This past Sunday, New Year’s Day, The New York Times ran a great piece about quiet (“The Joy of Quiet,” by Pico Iyer). I can relate. Though I live in the Hudson Valley where it gets pretty cold this time of year (12 degrees Fahrenheit when I woke up this morning), and though I’m a gardener who loves digging in the dirt in my spare time (back to that in a minute), I think that January has become my favorite month. Because it’s quiet. As a landscape designer who does not do installation, most of my work is indoors, even in the busiest times of year (I wonder if Ken Smith‘s family still asks him why he doesn’t have dirt under his fingernails with all that “landscaping” he does…). But clients never call in January and February, and installation doesn’t need to be supervised, etc. etc. etc., and just generally I can worry less about juggling my design work and my work with the TLN. Ironically, the only time when I seem to have spare time is when the ground is frozen solid…
The quiet joys of January
January 4, 2012
Nurture connection to nature by nurturing winter wildlife
December 29, 2011
The TLN Blog has published posts in the past on winter wildlife, and we will do so again in the coming year. But today I’m sharing this post from one of my favorite blogs, Beautiful Wildlife Garden:
Top 10 Tips for Your Winter Wildlife Garden
The article discusses the many rewards of creating a winter wildlife garden and offers tips on how to best provide food, water, and shelter for birds.
And speaking of which, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count is still on, through January 5th:
Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.
Thanks again to Beautiful Wildlife Garden for the heads up on this.
So whether you’re enjoying watching wildlife from the comfort of your warm, cozy home or outside braving the elements as a Citizen Scientist for the Bird Count, connecting with nature at this time of year will nurture and sustain you until spring returns.
Happy Winter Solstice!
December 22, 2011
And for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, happy Summer Solstice!
Color in the winter garden: Beyond trees and shrubs
January 8, 2011
Winter in the garden consists mostly of earth-toned hues – browns, tans, buffs, greys – and these do have their subtle charms. But around January, I start to pine for color.
Yes, trees and shrubs can fulfill that need – evergreens, of course, and also trees like Hawthorns, with their bright red berries that persist until spring, and shrubs like red- and yellow-twig dogwood with bark that is striking against a backdrop of snow.
But don’t feel limited to plants. I have one very durable blue metal chair that stays out all winter long, and it brings me cheer. I’ve seen brightly painted garden walls and fences, furniture, pots, sculpture, and all sorts of other non-plant-material garden elements that stand out and provide color between November and April. What about you? What’s “blooming” in your winter garden? Now is the time to gaze out the window and think about where you might want those bright sparks that bring joy and hope on a cold, grey winter’s day.
Biophilia: Winter Wildlife in the Healing Garden
December 28, 2010
Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life.
– Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia
The biologist Edward O. Wilson coined the term “biophilia,” or people’s innate attraction to life and living things. In the winter, when so much plant life is dormant, it’s important to nurture that sense of connection with life, and one of the best ways to do that is by observing wildlife. Fortunately, with fewer leaves on the trees, we can often watch wildlife even from the cozy indoors. “Armchair bird-watching” is one of my favorite pastimes on a cold, snowy day.
Here are a few good posts – two from the TLN Blog archives and three from Beautiful Wildlife Garden, one of my favorite blogs, about encouraging wildlife, especially birds, into the winter garden:
Winter Birds in the Wildlife Garden, by Carole Brown – www.beautifulwildlifegarden.com/winter-birds-in-the-wildlife-garden.html
The Winter Wildlife Garden, by Carole Brown – www.beautifulwildlifegarden.com/the-winter-wildlife-garden.html
A Berry Merry Christmas, by Loret T. Setters – www.beautifulwildlifegarden.com/a-berry-merry-christmas.html
Watching the Birds – Connecting with Nature in Winter, Part III, by Naomi Sachs – www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2010/01/watching-the-birds-connecting-with-nature-in-winter-part-iii
Especially in Winter, Feed the Birds, by Naomi Sachs – www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2009/01/especially-in-winter-feed-the-birds
The image above was taken by Kelly Riccetti, author of the blog Red and the Peanut. Her photos, often close-ups of birds, are breathtaking. Thank you, Kelly!
Watching the Birds – Connecting with Nature in Winter, Part III
January 30, 2010
Photo courtesy of Kelly Riccetti at Red and the Peanut
Continuing our series on “Surviving the Winter by Staying Connected to Nature,” today’s post is about enjoying nature from inside, and in particular, feeding and watching the birds.
It’s true that one of the keys to making it through the winter is getting outside (more on that in the next post). But let’s face it: Even if we do venture forth, we’re probably not going to be out very long. So what is a “healing garden” in winter? One that we can gaze upon and enjoy from indoors. And what better way to hold our attention than watching the birds? It’s certainly been keeping me going this winter. This is the first year that I’ve noticed white-breasted nuthatches flitting back and forth from the bird feeder to the white oak. And in addition to the usual sparrows, crows, dark-eyed juncos, starlings, and cardinals, we seem to have more chickadees and tufted titmice (titmouses?) this year as well. Such a delight!
