Category Archives: Landscape

Great Squirrel-Proof feeders

Brome Standard feeder

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Last fall I bought my first “squirrel-proof” bird feeder – a Brome Standard. It’s rather small but a good size for the expensive No-Mess seed from Wild Birds Unlimited that I put in it. The feeder has a center post that is adjustable to increase/decrease the weight of birds that can use the feeder without the ports being shut off. That’s very effective for keeping the nasty grackles and starlings away. I use a seed catcher below the feeder to minimize waste. The Doves are good at cleaning up the fallen seed. This feeder has done a good job at stopping the squirrels.

My main feeder was a wooden hopper style that hung on a high shepherd’s hook with a squirrel baffle below. The squirrels easily jumped on top of the baffle, then climbed up the pole to the feeder. They would empty it in a day!

So I began researching the various larger styles of “squirrel-proof” feeders. Surprisingly several of them were dangerous to birds – even causing their death – because they got their heads or feet trapped by the moving parts if heavier birds or squirrel jumped on the feeder. I checked out the Brome Squirrel Buster Plus which seemed to be effective without worry of hurting the birds. It can be hung freely from a tree limb or installed on a special pole system.

WBU Squirrel Buster bird feeder

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I opted to buy Wild Birds Unlimited version of the Brome system – made by Brome for WBU. Brome doesn’t sell the poles but WBU does. That way I was assured the poles would be the right size for the feeder. I added the seed tray to prevent mess underneath and allow birds to feed on the tray. The little red cup holds mealy worms.

The gray squirrels can jump from the ground up to the seed tray, but when they pull down on the circular perch, the port holes close. So far they can only eat the seed that birds flip out of the port holes. If I were a taller person I would

Squirrel on Brome feeder

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have bought another pole extension to raise the height of the tray, but reaching the feeder to lift it off the pole to fill is currently at my maximum reach. So the gray squirrel wins! Red squirrel haven’t been on the feeder at all.

I’ve had to play around with the weight adjustment pole since there are 6 feeding ports. When 4 or more finches sit on the perch, it tends to be enough weight to partially close the ports. So far the birds seem to love the new system and took to it very quickly. Finches, sparrows, chickadees, titmouse, Downy woodpeckers, cardinals, red-chested woodpeckers have all been at the feeder. They seem to enjoy not having to share with the squirrels.

two Brome squirrel-proof feeders

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This system is NOT inexpensive but I think it will eventually be a cost savings. Where the hopper feeder would be empty in a day, this feeder has needed filled only once a week! YAY!!

HAPPY BIRDS … HAPPY LIFE!

Don’t feel too sorry for the squirrels. They still have their unshelled peanut box!

Chipmunk Eats 2 Red Salvia Plants

Last year and this year I have planted two Red Salvia plants on either side of the large Lemon Licorice plant. Last year they grew well for awhile then started losing leaves and eventually lost the flowers. I thought I maybe watered them too much. But I planted them again this year and made a point to keep them on the dry-side.

Well once again I noticed the lower leaves of one plant began to disappear. Then I happened to look out the patio door and saw the chipmunk chomping away. I didn’t realize they ate plants, but since salvia is a member of the sage family he may find it tasty.

The next day both plants were completely gone except for the stems as shown in the last of the video. Oh well, I’ll pick another type of plant next year!

Landscaping Can Be An Obsession

When landscaping our yards we tend to select plants and colors that we like. I’ve done that, too! My colors are dark green, Chartreuse, burgundy/bronze, yellow/orange and white. By keeping with a theme, it allows me to move plants around when dividing overgrown plants or putting them in a more desirable location.

The East side of my home gets a lot of hot cooking-type of sun until about 2:00 in the afternoon. It also gets less rain since the house shields it. So on this side the plants need little care and minimum water. I had landscapers add the large stones to help with erosion from the slope. There are various varieties of sedums

East side - dry area plants

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including the popular Autumn Joy Sedum which honey bees LOVE! There is a Dappled Willow shrub in between two of the Golden Globe arborvitae. I severely prune it before winter then it regrows to 8-10ft each year, reaching the top of that window. The burgundy Barberries are medium-sized so don’t require much pruning to keep them small.

Sunny West Side plants

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The West side of the home gets 2-3 hours of afternoon sun. I planted 3 full sized Barberries years ago. The Hostas were originally planted when there was a Cherry tree at the corner for shade. I have to keep them watered during the heat if there is minimal rain. I’ve divided them a few times, giving some friends. The Vicary privet was planted by the builder 23 yrs ago. The Blue Spruce to the right is a Bakerii Dwarf Blue Spruce so it has remained 8-10 ft.

Trees for privacy

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The Back Yard has been in for many years. The Viburnums have now reached about 12ft and are a wonderful privacy screen. The birds congregate in these shrubs. The Norway Spruces are VERY tall now as is the Callery Pear. The plant in the lower front left is a Varigated Virginia Creeper vine. It is on a 3-section metal fence that hides the A/C.

