Tangled Branches: Cultivated
happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia
Monday, November 28, 2005
WaPo Magazine Article
Sunday's Washington Post magazine cover story was an interesting and seemingly thoughtful piece on the health of streams in our region. Because it's an issue that I believe is important, I was disappointed to find some obvious errors. Sloppy writing and editing make me question every statement, even the true ones.
So what are these grave errors, you ask? Well, OK, maybe they're really trivial. But if little things are wrong, what does that say about the overall quality of the reporting?
- The country club was replacing its turf. To kill the old grass, and all of the weed spores in the ground, groundskeepers had been applying a powerful herbicide-fumigant called Basamid G.
Weeds do NOT grow from spores, but plant diseases may be spread that way. BTW, Basamid G sounds like very nasty stuff - a granular soil sterilant.
- "We've got some red-shouldered hawks . . . those birds you hear now are white-footed sparrows and some junkoes, I think. ..."
White-footed sparrows? I'm pretty sure that isn't what the interpretive naturalist actually said. Most likely white-throated sparrows. Easily looked up in any field guide or online. (We have white-footed mice in this area, but he apparently said it was a bird sound.) I've never been able to decide if the plural of junco is juncos or juncoes, but I'm very sure it isn't junkoes. Again, quite easy to look up, but nobody bothered.
From 20 degrees Friday night to 67 degrees this afternoon. When I went out for a walk this afternoon, it was actually too warm for a jacket. But the thing I find strange is that there are still so many oak trees around with mostly green leaves. Surely this is very late in the season, no? And particularly after the several hard freezes we've had recently. And it's not just confined to my backyard microclimate - I noticed the same thing yesterday at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, and Saturday at Sunrise Valley Park.
I'm still seeing some nice birds in the backyard, but not as many as when I last posted. There's a brown creeper around almost every morning now. When it turns cold again, I'll put up the suet feeder...
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Birdy, Birdy, Birdy
The cold front that swept through today brought with it an astonishing number of birds to the backyard. Around noon, there were so many that I couldn't count and didn't know where to look first. Among the visitors was a red-breasted nuthatch - I haven't seen one of those for several years. Other "good birds" were a brown creeper, purple finches, white-throated sparrows, and a yellow-bellied sapsucker. Those were in addition to all the usuals - juncos, goldfinches, downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, robins, cardinal, mourning doves......have I forgotten any?
I've been looking and hoping to see some cedar waxwings, and I think I have, but I've only seen glimpses of field marks - a crested head, a yellow tail bar - not an entire bird. The last time I saw one was 2 years ago when they came through the yard and devoured all the winterberry holly berries. I'd gladly give up the berries for a good look at such an elegant bird.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Autumn, At Last
Over the last week the trees in the woods behind the house have finally started to turn. Many of the oaks are still very green, but the overall effect now is warm gold and red.
Why, oh why, did it take me so long to get around to planting Japanese Maples? I thought, for some reason, that they wouldn't grow well in the heavy clay, wouldn't like the summer heat/drought, wouldn't be worth the expense, or I didn't have room for them. What an idiot I was! First, I should have noticed that they grow perfectly well in all kinds of suburban front yards here. Second, how much do I spend on annuals which I intend to throw on the compost pile after a few months? Third, now that the woods are opened up a bit, I see all kinds of places I could fit in a few more. They're pretty through the growing season, but I didn't anticipate how much impact the fall color would make. Of the two I planted this year, Glowing Embers - a Michael Dirr selection, chosen for tolerance to southern conditions - is the best for fall foliage. And although Sango Kaku - the coral-bark maple - has pleasing soft yellow fall foliage rather than attention-getting red, I'm hoping the branches will liven up the winter woods with some color. In fact, now I'm casting a critical eye over some woody underachievers with a view towards replacing them with Japanese Maples.
A maple enthusiast in Japan has assembled quite a collection of maple information, including this page with a display of leaves from his garden.