Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thank you for another enjoyable year!

Thank You
Though economic times are tougher than previous years for most of us, I am thankful to have had enough loyal clients and a steady amount of nature programs at Magnuson Park to keep me pretty busy throughout 2011. I want you to know that I appreciate each referral and job that has come my way, as I know my design, consulting, and education services are certainly not among the list of "life essentials". And again this year, each of you has made it very enjoyable to work with you and your gardens!

 Earlier this summer, I wrote about how much I was savoring tomato sandwiches from my garden (and I can still taste them in my imagination). Last week, I finished the late Lee Lipsenthal's just-published book entitled "Enjoy Every Sandwich". The title comes from an interview that Warren Zevon did on the Late Show with David Letterman after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Letterman asked Zevon if there was anything he understood now that he didn't before. Zevon replied, "Just how much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich." I am very fortunate to be in good health, and I was very inspired by this book to continue savoring each day and each experience that comes my way.

News from my garden
I am sure that the addition of an Arnold Promise Witch Hazel in my back garden will help me through the dark winter months with an explosion of "sunshine in January" fragrant yellow blossoms. The hummingbirds will be well-fed too. I heartily recommend this species, as well as several other Witch Hazels, for their fantastic winter blooms and spectacular fall leaf color.

The 2 Wax Myrtles in my back garden have an abundance of seed clusters this year, and have attracted a pair of Yellow-rumped Warblers to spend many hours a day snacking away within the shelter of their canopy. The Dark-eyed Juncos have also been plentiful this fall, even so bold as to bathe in my little deck fountain!

The Barberry, Shore Pine,
Ninebark, and Beautyberry in my front garden are thankfully tall enough now to start screening the huge new fire station that was built nearby. Berry production was excellent there this year too, and yesterday I saw a hungry Robin gobbling up the first ripe Beautyberries, so I know they won't last long. When Beautyberry (Callicarpa) shrubs initially came into the nursery marketplace, the fact that their iridescent-purple berries persisted throughout winter was a main selling point. But that was only because birds hadn't yet recognized the berries as food, and no one wanted to be first to try them! (It can take 40+ years for birds to sample non-native seeds and fruits) Robins and Stellar's Jays discovered how good Beautyberries are a few years ago, and mine only last until January now. But the great news is now this non-native is a genuine bird-friendly plant!Speaking of fruit... after enjoying the tasty berries and stunning fall color of the 7 dwarf Blueberry shrubs that I added to my back garden this year, and the late crop of raspberries that kept producing until mid-November, I am going to figure out how to fit some more Strawberry plants into my tree and shrub bed groundcovers too. Having a snack walk makes doing garden chores so much more fun!

I also plan to get an early start on my spring P-Patch too, by adding a larger, permanent cloche for protecting seeds and starts that thrive in cool temperatures such as snap peas, carrots, and broccoli.
This year, I ended up replanting a lot of early crops because of how soggy the soil remained throughout spring. Next year I resolve that no matter what the weather, my spring seeds will not rot before they sprout!

Good News:
I am happy to report that the Magnuson Nature Programs have stayed intact for 2012, and in fact are actually going to expand a little more! Thanks to some creative brainstorming with community center staff, help from a vibrant new docent program and other volunteers, and a grant from King Conservation District for a new demonstration landscape project, we will start our nature programs early in the year too. Our kickoff events are a series of "Discovery Days", with fun, hands-on learning for the whole family during February and March. We have a great lineup of camps, classes, and special events for the rest of the year too. Find out all the details at

I just got word that the 2011 "Trees for Neighborhoods"
program I had blogged about earlier this year has given 1000 free, urban-lot appropriate, ornamental and/or fruit trees to residents all over Seattle, to green-up our communities and provide more food for our tables. What a great way to replace some of the tree canopy coverage that Seattle has lost over the past 40 years! And the additional good news is that it looks like this program has survived the budget process and will be continued in 2012.

What's on the horizon?I will be in town for the winter months (no return trip to West Africa for a year), so if you want my help to get an early start on your 2012 garden planning, I'll be glad to oblige.

Besides my work for Magnuson Community Center Nature Programs throughout 2012, I will occasionally be leading Seattle Audubon field trips and neighborhood bird walks at Magnuson Park. This volunteering is part of my payback to this organization for the 2 incredible semesters of Master Birder training I received this year. My brain is so full of new info but now the question is, how much of it I can pull out of my "database" when out in the field? Ha ha! In any case, I hope you will consider joining me on an Audubon bird adventure next year. You can check the whole list of upcoming birding opportunities at

I also received Master Pruner certification from Plant Amnesty this year, and will be doing some volunteer teaching for that organization at their bi-annual, hands-on pruning education events.

During the spring months
I will also be doing quite a bit of teaching for local municipalities, but I will still have time set aside for garden consultation, design, and pruning lessons. Do let me know in advance if you have a major project in mind - thanks!

Seasonal Gardening Tips:From Experts say that the single most important thing you can do to prevent next year's pests is to remove this year's fallen (or still attached) fruit and leaves. If left on the ground, these can become "safe havens" for pests to overwinter beneath your tree, just waiting to climb or fly back up in the spring and create problems for next year's crop. Rake it all up and put it in your yard waste (not your compost pile).

From the WA State Dept of Fish & Wildlife "Crossing Paths" newsletter: Clean your bird feeders regularly. Diseases are easily passed along at feeders through droppings and moldy seed. Use feeders that are covered or sheltered from the rain and snow, and types that don’t allow birds to stand where their droppings will fall into the seed. Frequently remove all the seed from under the feeder to prevent bacteria and mold from growing, which can sicken the birds and also attract mice and rats.

Another important part of their newsletter is a section on cat predation: "Cats are the most significant non-native animal species affecting the decline of bird populations, and are one of the most significant human-caused deaths of birds in the United States. Do not feed birds on the ground or on platform feeders if you have an outdoor house cat or if cats frequent your yard. House cats can also successfully hunt at raised bird feeders, so monitor your feeder and remove it or install a cat-proof barrier if you see cats around it. Bells on cats do not work for preventing cat kills of birds."

Read the full story on their website at, with more details about cleaning and managing your feeder and your bird food, the times of year when it's most beneficial to feed birds, etc.

Once again, thanks for your business in 2011, and hope to see you again soon!