New plants fronting spruce trees

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The space in front of the large Spruces has been a problem. Over the years I’ve tried three different types of plants in this area. None has survived or thrived. This Spring I tried again with plants that “may be” more tolerant of dappled shade from the pear tree. The new plants L-R are: Sweet Flag, Fireworks Fountain Grass, Coral Bells and Bonfire Cushion Spurge

Newly planted back of house

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I’m still working on the area next to the back of the house. Since I lost two of the Ninebarks to their powdery mildew problem and needed to move the Ligularia to a larger spot, I’ve had to select different plants. Late last summer I put in two Cinnamon Ferns. Two years ago I put in a Vanilla Spice Summersweet. I’m still trying to save the one remaining Ninebark. I added the Creeping Jenny a couple weeks ago to eventually provide colorful groundcover and help with maintaining moisture.

pyracantha

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This Pyracantha is many years old now. It’s huge and is a refuge for dozens of little birds. I no longer get the pretty orange berries in the fall because the mass of birds knock the berries off before they have a chance to mature to the orange color. It does have pretty white flowers in late Spring.

I wanted to somewhat conceal my back steps so I selected Karl Foerster Reed Grass  to grow in front of it. I put it in last summer so this year is its first to grow as planned. Per

Karl Foerster Reed Grass

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the photos I’ve viewed on the Internet, the fronds start as white then turn yellow then rust. It has a columnar growth and “per the photos” shouldn’t outgrow this space.

Backyard overview

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Every year I say, “now I’m done”, but who knows if this is the year I’m REALLY done!

Coppertina Ninebark is disease free so far this year

Last July I wrote about “buyer beware” when deciding to plant Ninebarks in the landscape. I originally planted three Coppertina Ninebarks in May 2015. Two of them succumbed to powdery mildew and witch’s broom. Last fall I had some leftover mix of a disease control that I had used for a couple other plants. I took what was left in the Ortho sprayer and dumped it around the base of the remaining Ninebark shrub. (yes, I know that’s not according to package label directions!)

Coppertina Ninebark

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When the leaves came out this Spring, I watched for recurrence of the mildew. Surprisingly I didn’t see any. So far – June – there is still no mildew and the shrub is thriving with lots of new growth and the color that the nursery websites show it to have.

I’m still leery of this shrub but if the mildew stays away, it may prove to be a very nice shrub. It is about a foot taller than last year and about 2-feet wider.

I’m tickled!

Lemon Licorice is my new favorite plant

Two years ago I bought an “interesting” annual to put in some of my outdoor flower pots. There was no plant identifier stake so I had no idea what I was buying. I really liked what the plant “did” so I bought it again last year. Again no identifying stake was in the little pot. FINALLY this year when I bought it again, there was an ID stake! It’s called Lemon Licorice (helichrysum petiolarre). The stake says it needs Full Sun to Part Sun and grows 8-12″. That growth statement is misleading.

Here’s a pic of the plant I just bought next to two Marigolds.
Lemon Licorice annual plant

Here’s a pic of last year’s fully mature plant. It’s way beyond 8-12″!
Lemon Licorice annual plant

I planted the Licorice in the brown pot last year and it totally covered the pot all the way down to the ground and onto the sidewalk! It requires no care and little/normal water. That’s my kind of plant! An added bonus is that it still looks somewhat OK all during winter. It doesn’t grow then but it turns to a velvety light gray color, keeps its form and adds some interest during the winter.

I previously used Sweet Potato vines when I wanted a flowing plant. But I got tired of the stink bugs and the huge sweet potato growths in the soil that soon crowded out the other plants in the pot. Lemon Licorice is far superior to those vines. The only insect I’ve seen on the Licorice is a Praying Mantis that totally blended in with the plant’s color. Give it a try when you want a trailing plant for your pots.

Good Bugs vs Bad Bugs

I use minimal insecticides mainly because I’ve always had dogs and Murph is like a 4-legged mop because his legs are so short. I also don’t want to harm the good insects like bees, nor do I want to harm the birds. I prefer to let Nature take its course. Like the Assassin bug I found a couple years ago, I learned it killed the bad bugs, even though it was really ugly.

GOOD BUG!

Praying Mantis

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Over the weekend I spotted another highly desirable bug, a Praying Mantis. They’re fun to watch as they do their jerky movement and turn their strange head. Eventually it “walked” down to the green plant below where it became nearly invisible with its color match. If you check articles on Google, you’ll find that these insects are killing machines, attacking much larger critters like frogs! Amazing!

BAD BUGS!

Grubs under the lawn

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Also this past weekend I began cleaning up the brown spots I had in the yard. I thought they were due to the extreme dry weather we had. But as I began to use my thatching rake, I pulled up the sod … a sure sign of grubs. I was finding a grub for every 2 square inches. THAT’S A LOT!

I found this invasion over large parts of my back lawn. Given the time of year, I checked online for a specific insecticide that would kill them NOW. Many grub controls are preventative and must be put on in late spring. I found an article from Michigan State University that there are only 2 active ingredients that kill now. One of those took 3-4 weeks to work. The other kills in 24-hours. So I made a trip to Home Depot to buy the Bayer granules.

grub damaged lawn

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I tested the insecticide on one of the large damaged areas, soaked it with plenty of water, then watched the grubs squirm and try to bury themselves further down into the dirt. If it didn’t work, I wasn’t going to put it over other areas because of Murph. I checked the next day and the grubs were dead. I’ve since covered the area with topsoil to keep Murph from coming in contact with the granules. (The hose was circled around the spot to keep Murph off – he hates the hose!)

I’ll be repeating this process over all the other large areas where I spotted the nasty grubs. If there were just a few grubs, I wouldn’t bother with this, but if I don’t control them to some degree I’ll just have a bunch of June bugs next year with a repeat of the damaged lawn.