- Author: Launa Herrmann
Until last year, the noisy Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) irritated me. Flitting from limb to fence to rooftop, this shrill impersonator of other birds’ song and sounds was not welcomed in my garden. But that was before a family of 10 moved into the neighborhood right across the street from my house and brought with them four felines that roam free 24-7. Needless to say, these cats prowl my front, side and backyard for birds. Within days, the seed feeders I had tacked atop fence posts and the bird baths I'd placed in the flowerbeds sat empty. No Towhees, Gold Finches or Robins. No Quail or Doves. Not even a Blue Jay or House Sparrow.
Now when I sat at my kitchen table sipping my morning coffee, I look out the window at cats slinking along the header of the wooden fence. Instead of enjoying the daily ritual of birds scratching the soil and sifting through leaves for insects, I see cats hiding behind bushes hunting for a feathered meal. Four uninvited cats licking their chops and leaving behind their business. Needless to say I'm one unhappy gardener. Yet what bothers me most is that I miss the twitter and squawk, the chatter and the chirp of bird song.
Until yesterday, I thought my days of listening to cheeps, coos and trills are history. Then out of the blue, a “many-tongued mimic” flitted into my backyard. Guess what? I was so excited to see a Mockingbird that I vowed never again to grouse about its mating call, even it woke me up at 2 a.m. This weekend I plan to rummage through the garage for paint to construct a small garden sign that reads:
ALL feathered friends welcomed here — even Mockers, Mimics and Misfits
Here are a couple of tidbits you might find interesting about the Mockingbird.
• The Latin name (Mimus polyglottos) really does mean “many-tongued mimic.” Recognized calls of the Mockingbird are: Hew call used to warn of nest predators and interaction between mates. Chat (used year-round when disturbed) or chat burst (specific to fall and used in territorial defense). Nest relief call and the begging call (used only by males).
• An omnivore that forages through vegetation and on the ground. Both male and female look alike, nest build, and are socially monogamous.
• The State bird of five states, known for its ability to recognize previous threats and intruders (including humans) and to return to prior breeding grounds. Today more Northern Mockingbirds live in urban habitats than rural areas and are considered a positive species.
For me, the very presence of this fascinating intelligent bird triggers an age-old in-depth conversation. Personally, I am at a loss for words, a good thing lest I write something naughty about the neighbors. Certainly, the Mockingbird’s reappearance in my yard is helping me change my tune about this amazing bird. But I can’t say the same about the cats. As a former “responsible” cat lover-owner who appreciates pets, I must be honest about these neighborhood free roamers. Seems to me that gardeners have little voice on the block to truly convey the environmental, emotional and spiritual impact of losing the sweet simple melody of their garden.
Yet maybe, in time, with enough cats as mentors, Mockingbirds will learn to meow. Now that’s a thought to ponder. I mean, can you imagine a 2 a.m. repertoire of screeching feline frenzy?
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
I find when touring the gardens of family and friends, that their gardens are usually a mirror of their personality. Our niece has her vegetables planted in neat rows next to a hanging blue teardrop ornamental globe. A friend has an unusual succulent collection planted in boots, shells and birdhouses. Our cousin has faces decorating her garden. There are smiling faces on fences and face containers holding assorted flowering plants. As much as I love and appreciate plants in their landscapes, I’m drawn to their unique whimsical garden art.
Six years ago at the San Jose Master Gardener Conference, Felder Rushing was a speaker. He is an interesting character, full of life, and quite whimsical himself. He impressed the audience with his knowledge of plants and painted pictures for everyone with his words. Being a horticulture professor he knew his plants well, and his ability to engage his audience was his forte. When purchasing his book Tough Plants for California Gardens and having him autograph it, his advice was “have fun making your garden smile”.
Felder Rushing has written many books which are great resources for Master Gardeners. He has recently written a book that will be published in January, titled Bottle Trees and other Whimsical Glass Art for the Garden. I’m looking forward to reading this latest publication as it will contain the 3000 year history of bottle trees, insights and quotes about having fun in the garden along with information and photos of a glass forest in Germany.
Several other great books by Felder Rushing are Scarecrows: Making Harvest Figures and other Yard Folks, Garden Hearts and Slow Gardening: A no Stress philosophy for all senses and seasons. He feels creative expression is central to the gardening experience and recommends that gardeners follow their own bliss. So this summer I added a dark blue glass flower to a raised container planted with a dwarf plumbago. When I see it glistening in the early morning sunlight, I think of the bliss my little garden brings to my heart.