I want to especially encourage nurses, administrators, volunteers and family members who care for seniors to do more to attract birds. Place bird feeders and baths (you can even buy heated ones) outside of private and community windows. Watching, identifying, and counting birds can bring a great deal of meaning (and social interaction) into people’s lives. Bird-watching is an excellent antidote to the common problems of boredom, loneliness, and isolation.
No matter what your age, here are some resources to get you started. There are two primary ways to attract birds to the garden. First, plant things that birds are attracted to for food and habitat. The following books and websites will help you choose what to plant and how to keep a garden that’s bird-friendly throughout the year:
- A nice article about How to Grow Your Own Bird Seed in the Garden.
- You can even plant specific things to attract specific birds. For example, goldfinches are drawn to Echinacea (purple coneflower), black-eyed Susans, Zinnias, sunflowers, and especially thistle – not only for the food but for the downy fibers used to line their nests (thanks to my new favorite blog Red and the Peanut for this info). Another example: Bluebirds loooove winterberry (Ilex verticillata).
- National Audubon Society’s book The Bird Garden: A Comprehensive Guide to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard Throughout the Year.
- National Wildlife Federation’s book Attracting Birds, Butterflies & Backyard Wildlife and also their Garden for Wildlife page.
- Rodale Organic Gardening’s Attracting Birds to Your Backyard.
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds page.
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s book The Wildlife Gardener’s Guide, and their website Inviting Wildlife Into Your Winter Garden.
- The U.K.’s Wildlife Gardener.
- On the “macro” level, think about attracting not just the birds, but the critters that attract the birds. Insects, in general, provide a lot more nutrition than seed. Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants explains how this works and why we should care.
- Here are some of Tallamy’s top recommendations of both woody and herbaceous plants that support the butterflies and moths that feed the birds and keep our ecosystem healthy.
- I also highly recommend Bill Cullina’s list of Biodiversity All-Stars – the plants that support more than one species at a time – on the New England Wild Flower Society website. His list of top ten includes oak, crabapple, serviceberry, and red cedar.
- And finally, Carole Brown’s Choosing the Best Plants for Your Ecosystem Garden. Ecosystem Garden is a garden that supports the entire ecosystem, sustainably, rather than just us, or one type of animal or crop. You can read the full explanation here.
Second to providing natural food and habitat in your garden, supplement with birdfeeders and bird baths. The National Bird-Feeding Society is a great place to start. Learn about bird feed and feeder preference; how to prevent disease at bird feeders; best backyard bird-feeding practices, and more. And many of the websites listed above also provide information about this aspect of backyard bird-care as well.
All of these resources, plus a few more, are on the Therapeutic Landscapes Network’s Sensory & Wildlife Plants page. Stop on by, and if you have other recommendations, let us know.
(Especially in Winter), Feed the Birds
January 12, 2009
A bird’s life is tough in winter when food supplies and drinking water are scarce. This makes it an ideal time for us humans to participate in “armchair birdwatching.” If you keep your feeders and baths full and clean (and heated, if temperatures gets below freezing), you’ll get to enjoy the show when your feathered friends come to visit. It’s a wonderful way to get kids interested in nature – who wouldn’t be excited about spotting a brilliant red cardinal or a bright yellow goldfinch? Armchair bird-watching can be enjoyed at any age. My great-aunt Stefanie, who is 94, loves watching the birds, especially on days when she can’t go outside. The other day I spied some kind of woodpecker with a brilliant red patch on its nape that put even the most showy cardinal to shame. I looked it up in my Field Guide to Birds of North America (which I keep near the window for precisely this reason, just as my parents did when I was growing up) and learned that it was a yellow-shafted northern flicker. Who knew? There’s something about seeing and watching birds that elicits fascination, wonder and delight in even the most curmudgeonly sorts, and you don’t even have to leave the cozy warmth of your home.
Here are some links if you want to learn more, do more or buy more to watch the birds and help them at the same time:
- The National Audubon Society
- The National Bird-Feeding Society
- Round Robin: The Cornell Blog of Ornithology
- Wild Bird Watching
- Wild Birds Unlimited
And here are some sites and articles specifically about winter bird-feeding:
- “The Winter Banquet” from Audubon Magazine
- “Feed the birds for hours of entertainment” (really good!)
- EEK! – Environmental Education for Kids
If you buy one book on bird-watching, it should be a field guide to help you identify what you see. A guide to birds in your area is probably sufficient (see the first book on the list below for my favorite regional guide). Other recommendations for book on bird-watching and creating a garden for birds include:
- My favorite book for the past couple of year has been the Birds of New York Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela – There’s one for every state, and some come with cds to help you identify bird calls: www.adventurepublications.net.
- The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher
- The National Wildlife Federation Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Backyard Wildlife
- Sally Roth’s Attracting Birds to Your Backyard
- The Backyard Birdlover’s Field Guide, by the same author
- Projects for the Birder’s Garden