For The Birds!

Yes, I want water in my garden. Reflections of light are most intense when the images involve sunsets on water and seashore walks at sunrise. The pinkness of the light changes the smell of the air and the look of the scenery. It was during these moments that I first noticed the variety of textures and colors in leaves, moss, and the wildflowers. So what is taking me so long? Why is there no pond in my garden? Many times this or that location has been considered, but something has kept me from that crucial and necessary commitment to place. Once the hole is dug, there’s no backtracking! So the lack of a pond goes on, but there is water this year. Water brings delight to all creatures. Like watching kids run through the sprinkler’s spray, there’s joy in catching a glance of a chipmunk scurrying to get in a quick sip before my tomcat appears. Or watching the fluttering of birds bathing from my upstairs window while attempting to get down to business. So if you don’t have room for a pond or cannot decide on where to put one, even if you have the room, consider these portable water sources for your local visiting wildlife:

Bird baths come in all shapes and sizes. There’s the standard purchase available at most hardware, garden and/or nursery centers. Then there’s the creative reuse or new use of various shallow containers. For instance, my yard sports a not-that-attractive, nearly indestructible aluminum circular sled filled with water. The birds and other thirsty insects take turns wetting themselves throughout most of the year. Sometimes it’s questionable as to whether the lineup’s for watertime or chowtime since the two sources share proximity.

Saucer waterdish gardens are another unused/new use of the dishes for under planters. The plastic ones tend to blow away when empty unless rocks or pebbles are thrown in to weight them. Pebbles, stones, interesting bark and driftwood are always nice additions in the water dishgarden. Occasionally I’ll throw in a blossom or pretty leaf, and this adds to the creation. Consider the visual arrangement awaiting the stroller who’s come to visit your garden. Strategic placement for a window or bench view adds a new dimension to your landscape.

Water bowls of all shapes and sizes can be used. The placement of rocks to give a gradual access keeps most chipmunks from drowning and birds from sliding in! Be sure to renew the water often while checking those birdfeeders, otherwise some interesting animals begin swimming around within a few days!

Though these do not completely satisfy my need for a pond, they have provided a source of refreshment this year to my wildlife visitors and myself.


When I got up last Friday morning, I had a happy marriage and a nice house. Now here it is Monday night: my wife is filing for divorce and I’m living out of a suitcase at the Slumber Tyme Motel.

What happened? I’ll tell you what happened: A business trip took my wife out of town on Friday morning. Heading out the door, she looks at the Weeping Cherry in the front yard and says that it’s gotten kind of shaggy and that I should call the tree service with the arborists–the internationally certified arborists.

And I say something like ‘Gee, terrific idea,’ but inside I’m already waving goodbye to $250. Arborists? Can we get a grip here? Didn’t they used to be tree surgeons? And before that, well, weren’t they the guys in plaid shirts named Jake who chain-sawed the tree in your backyard after the big storm and then came around four months later and sold it back to you as firewood?

The taxi drives off, leaving me standing in the front yard of my new house, hand on hips, sizing up my shaggy Weeping Cherry. I look at the Azalea bushes that I had trimmed . Never did that before in my life and they look swell. I look at the razor-sharp edge of the lawn meeting the sidewalk. Never did that before either. Then I look at the Weeping Cherry again. Just how hard could this be?

On Saturday I go to Tools-R-Us and leave combat-ready. I buy a Laser-Thru-Butter Pro pruning saw. It has a double set of teeth. I have no idea why this is a good thing; I buy it because it reminds me of the shark in Jaws. Plus, it folds into its own handle like the hellish spawn of a machete and a Swiss Army knife. Very cool.

I also buy an extension pruner. Basically, this is a guillotine at the end of a 20 foot pole. The pole is plastered with decals featuring good, sound advice that’s pretty hard to disagree with: Caution: Try Not To Cut High Tension Wires. I’m ready to arbor–or whatever.

On Sunday afternoon I place my trusty aluminum step ladder against the Weeping Cherry and wave confidently at my neighbor as I climb into the tree with my Laser-Thru-Butter Pro. Unfolding it, I make a deep humming sound: Bring young Skywalker to me! Then I choose a particularly shaggy limb and start sawing away. It’s exactly like butter.

The Weeping Cherry shudders for a moment and then there’s this sharp crack. For a moment I want to shout Timber! but I am too distracted by the blindingly blue sky that now surrounds me. At the foot of the ladder almost half the tree is laying on the ground. With two hours before my wife gets home, a return visit to Tools-R-Us is indicated for SuperGlue and the biggest C-clamp I can find.

