for your wildlife.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before i go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

Carrie Fisher

When you are offended or hurt by others and allow the hurt to germinate in your heart, bitterness and resentment will take root.

Once rooted, an unforgiving spirit and generally negative, critical attitudes take hold of you.

Bitterness and resentment are sinful and self-defeating (like a poison).

They will color your conscious and unconscious thoughts and actions.

Allowed to fester, they will destroy and kill .

However, they can be replaced with love.

What does God's word say?

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you"

Ephesians 4:31,32 (NIV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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