Monday, January 23, 2012

Feed the Birds

Recently, one of our Customers had a discussion with me about feeding the birds.  No, he was not envisioning the scene from Mary Poppins, the Disney Classic. He wanted to create a backyard that welcomed our feathered friends to visit him. 
In order to attract birds you have to create a hospitable environment.  Little birds especially like some dense brush or foliage to hide in or rest.  This gives them a little more security from birds of prey and other wildlife and it also provides shelter from the elements.  Evergreens are great to have in your backyard bird sanctuary because it provides winter interest to you and cover for the birds.  Plants like Chamaecyparis ‘Gold Mops’, Arbrovitae, Pines, Junipers and other evergreens have interesting foliage but are well loved by the homeowner and the birds.  Plants that produce very thick branching are also liked, such as spirea, viburnum, stephanandra and among many others.  If you have a big area you could also provide bird houses or hollowed out tree stumps.  Furthermore, plants also provide great nesting material for their homes.

As everyone knows, houseguests like to be fed and the birds are no exception.  Food is an important lure to keep our flighty friends within sight.  Food generally means seeds, but don’t overlook leaves and nectar, too.  This summer in our vegetable garden I thought I had the world’s biggest slug devouring my Swiss chard bright lights, but we had no visible signs except for the holes in the leaves.  Every morning I would go out and look feverishly for the slime trails that my unwelcomed guests should have left behind.  One morning, I came in exceptionally early and spied two pairs of Gold finches having Swiss chard for breakfast and then we noticed that they came back for lunch, too.  I am sure they probably would have liked a little spinach, also.  Nectar plants are mainly for our Hummingbird friends. 

Nectar plants (include but not limited too)
Monarda Pink Delight
Bee Balm, Monarda (perennial)
Butterfly Weed (perennial)
Cardinal Flowers (perennial)
Cardinal Vine (annual)
Fuschia (annual)
Hoya (tropical)
Impatiens (annual)
Penstemon digitalis (perennial)
Phlox (perennial)
Salvia (annual varieties)
Silver Lace Vine (perennial)
Trumpet Vine (perennial)

Leaves for food (primarily our finches in this area)
Swiss Chard Bright Lights
Maple flower buds - Acer
Swiss chard 
American bittersweet – Celestris scandens
Big Blue Stem – Andropogon gerardii
Black Eyed Susan - Rudbeckia
Blackberry - Rubus
Blazing Star - Liatris
Blueberry – Vaccinium
Callicarpa – Beautyberry
Chokeberry - Aronia arbutifolia
Chokecherry – Prunus virginiana
Currants – Ribes
Dogwoods gray and red - Cornus
Elderberry - Sambucus
Gooseberry – Ribes
Grapes – Vitis
Hackberry – Celtis occidentalis
Hawthorn – Crataegus
Holly – Ilex
Joe Pie Weed - Eupatorium
Juniper – Juniperus
Little Blue Stem – Schizachyrium scoparium
Oaks - Quercus
Purple Cone Flowers - Echinacea
Rasberry - Rubus
Serviceberry – Amalanchier
Strawberry wild and hybrid - Fragaria
Sumac – Rhus
Sunflower -Helianthus
Tickseed - Coreopsis
Virginia Creeper – Parthenocissus quiquefolia
Winterberry – Ilex

Serviceberry perfect for the Robins

Not only do we need to provide food and shelter, water is a critical component to keeping our feathered friends visiting our backyards.   I know in winter it is difficult to do this but you can get heated bird baths.   You can find these locally at Wild Birds Unlimited in Glenview IL ( ).

So, this spring feed the birds and they will provide hours of entertainment while they visit your backyard.  The previous lists are a great place to start but you are not limited to these plants.  If you have noticed your birds feeding on other types of plants, please let us know our Facebook page:  National wildlife federation where you can certify your backyard as a National wildlife habitat

Monday, January 2, 2012

Air Cleaners = Plants, Simple

NASA has done some pretty cool stuff that we encounter daily whether it be innovations like water purification designs or actual inventions like LEDs and memory foam.  NASA in the 80’s did a study with the ALCA (American Landscape Contractors of America) on air cleaning plants.
Everyone knows that plants Photosynthesize which means plants use Carbon dioxide (which we produce upon exhaling among other sources) and the suns energy light source to produce energy (sugars) for the plant to grow.  This action makes the plants produce  a byproduct called oxygen.  Which we breathe.  Thank goodness for Rainforests, Nurseries, Greenhouse and Christmas Tree Farms. 

Now NASA and all their really smart scientists wondered if plants did other things beside create oxygen.  In this Study they found out those bad toxins from the air like Benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene were scrubbed from the air through the plants  leaves,  stems, stalks and roots systems.  They also discovered that certain plants create symbiotic relationships with microorganisms in the soil that also remove toxins out of the air.  Now some plants are better at this than other plants and because there are millions of plants to choose from the following list are the plants that were included in the study. 
Aloe Vera - Aloe Pictured right 
Bamboo or Reed Palm – Chamaedorea sefritzii
Banana Tree – Musa oriana
Chinese Evergreen  – Aglaonema modestum
Corn Plant – Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’
Elephant ear philodendron or Spade leaf Philodendron – Philodendron domesticum
English Ivy Topiary
English Ivy – Hedera Helix 
Gerber Daisy – Gerbera jamesonii (blooming plant)
Janet Craig dracaena – Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’
Lacy Tree Philodendron – Philodendron selloum
Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’ (blooming plant)
Philodendron heartleaf – Philodendron scandens ‘oxycardium’
Pot Mum or Florist Mum – Chrysanthemum morifolium (blooming plant)
Pothos golden or Devil’s Ivy – Epipiremnum aureum
Red Edge Dracaena or Dragon Tree – Dracaena marginata
Snake plant
Snake Plant or Mother in Law’s tongue – Sansevieria  trifasciata 
Spider Plant – Chlorophytum comosum
Warneck Dracaena – Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’
Weeping fig – Ficus benjamina

Other notable plants that I would also consider great air cleaners

Arrowhead vine – Syngonium
Begonia  - Several varieties (blooming plant)
Boston Fern - Nephrolepis exaltata cv. Bostoniensis
Dumb Cane - Dieffenbachia
Ficus Ali or Saber Ficus - Ficus binnendijkii 'Alii'
Kimberly Queen Fern - Nephrolepis obliterata
King of hearts or Silver thread - Homalomena wallisii
Lady Jane, Painter’s Palette or Flamingo Flower – Anthurium (blooming plant)
Macho fern or giant Sword Fern - Nephrolepis biserrata
Moth Orchid – Phalaenopsis orchid (blooming plant)  Pictured right
Peacock plant - Calathea makoyana
Philodendron – several more varieties
Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’
Prayer Plant - Marantaceae
Rubber Tree Plant - Ficus elastica
Umbrella tree - Schefflera arboricola 
English Ivy Growing on the wall

Not only do plants help keep toxins out of our lives they also enlighten our mood.  So make yourself feel good on the inside bring a plant home today.