I’m waiting on the front lawn when the taxi rolls up. From outside, I can barely hear my wife’s muffled scream. It must have been considerably louder inside the cab because the driver jumps the curb in fright. ‘Oh, thank god you made it home safe!’ I exclaim, rushing to my startled wife and giving her a bear hug. ‘With all of the tornadoes that swept through here, not to mention the lightning strikes, I was worried about your landing!’

I give a concerned-but-relieved look at the remains of the Weeping Cherry, allowing myself a grim, manly shrug. ‘Shame about the tree, but at least you and the house are safe.’ Still in shock, my wife nods numbly, never taking her eyes off the tree.

At this moment, my neighbor strolls over. ‘Too bad about the tree, folks,’ he says, shaking his head sadly. ‘Had I know you were going to do it yourselves, I would have told you about a certified arborist I know.’

So that’s what happened–I had it all until I opened that Laser-Thru-Butter Pro pruning saw. And then, in a flurry of sawdust, leaves, and disbelief in arborists, I lost everything. Learn from my mistake: Do not, repeat, do not try this at home.


With the drought and dryness of August upon us, most of us have brown lawns. To have an attractive lawn this time of year can demand a good deal of attention and water! If only there were ways to minimize the labor of lawncare. According to master gardener Bob Alde, there is hope. He credits a University of Maryland fact sheet #637 with the answers. This bulletin titled “Effective Lawn Care with Reduced Pesticide and Fertilizer Use” offers helpful explanations and alternatives determined through years of field test trials.

Let’s review the causes given for poor lawns in this metro area.

· Poorly adapted species or cultivars were planted.
· Uncertified seed or sod was used.
· Mowing height wrong and at too infrequent intervals.
· Misuse of fertilizers and limestone.
· Poor watering practices.
· Sites are too shaded or poorly drained.
· Compaction of soil from too much traffic.
· Serious damage from diseases, insects, and/or environmental stress.
Now, to solve the first problem, plant the best choice of grass for this area, tall fescue. This grass is very drought tolerant, resistant to insect damage, requires less fertilizer, and produces very little thatch. In addition it is fungus resistant, does well in full sun to medium shade, and the finer-bladed varieties have excellent all season appearance.

If it’s the weeds that bother you, the university trials show that correct cutting height can reduce weeds. Cut grass at 3 inches and do not let the height grow in excess of 4 inches before mowing again. This height discourages weed seed germination and shades the soil. Mowing too short will not only encourage weeds but also make the turf more susceptible to drought and temperature extremes. This weakens the grass plants allowing disease and insects to cause more damage. Follow these cutting rules and the bagging of clippings becomes unnecessary. Don’t deny your turf this important source of organic fertilizer. If the grass has grown too tall between mowings then it is advisable to remove clippings. Large amounts can smother the turf and cause disease. When it is necessary to remove these clippings, take them to your compost pile to develop a rich supply of humus.


In order to bring you new flowers every day during the bloom season, Daylilies need lots of water. While our area is prone to afternoon thunderstorms, they are usually not long enough to provide the moisture your plants need. On a typical hot summer day, the water will evaporate before it has a chance to soak into the soil sufficiently. A long , slow drink of water is in order.

Many gardeners like to use soaker hoses or drip irrigation devices to water their Daylilies. Most prefer to water in the evening as well. Sprinklers are okay but can cause unsightly blotchy spotting on darker colored blooms or on nocturnal varieties (blooms that open the night before). Regardless of your method, water long and gently so the moisture soaks deep down into the soil. A healthy layering of mulch will help your soil to retain moisture.

There seemingly are as many opinions of how to fertilize as there are the number of cultivars. Daylilies don’t require much in the way of fertilizer. Dry 5-10-10- or water soluble fertilizer applied once or twice a season is usually enough. If your Daylilies appear to be tired just not doing well, an application of fertilizer will more than likely perk them up.

An often overlooked factor when talking about Daylily performance is the importance of removing seed pods that begin to develop this time of year on many varieties. Unless you are a hybridizer, you don’t want your plants wasting energy on seed production. This is particularly true of reblooming or continual varieties such as the popular Stella De Oro and Happy Returns. Both varieties set pods at the blink of an eye and if the pods are allowed to remain, the rebloom will be disappointing.

The little care that Daylilies do require is well worth the effort. You will be delighted with the results.

The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins Adore is a sharp departure from the bands heavy-handed past. With the departure of drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, the trio was forced to work up the new tracks with sequencers and drum machines. This working atmosphere seems to have inspired Billy Corgan, because the resulting album is challenging in a way that no other Pumpkin effort has been. With hints of Lou and the Velvets, as well as some Eno atmospherics, Adore’s softer delivery pulls you in to the tracks, and makes for a gorgeous, intimate album.

Highlight tracks are ‘To Sheila’, ‘Shame’, ‘The Tale of Dusty and Pistol Pete’, and ‘Behold! The Night Mare’.