Thursday, June 10, 2010


I just got back from an amazing trip to the gardens of the Delaware Valley (Mt. Cuba, Longwood, Chanticleer, Winterthur). I'll write about it once I've had a chance to think about it for a few days. You know those experiences that pull you out of your creative/professional/personal rut? This was one of those experiences.

Throughout the trip, I had an ongoing discussion about stewardship with Jenks Farmer. If you know me, you realize that I am have a heightened awareness about our diminishing wild spaces and the impact it has on dependent plant and animal species. And it's sometimes hard to convey my position without making people think that I am a "native plants only" kind of person. And I'm not. I'm glad that tomato and basil have come together. And I can't imagine a garden without hydrangeas.

So here are my guidelines for good horticultural stewardship in the garden:

1. Never plant anything that has been identified as an invasive plant (regardless if you've never personally seen it be must trust the experts on this). And remove invasive plants that are currently on you property.

2. Create a landscape that is mostly native trees, shrubs and perennials. You will have a bird and butterfly paradise if at least 60% of the plants are native to your region. The rest of the plants can be exotics. Make it diverse.

3. Limit the size of your lawn. I'll explain why in another post. You don't have to eliminate it (they are often important in a garden), but don't have more than you need.

4. Do not use pesticides. I make exception for ant bait and limited herbicide use.

5. If you have a large property, allow areas to be wild (i.e. left alone). This will provide shelter for birds, bees and other beneficial species.

6. Only use the irrigation system when absolutely necessary. Once a landscape is established, turn it off and let it fend for itself. So all of this discussion of stewardship made me think of my interaction with Baby Jay. Am I wrong to have a wild bird that allows me to hold her? Probably.

Although she lives in a nearby wooded area and can find her own food (she proved she can live 4 days without me....I'm so proud), she's not completely independent. She'd rather eat bait store crickets if given the option, so several times a day she sits on the railing of my porch and begs for food. And this puts her a risk to be eaten by a Red-Tailed Hawk.

Am I going to ever imprint another bird? No.
Am I going to keep feeding Baby? Yes. I'm too attached.

I did the math, and based on the volume of insects she has eaten over the last few weeks (not including the Red Wiggler worms that she didn't like), I'm looking at about $12 per week. That's about $650 a year. For a 3-ounce bird that lives in the woods.

I'm registered at the Folly Beach Tackle Shop if anyone would like to chip in on some crickets.


  1. Your guidelines are excellent. I hope that part of the fallout of the disaster in the Gulf will be increased awareness and appreciation of some of our wilder coastal areas.

  2. Darn, now I'm going to go dig up my Japanese spurge that I bought to fill in four spots between my shell pavers .
    I couldn't give up feeding the little bird either, you are spoiling her tough ( or him ), She does need to know she has to find her own food , so you'll be able to afford to buy YOUR own food ! take care, Gina

  3. I meant though up in that last comment, not tough. Sorry !

  4. I can't wait to gear all about your trip!

  5. Gina- you are so right! I may have to take up cricket farming.....

    Kelley- will call you tomorrow. Can't wait to see you next week!

    Les- I can't even watch the news anymore cause I'm so torn up about the Gulf. Glad you like the guidelines....I think that they are pretty moderate.

  6. Like the guidelines. I will tweet the post just like Baby would go if she could get to your laptop!!!



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