Column, Looking Back

Accent pieces for your gardens

Summer weather is here and many more people seem to have an interest in gardening this year.

Some people want to plant flowers and others want to grow their own food.

One beneficial effect that has arisen from the pandemic we are living through is the connection to nature that is happening for many people. When I watch celebrities being interviewed on various talk shows I have heard a surprising number of them say that they have taken up gardening. And many are doing it from scratch – meaning seeds are being planted. I think they are surprised at how easy it is to plant seeds, water them and see the green shoots pop up to validate their success.

Something as simple as planting a seed and taking care of the plant it produces would probably not have happened unless people were forced to stay home and slow down. The fact that they find gardening to be rewarding may cause them to make it a part of their lives in the future.

Once your garden has been planted and you are spending more time outdoors it’s easy to get so caught up in weeding (the down-side of gardening!) and pruning that you don’t take time to enjoy your yard. As pretty as a garden can be it’s nice to have some other accent pieces. Bird houses are one way to accomplish that.

I am fortunate that my husband, Peter, loves to build things. He has made numerous bird houses over the years. Once he has made the houses it’s up to me to make them look pretty. Thanks to stencils even a person who is not artistic can be pretty creative.

I like to paint the houses in a neutral cream color. The light background makes it easy to trace stencil designs onto the walls. My favorite colors for the roofs and bases are blue, green or cranberry. Because I am a lover of flowers those are the most frequently used stencils. The birdhouses are mounted on posts and placed throughout the yard so we can watch the activity that goes on in them from various locations. Not only does our yard look prettier but the birds have a choice when it comes to where they want to build their nests.

If you have ever had a house wren visit your yard you know that they are chatterboxes! They say that birds and their offspring come back to the same places each year. We started seeing the wrens build nests in our birdhouses about 10 years ago. They have returned every year in the early spring.

The male wrens start building nests in several places and the female chooses the one she wants and adds her finishing touches to the nest. We are fortunate that the annual nest building occurs right near where we usually sit. We can’t help but chuckle when the male brings small sticks into the nest and the female goes in afterwards and tosses them out! Sometimes it takes awhile for the male to figure out that he needs to turn the stick the proper way for it to fit into the opening. I refrain from commenting about which bird is smarter…the male or the female?

Some birds prefer a house that is left natural and not painted. Bluebirds are one of them. We have only seen a couple of bluebirds in our yard over the years but are thrilled when one appears.

I read about a birdhouse that is designed for chickadees to winter in. Of course, I wanted one so Peter came through, as usual, and we mounted it to the back of our pergola in the fall. When spring came around and the snow was gone I took a look at it and squirrels had chewed a hole so large that they probably spent the winter inside! Oh well…a least they have good taste!

Bird baths are another nice focal point in a garden. Keeping them clean can be a challenge but it’s worth it to be entertained watching the various birds cool off or take a drink.

So keep in mind that it’s not all about the flowers. Add some extra touches to attract the birds and sit back and enjoy them. It’s free entertainment!


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