Wildlife Attraction

Plentiful earthworms and water draws the thrushes and robins.

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There’s More to Shrubs than Just Hedges

The “bones” of a garden are usually provided with two very different features: hardscape and shrubs. I’ll leave the hardscape to another post and address shrubs for now.

Layers

I think the thing I find the most essential in a perennial border or garden space is variety of heights. Even when my garden was very young, I appreciated the completely accidental feature of taller perennials interspersed with masses of low-growing self-seeded alyssum.

Controlled Chaos under the shade of big cedars.

Controlled Chaos under the shade of big cedars.

The garden looks nothing like that now, but I haven’t abandoned that layered look–now it’s achieved with shrubs. Your avian friends will appreciate the varying sized shrubs, some liking to be up high, others liking to just perch a couple feet off the ground. The more heights your garden has to offer, the more species of birds you’re likely to invite.

Tiny (stunted actually) Hydrangea paniculata 'Brussels Lace' in front of Sambucus nigra 'black beauty

Tiny (stunted actually) Hydrangea paniculata ‘Brussels Lace’ in front of Sambucus nigra ‘Black Beauty’.

Separate spaces

Areas in your garden don’t have to be walled off from one another to still create the sense of “rooms”. In fact, just a couple of shrubs may be enough to clearly differentiate one space from another. When I wanted a “secret garden” patio, I thought it should be surrounded by various shrubs so that when I was inside, it was completely private. I planted a lilac (Syringa vulgaris) for fragrance, black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’) for drama, an Italian Plum–for plums!–and Viburnum tinus for evergreen leaves and winter flowers. Then along came the Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) because there was space, two rhodos, because I just had to buy them, a hydrangea that liked the area, another lilac cutting from a friend’s garden…

Aaack!–way too much enclosure. The Sambucus is getting “shovel pruned” this summer, the hydrangea, small lilac and both rhodos will be moved, the older lilac pruned back a bit, the Hibiscus limbed up. Aah, now there’s room to breath, yet still fell comfortably “secret”.

Drama

But speaking of drama (the Sambucus ‘Black Lace’), a few shrubs with interesting detail, texture, colour, or flowers will contribute a certain je ne sais quoi to your garden.

SAmbucus nigra 'Black Beauty'

Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

Hypericum perforatum 'Albury Purple'

Hypericum perforatum ‘Albury Purple’–used as a perennial, but it’s really a woody sub-shrub. Growing about 24″ high in my garden, and at about 4 years old, it’s grown a bit bigger every year.

Punctuation

Just as a comma or question mark helps define a sentence, so a shrub can help define a garden space. Back to my Sambucus nigra, being very dark in colour, it provides a great backdrop to the white lilies growing underneath, which aren’t in bloom any more, so I can’t show you. But I can show you the Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ providing a foil for the shasta daisies. Like quotation marks, perhaps?

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'--Smoke bush-- with Shasta daisy --Leucanthemum x superbum

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’–Smoke bush– with Shasta daisy –Leucanthemum x superbum

Structure

For some of us, winter is a long season. Not so much here on the West Coast, but most of the rest of the country. So your garden should still be attractive and inviting for those 4-5-6 or more months between growing seasons. Shrubs will do that for you. Deciduous shrubs still have a network of delicate branches that you can appreciate all the more for not being obscured by leaves. (That sentence is a little like an old friend from a tree-challenged region of Scotland who felt the view as we drove south to England was hidden by too many trees!) And of course, evergreen shrubs provide colour when we most need it, and sometimes even fragrance–like my beloved Sarcococca humilis that blooms in early February, and fills the front entrance of my house with amazing fragrance.

Tiny little flowers, big impact!

Sarcococca humilis–Tiny little flowers, big impact!

If you want to consult RLGS to establish some structure in your garden, go to the About/Contact page.

Bee “Arrival Sequence”

“Arrival Sequence” is an expression used by some designers (not me I’m afraid, I’m far to common for that) to refer to the approach to your house–how you get there, what you see as you’re getting there, and what you see and experience once you’re there.

That’s my artsy way of introducing this bee.

This is one giant bee!

Bumble bee.

Bumble bee approaching.

 

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Bumble bee landing.

 

I love watching all kinds of wildlife in my garden, whether from indoors on cold or miserable days, or outdoors on warm unexpectedly sunny days in February. So when this bee that looked almost the size of a hummingbird flew by, I went outside to follow her (her?).

It doesn’t take much to attract wildlife to your garden, but unless you’re looking for it/them, you’ll miss tons of beauty and enjoyment. So as I mentioned in a previous post, get out that camera or phone, and stand in some likely spot, and just wait. You’ll be rewarded in no time with something like this:

Love that melodious background music!

I’ve been searching google to try to identify what kind of bee this is, unsuccessfully. If any of you can help me out, I’d appreciate it.

 

Vancouver’s “City Bird”

This article, “City hopes bird strategy will take flight”, appeared in today’s Vancouver Sun. Apparently Vancouver aims to make the area increasingly bird-friendly, and city management will tell us how to do that. Which is what I’ve been writing about since I started RLGS.

(Sorry for all the links–better than cutting and pasting.)

Is This YOUR Time to Plant a Tree?

Is it time to plant a tree?

Treekeepers is a program established recently (2013) to encourage Vancouverites and locals to plant trees. And their strategy is to almost give them away ($10 each!). Go to the website for details.

According to  Steve Whysall in his column (Mar 24, 2014), the city of Vancouver planted 10,000 trees (just in Vancouver) in 2013, and the goal is 150,000 by 2020. That’s a lot of trees!

So I did my part (even tho’ I live in Burnaby) and ordered three of Treekeepers’ discounted trees.

Acer circinatum–Vine Maple. It’s a native tree, which is good for my wildlife garden, with a nice small multi-stemmed growth habit.

Honey-bee-on-vine-maple-2

Bee on Vine Maple

Next up is Oxydendron arboreum, commonly called Sourwood. Also suitable for smaller city yards, this one max’s out at about 20-25′, and half as wide. Fragrant summer flowers, amazing fall colour, and berries that hang on into winter–what more can you ask for?

Oxydendrum-arboreum-Sourwood2-241x300

Fall colour Photo Credit

Oxydendrum-arboreum-Sourwood1-225x300

Summer fragrant flowers Photo Credit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, I’m going to try a Ficus carica (fig) again. This will be my third try. First was in a container on my townhouse roof. It never did well, and I never knew why. It was a ‘Brown Turkey’, and my Persian friend complimented the flavour of the one fig I harvested! Next try was a rooted cutting I got at Garden Club–which apparently wasn’t actually rooted, just a stick.

This time it’s ‘Desert King’ (I could have hoped for ‘Dessert King’…), possibly the best variety for our region. Looking at the UBC garden forum, it’s definitely popular and dependable here.

Desert King fig tree. Photo Credit

Desert King fig tree. Photo Credit

Somehow I just can't imagine getting this many figs.

Somehow I just can’t imagine getting this many figs. But I’m very keen to try Fig and Ginger Jam!

So is it your turn to plant a tree? To give you shade, maybe fruit, wildlife habitat, air purification, never mind beauty!

Leave me comments with your thoughts, and definitely follow the Treekeepers link if you live in Metro Vancouver. I’ll post a up-date when I receive my trees (April 12).