Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Birder's Garden

We visited my mother-in-law today to celebrate a belated birthday.  I took the opportunity to check out her yard, as I usually do when I'm at the house.  She used a restrained selection of plants in putting together her garden, which creates a cohesiveness that my garden currently lacks.  Many of her plant selections were made with birds in mind as she is a dedicated birder.

My favorite section of her yard is the area under the kitchen window, which has a mix of Rhaphiolepsis indica, Camellia sasanqua, Camellia japonica and Pittosporum tobira, accented by a bird bath on one side and a bench on the other.  Birch trees provide a canopy.

The narrow side yard is also interesting.  The highlight of that section of the yard is a very tall Camellia japonica with large white flowers.

The Calliandra haematocephala (Pink Powder Puff) in the yard on the other side of the house was in flower too.  Unlike my own version of this plant, which has been closely shorn as a hedge effectively eliminating most of the flowers, this one has been espaliered along the wall, allowing the flowers to be shown to maximum advantage.

There are plenty of places for birds to perch in safety along the boundaries of the garden, including Pine and Arbutus trees, as well as large-scale shrubs.  And there are also plenty of plants that provide the birds with food, like this one, which I think is probably Cotoneaster microphyllus.

My mother-in-law supplements the natural food supply with various kinds of feeders and the birds, mostly finches today, show up in large numbers.

The bell-shaped container in the picture above contains dryer lint for the birds' use in building nests. I'm going to try to find a similar container for my own garden in an effort to divert the scrub jays that usually pull apart the coconut liners of my hanging baskets to make their nests in the spring.

While I was looking out the window, I saw a large bird swoop through the garden, causing all the smaller birds to scatter.  He didn't catch any and sat on the back fence scanning the horizon.  I tried to take a picture of him but he took off before I could focus my camera through the glass door.  My mother-in-law identified him as a Cooper's Hawk, which Wikipedia says has an appetite for small birds like finches.  With so many of these in her yard, I'm sure he'll be back.

Picture from Wikipedia


  1. Keeping the birds in mind when planting is always a decision that pays a gardener back. I love that Pink Powder Puff plant. How long does it usually bloom? Around here you see them growing in conservatories and cool greenhouses in the winter.

    1. The watermelon pink color is great, isn't it? My mother-in-law says that her Pink Powder Puff blooms from late October to March. I've got 3 of these plants but the gardeners shear them so regularly, I haven't even seen flowers until this year and, even now, just 1 of the 3 plants is blooming. I guess I need to work on my Spanish if we're going to continue using gardeners to do the heavy lifting here...