PICAYUNE — Have you been wondering why your car’s rearview mirror has developed a strange, Jackson Pollock-like pattern? Have you having a bit of trouble seeing clearly out your car window, and wondering if your neighbor’s dog could have been licking your window with a clay-covered tongue? Last week, several of the vehicles parked at the Crosby Arboretum Visitor Center had – shall we say – some visitors. Perhaps you’ve even caught a glimpse of our culprit, his bright red feathers frantically dashing against mirrored glass. Now, what could that cardinal be doing? We know that spring is on its way, evidenced by the recent behavior of these male cardinals, defending their territory by attacking that pesky male cardinal in the mirror. The problem is, he just won’t go away! Although the bird’s dance may provoke a laugh or two, when you later find yourself later faced with the cold facts of having to remove copious amounts of the bird’s “calling card” from your card door, not to mention the “modern art” on your rearview mirror, well, these sights are not for those with a weak temperament. If your yard lacks a cavorting cardinal, you can watch such capers on your favorite Internet video site. I’m considering duct-taping two plastic owls to my rearview mirrors (to prevent them from flying off while on the move). Or perhaps to institute a more cost-effective solution, such as a couple of plastic shopping bags and some rubber bands. Cloudy mirrors are just one of the “signs of wildlife” that children can keep a watchful eye out for. Last week’s Wildlife Day brought many exhibitors out to the Arboretum for a fun-filled school field trip day. Students had the opportunity to learn about Mississippi wildlife from experts in their fields–critter identification, what they eat, and where they live. We’ve been hearing news of increasing bird activity in our area. Arboretum volunteer Tom Heim reported that immediately after putting up his bluebird house, he had bluebirds move in. Tom has built some exquisite cedar bluebird houses for our Arboretum gift shop. Judging from the many features they have, including customized squirrel-proofing, it’s not hard to imagine why they are in such high demand! Tom performed thorough research to learn about when and where to locate his birdhouses. The “when” is now, because bluebirds are establishing their territories and breeding will begin soon. The “where” is to mount them on a fencepost or pole with the bottom of the box about three to six feet from ground level, facing an open field with a distant tree (for baby birds to practice flying to), and away from the direction of prevailing winds. To allow for adequate territory, locate the houses at least 300 feet apart. Finally, installing a predator guard on the pole will help to deter critters such as snakes and raccoons. Tom also mentioned that he has been going through quite a bit of sunflower seed this winter. He puts out black oil sunflower seed, which is higher in oil and meat than the typical striped seeds. Many species of birds prefer the black oil type of seed, which draws a wide variety of birds. A platform-type feeder is one way to make sunflower seed easily available. We have several at our Visitor Center that are as simple as it gets - a post with a board nailed on top. Adding a low side will keep the seed from being scattered to the ground. A final touch would be a roof to help to keep the seed dry. Last week, I enjoyed a visit to a friend’s residential garden that was alive with bird activity. This house was located adjacent to open fields on two sides. However, the beds surrounding the home were generous and wide, filled with a wonderful mix of native and ornamental plants. Even in the late winter, it was a happy and active garden, with birds swooping constantly through the beds. Vegetative edges adjacent to open areas like this are where birds thoroughly enjoy being, as they provide them with protection, food sources, and places to perch. Including plants with a variety of heights - planting in “layers” - in your garden beds will increase habitat opportunities, and attracting more species of wildlife. My friend’s garden layout reminded me of a figure in the MSU Extension publication 2402 on “Mississippi Recreational Gardens: Establishing a Backyard Wildlife Habitat”, which illustrates how you can design your yard for wildlife, and planning for areas that will provide the basic needs of wildlife: food, water, and shelter. This document includes many informative lists of plants that will attract birds and other wildlife. Native trees for attracting birds include black gum, live oak, slash pine, southern magnolia, sweet gum, black cherry, cherry laurel, southern crabapple, parsley hawthorn, native fringe tree (Grancy graybeard), hollies, persimmon, sassafras, and sweetbay magnolia. Native shrubs include American beautyberry, arrow-wood Viburnum, blueberries, elderberry, and red buckeye. Vines and perennials include blackberry, coral honeysuckle, black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, and firebush. Many trees and shrubs that are favored by local wildlife will be offered at our upcoming spring plant sale, to be held March 22 and 23 (Friday and Saturday) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Plant professionals will be available at the sale to help you choose the right plants for your own unique site conditions, in addition to informational handouts A plant list of species that will be at the sale will be available on the Arboretum’s website the week of the sale. Admission to the site will be free that day, so bring a friend along and explore the wonders of our Arboretum.. Call the Arboretum office at 601-799-2311 for more information, or visit www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu. The Crosby Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59). For further exploration: Visit the Mississippi State University Extension Service website to research Mississippi native plants you may wish to include in your home landscape with a high wildlife value, such as publication 2334, “Native Shrubs for Mississippi Landscapes” and 2330, “Native Trees for Mississippi Landscapes.”
Deluded Diva: Salvaging the Christmas spirit
“... I said what I’ve said every Christmas since I was old enough to speak; ‘This is going to be the best Christmas ever.’ (And it always is.)”
— Emily Jones
Arboretum Paths: Mississippi native plants — for the birds
Would you like to provide some new plants in your landscape that will be attractive to birds? You may be surprised to learn that while birds will feast on the fruits and seeds produced by the native plants in your yard, at certain times of year their diets also will consist of large quantities of the insects that feed on these plants.
The great spice cabinet purge
Erma Bombeck once said, "Once you get a spice in your home, you have
it forever. Women never throw out spices."
Man, I’m a believer.
Arboretum Paths: Mississippi native plants that shine in late fall
Have you noticed that some plants in the local landscape are glowing? One exceptional native shrub that is hard to ignore lately is Elliott’s blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii). Its leaves are turning a gorgeous scarlet red, which makes this shrub easy to spot from your car window on a county ride.
Whitney Miller force to be reckoned with in food world
Since winning the first season of MasterChef, Whitney Miller has been in a whirlwind of new experiences and opportunities.
Valuable native plants of the Piney Woods
As a child, it fascinated me that everything that made up my world had been fashioned of materials that came from the earth. It was great fun to sit among the trees in our heavily forested suburban neighborhood and imagine what this country would have been like in its early years, when each new tree or plant encountered would be eyed for its potential ability to prove useful to families eking out a home life in unfamiliar territory.
CWC Pilgrimage: The Teague home
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Teague home in North Hill Subdivision. The home of Richard and Janet Teague, located at 48 Long Lake will be featured in the Civic Woman’s Club Christmas Pilgrimage to be held on Saturday, Dec. 7, from 2 until 7 p.m.
Arboretum Paths: Plant natives – for seasonal flower arranging
When considering incorporating new plants to your landscape, consider its potential uses. Don't just dig that hole for the exercise. There are many more inexpensive ways to get into shape! If you make an investment in the purchase and care of a new specimen, think about how t will provide you with a return. Could your new plant be used as material for flower arrangements?
Coast Orchid Society Show changes venue
For the past 33 years the Gulf Coast Orchid Society has sponsored a free Orchid Show on the Gulf Coast usually at Singing River Mall in Gautier, Miss. on the bye weekend before the Super Bowl. With the ongoing renovations to the mall, the Society has had to relocate.
It’s fall y’all
It’s fall y’all and this week’s Vocability focuses on all the goodness of southern words and terms.
These are from my own experience growing up and I believe they are common knowledge. You may recognize some of these— admission of knowledge is not necessary. Feel free to email me additional terms you do not find here and there might be another column on the topic.
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- Deluded Diva: Salvaging the Christmas spirit