Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Birds and Berries

Last Saturday a caller asked about red berries for birds. I thought of Nandina with it's brilliant berries, but was later challenged on that recommendation. My research went in two directions.

It seems that in some states nandina is considered invasive because birds eat the berries and disburse them - everywhere. But it’s not considered invasive in Oregon. Other information says that birds won’t eat nandina berries, anyway.

Carl Grimm and the folks over at Metro suggest that even if it isn't a particular favorite of the birds, it is a great landscape plant because of its hardy nature and water sparce ways. And it's not on any Oregon "problem plant" list.

Meanwhile, I'll also suggest pyracantha (fire thorn) . My mom had a fire thorn that always looked great against the brick front of the house with the dark leaves in summer and red berries in winter. And these days there are many types to choose from.

You can find brilliant, vigorous Mojave, the tiny (2 ft by 2 ft) Red Elf, and many in-between. The berries can be fire-engine red, a more orange-red, or really-orange. There's even a ground cover type called Low Boy. A variety to suit every bird lover's landscape.

Other shrubs offering red berries to the birds are kinnikinnick, red elderberry, some of the barberries, and the native red currant.

Photo thanks to Monrovia. Credit: Doreen Wynja

Friday, September 3, 2010

Visiting Wales - Invasives

One reason I went to Wales was that the climate is so similar to our Oregon one. I was surprised at how similar the weed palette is, as well.

As the train slid along from London to Cardiff, I instantly recognized the late summer purple of the butterfly bush – everywhere! I saw them pushing up from cracks in the sidewalks at stations, sprouting from ancient stone walls, nodding over canal banks, and encroaching on any space left untended.

Even as they invaded most wild landscapes, I saw that they are just as beloved by home gardeners in Wales as they are here. Several yards held large specimens as garden centerpieces.

Another quickly recognized invader was the Himalayan blackberry or bramble. Herb Robert (stinky Bob), dandelions, bindweed, and, of course, English ivy – all found in- and out-side of gardens. Wales and the UK are just as eager as we are to try to control these invaders. There, as here, they push out more desirable or just most other plants. Just as here, they cost the public time and money to keep them under control and prevent their advance.

In Oregon you can get information on identifying and controlling invasive plants at the Oregon Invasive Species Council or the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Also watch the Oregon Public Broadcasting program The Silent Invasion to see the damage these invasives can do in our own backyard.

Summer Harvesting

When it was still raining in June, I despaired of having any harvest at all, but now many crops are doing quite well.

The tomatoes are ripening slowly but surely. As always my Sweet Olive variety is the favorite. The patty pan squash was left on the vine too long as I was away on vacation and had to be peeled to be edible.

But the eggplant is wonderful! They are ripening nicely and many more to come on the plant. Rosemarie Nichols-McGee of Nichols Garden Nursery advised me to plant them in a container for best ripening – and she was right!

The beans are coming on, along with the grapes. The dozen onions I put in as an afterthought may produce something yet. I’m hopeful for a warm September to keep everything going.

With many crops it’s easy to tell when to pick, but others can be tricky – beans get stringy and squash gets seedy, for example. For some general guidelines on harvesting all kinds of garden vegetables, check out these publications from Minnesota and Michigan.