Sunday, April 14, 2013

Birdscaping - Part II

Spring migration appears to be in slow motion right now.  We've been visited by a whopping one Rufous Hummingbird so far.  With little of interest going on, I thought I'd share some of my recent landscaping.  Last spring, I began to plant bird-friendly vegetation in my yard and chronicled this in a post last summer.  I've added much more this winter and hope that the birds will begin to reap the benefits soon.

Sugar-water feeders are a pain in the rear maintain (especially in the summer) and I wanted to introduce naive perennials that the hummers would enjoy - and that I would not have to clean twice a week!  I decided to plant a few different species of California salvia (sage) around the yard.  This included two cultivars of Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage) and Salvia Clevelandii 'Alpine'.  The latter is marginal in our winter fog and thick clay, so I planted it in an 18" pot with a "cactus mix" potting soil and pea gravel.  One of my S. spathacea is beginning to grow a flower stalk, so I'm hopeful that they'll do well out here.

A young Salvia spathacea

Salvia Clevelandii 'Alpine'

Manzanita is perhaps the quintessential evergreen shrub of the West Coast.  Their winter/spring flowers are beloved by hummingbirds, and other species (such as Scrub-Jays and Black-headed Grosbeaks) eat their fruit in the late summer.  They're also very drought tolerant once established and look great year-round.  I took out the overgrown, diseased wax myrtles in our backyard and planted a Howard McMinn manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn').  Unlike most manzanitas, Howard McMinn is very tolerant of summer garden water.  I confidently planted one 3' from my lawn, which gets biweekly water from June through September.  To fill a small, sloped area just off my deck, I took a gamble on a Margarita's Joy manzanita (Arctostaphylos 'Margarita's Joy').  This natural hybrid from the Centra CA coast has not been tested up here (that I know of), so it's a bit of a gamble.  It's undergone some die-back, but just may do OK after it gets established.

It took me a while to find a replacement for the area where my Sitka Mountain-ash once stood.  This area is unique in that I can get away with not watering it in the summer (the adjacent lavender needs no summer water and the adjacent grass turns brown by July regardless of how often I water it).  So this is my dry spot and I chose to take advantage with a compact shrub that would grow nowhere else on my property.  I ended up choosing a Ceanothus thyrsifluorus 'Skylark', a species of California lilac.  It's not exactly a bird magnet (though quail like the seed), but they grow fast and it'll look great in another year.

Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn.'  Will be about 6' x 6' in five years.

Arctostaphylos 'Margarita's Joy.'  This one will be much smaller (~3' x 2').

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Skylark.'  Has grown 1" or so after being planted a month ago.

I have a few berry-producing shrubs in the ground.  Most are flowering right now and will be producing berries soon...

Ribes aureum gracillimum (Golden Currant) is a profuse bloomer (even at a young age) that produces hummer-philic flowers in the early spring, and then berries that birds (and humans) enjoy later in the summer.

Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen Huckleberry) produces very tasty berries.

 Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) grows quickly and is enjoyed by several species of birds.

Mahonia aquifolium ("Tall" Oregon Grape) in flower - berries are forthcoming.

Mahonia nervosa ("Longleaf" Oregon Grape) beginning to flower

I also have a couple of Saskatoon Serviceberries (Amelanchier alnifolia), but they're just beginning to leaf out.  I'll post photos of these later.

My one conifer is a Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana).  This is a very slow-growing species: Saplings grow about 0.5" per year, and I'm expecting 4" or so out of my 3.5' specimen this spring.  They are native to the Cascades from 4,000-7,000 ft.  They do well down here, but get nowhere near the 60-90' that they do in their native habitat.  I'm hoping that mine will put on a few inches of growth this spring, and perhaps sprout a few cones next year.  Chickadees and siskins enjoy the seeds.

Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana)

I will post another installment at the end of the spring, after these have flowered/fruited.  And who knows, perhaps I'll even get a couple of pics of interesting migrants on them!

Edit: In my haste last weekend, I forgot to thank Bert Wilson and Penny Nyunt at Las Pilitas Nursery (Santa Margarita, CA) for assisting me in the selection of California native plants that will thrive up here in the Pacific Northwest.  Their willingness to answer my (many) questions and their dedication to customer satisfaction is greatly appreciated.