- Author: Cheryl A Potts
Those of us of a certain, vague age know--really know--time speeds up as we mature. Another birthday, already!? Christmas shopping, already!? I just put my fall/Halloween decorations away, and it is time to plan my family Easter dinner, dye eggs, and place those cute bunnies in appropriate places throughout the garden, already!?
So we arrive home after a week of summer RV camping and the garden is overflowing with zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and chard; but what is in my mailbox? Seed catalogs telling me it is time to start my fall/winter garden. Already!?
My bell peppers are just coming in, but I am being told it is time to plant broccoli. A ton of chard is available in my garden, but I am being told to get those kale seeds in the ground, not to mention twelve varieties of lettuce. Apparently, I need to get beets in the ground where my egg plant is just getting ready to hatch.
When does a veggie gardener rest? When can I just take a break from planting, picking, watering, mulching, composting, planning, pruning?
At the beginning of every spring, looking forward I say, "no winter garden this year. Let's take a break". Every fall, still looking forward, I say, "no summer garden this year. Let's take a break". My husband just looks at me, smiles, and says, "Give me a break."
So which garlic should I plant this winter?
- Author: Kathy Low
When it comes to gardening, there is always something new or something more to learn. Luckily there are many opportunities nearby to expand your gardening knowledge. Below is a sample of some upcoming educational opportunities, most of which are free of charge.
August 31, 10:00-11:00
Topic: Composting. This class will be taught by Solano Master Gardeners.
Location: Vallejo People’s Garden (www.vallejopeoplesgarden.org)
Sept. 7, 10:00-3:00
Event: 30th Anniversary Sustainability Fair. For list of presentations see the Contra Costa MG website (http://ccmg.ucdavis.edu/?calitem=191703&g=12498)
Location: Walnut Creek
Sept. 14, 10:00-12:00
Topic: Seed Saving
Location: Loma Vista Farm, Vallejo, CA (www.lomavistafarm.org)
Sept. 14, 10:00-12:00
Topic: Loose Your Lawn and Sheet Mulching http://www.bayfriendlycoalition.org/Calendar.shtml
Location: Solano County Water District, 810 Vaca Valley Parkway, Vacaville
Sept. 17 – 19
Event: Weed Science School
Location: UC Davis Weed Research and Info. Center (www.wric.ucdavis.edu)
Note: a course fee applies
Sept. 22, 10:00-4:00
Event: “Down the Garden Path” Educational Garden Tour
Location: Napa (UC Master Gardeners of Napa County)
Note: There’s a fee of $25 in advance, or $30 on the day of the event.
Oct. 12, 9:00-12:00
FREE Event: Master Gardener Public Plant Exchange (and Gardening Talks)
Location: 501 Texas St., Fairfield
Bring a plant to share if you have one, if you don’t you can still take home a plant.
Come learn about the Master Gardener Program (11:30).
Attend one or more gardening talks.
Free Gardening Sessions scheduled:
10:15 Plant Propagation
11:00 Garden Gift Ideas for the Fall
Pick up a free vegetable planting guide and other gardening information.
Fun for kids too!
- Author: Bud Veliquette
From Bohemian Highway, the spa Osmosis doesn’t look like anything special. You see a well-landscaped parking lot, and a faux Victorian building that was built in 1976. But once inside the “welcome garden”, where you can help yourself to a selection of teas, the view begins to change. Located in the historic town of Freestone, Osmosis is a treat to the senses, with 6 acres of gardens connected by a meandering and very private path, and edged by Salmon Creek, which flows from Occidental to the sea near Bodega Bay.
The main meditation garden is the most dramatic. It boasts a heart shaped pond with Koi, and a waterfall that was engineered to emit just the right kind of sound to put you in a meditative state. The owner, Michael Stusser, led a horticultural tour earlier this month in which he talked about the experience of the garden as an enhancement of the experience for his guests, after a massage or a cedar enzyme bath. Co-hosting the tour was Michael Alliger, a master pruner in the Japanese tradition. There are the expected Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum, many varieties), topiaried Pines (Pinus, many varieties), Heavenly Bamboo, (Nandina domestica), and color contrasting red barberry (Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea). And the shrubs were meticulously manicured, including native Manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.) Along the edge of the area is a row of tall bamboo, and a large Strawberry tree (Arbutus menziesii). In the background is the forested ridge of a surrounding hill, adding to the utter tranquility of the scene.
The experience of the tour was a reinforcement of the notion that a well-tended garden can nourish the soul.