Saturday, December 25, 2010

After Christmas Thoughts

The daring Titmouse!

This time of year our feathered friends need help until the first insects of spring emerge and their antics will stave off boredom as the winter progresses. In full summer the leaves on the trees tend to muffle the excited calls of the Jays, the squabbles of the Sparrows, the hyper twitters of Chickadee, Titmouse, and Goldfinch. Even the rapid-fire drilling of the Woodpecker is lost by insulation. However with the stark and leafless trees, the birds become center stage and will provide hours of house-bound entertainment for those who feed them.

A standard mix of wild bird feed is easily affordable and will draw many birds to your feeder. If you add thistle to the mix the Chickadees will be grateful; add more sunflower seeds and the Cardinals will adore you. As I watch the feeder, I am always amazed at the unspoken respect the Woodpecker receives. Perhaps it is his funky feet or daunting beak that intimidates the others for when he arrives every bird exits in a rush. The only exception is the daring Titmouse who will zoom in to snatch a seed without stopping to rest. Once the Woodpecker leaves, the other guests return to dine in a boisterous group, unafraid.

They tend to eat at specified times much as we eat breakfast lunch and dinner so often the feeder will be abandoned only to be full within the hour. A bird feeder is a marvelous way to enjoy the winter from the warmth of your living room.

Since the garden is resting and many are sequestered inside, thankfully the catalogues have begin arriving. Gardening catalogues are our ‘dream books’ and it is always exciting to see what has been newly discovered or hybridized. And since all we can do now is plan for the coming season, stroll the garden and begin making plans where to add something new and exotic, something you have never tried to grow yet. It will add excitement to the season to watch its progress each day.

For those gardeners who enjoy action, perhaps include an Easter Egg plant which promises to delight the children. A member of the potato family, it sports lush green potato-like foliage and produces absolutely adorable clusters of ‘eggs’. As the clusters mature the white eggs gradually change color and become a deep cream, pastel yellow or orange, with some even changing to a light green. This odd specimen is an annual but produces enough seeds in the ripened ‘eggs’ to collect and share with friends. The requirements of normal or loamy soil and full sun make it an easy choice as an ornamental and with a mature height of only twelve inches, it may be planted almost anywhere. It blooms from early to late summer with as many as twelve ‘eggs’ per plant making it a long lasting delight for the garden.

For the Gothic gardener or to please the family teenagers, there are a variety of ‘dark’ choices to plant. Black Mourning Bride, of the Scabiosa family, is a perfect choice. A native of the Mediterranean, it has been in Europe since 1629 and grown here since colonial times. Called the pincushion flower and prized by Victorians, it is still used in Portugal and Brazil as a funeral flower. Its showy and fragrant little blossoms last up to three weeks when cut making it a prize for those who make arrangements. Its flowers also attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, further enhancing its continued popularity.

The internet is a wonderful tool which can enable the gardener to plan and order now… while the garden is sleeping. Happy New Year and stay warm!

*Rajah dines during the 'off' hours.
Other photo credits: Sharon Bastianelli with permission


  1. This morning as I'm sitting here waiting for the blizzard that is coming up the east coast.I look out my window,and watch my little feathered friends prepare,they are enjoying the feeders even more today,with more enthusiasm then usual.
    Its like they watched the news and know the storm is headed our way....
    I love to watch them,and cannot believe how they can survive this freezing cold weather we have.I make sure I keep the feeders ,clean ,and full all winter long for them.
    They give so much enjoyment,all winter,and take the place of my gardening!I also love the ornamental plants you mentioned,they are fun to experiment with,and bring some fresh plants and gardening into the home,these long winter months!
    Thanks for your wonderful After Christmas column!I always enjoy your articles so very much!

  2. Thank you so much Sharon. You are certainly getting the brunt of the storm... I know your feathered friends are grateful. I had so many today as the North wind howled!