Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gardening for the Birds

Mockingbirds like cacti
I've never been a big gardener. Actually I've never been much of one for the outdoors. The mid-century modern home we owned in Austin for sixteen years had a lush backyard and a side yard off the master bedroom that was full of interesting and exotic foliage, including a banana palm. The joke was that I only ventured outside once or twice a year.

That all changed when we moved to a new house with nothing but a few bushes, the requisite builder-supplied three trees, and grass. A lot of grass. One of the first things we did was plan for some garden areas to fill some of the huge lawn space and we wanted the gardens to be attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.

House Finch on Photina
I wish I'd had a book like Gardening for the Birds by George Adams to consult back then. I have finally overused my renewal privileges at my public library so have to return it but I've been making notes about good plants to add to the yard. I'm especially interested in adding some new plants that attract birds we haven't seen before.

Wildflower Garden
Why do I like this guide? After providing general tips about creating bird-friendly environments, the author offers a very detailed calendar, divided by region, for which plants flower in which months and which like different degrees of sun or shade. One of the things we've tried to do with the gardens is have something blooming all the time to provide color and nectar at varying times throughout the year. While in Central Texas it is probably still not possible to have something flowering every month, this guides will be very helpful for filling in some gaps. With a little planning we can have almost year-round blooms. We've also put in a wildflower zone and the author deals with native flowers, as well as useful weeds that are good for birds. A huge section, over 100 pages, is devoted to a plant directory. For each plant, information is supplied about the birds that are attracted to it, along with details about the plant. Close up photographs of the plants and the birds have me drooling at the possibilities.The final section is a directory of birds, also taking up about 100 pages. Each double-page spread provides information about the bird, including its habitat and range, along with feeding habits and plants for food and shelter. Photographs and drawings help with identification.

At over 425 pages there is way too much information to digest, even after borrowing the book for six weeks. So I guess I'll be buying a copy before planting season starts.

Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard by George Adams (Timber Press, 2013)

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