Urban Bird Habitat Garden

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Last October, I posted two photos of a nice hellstrip along the west side (12th Street, N.W.) of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History.

In mid October of this year I discovered the Urban Bird Habitat Garden, on the other side of the sidewalk. It’s essentially all the grounds of the museum on the north, west, and south sides (the east side is the Smithsonian’s Butterfly Habitat Garden).

The bird habitat was established in July 2012 (one of twelve Smithsonian gardens). Native trees, shrubs, and perennials were especially chosen to create “an oasis” for many of the more than 300 birds species found in Washington, D.C.

Although the garden is very narrow along 12th Street and the Mall, it was full of birdsong during my visit.

You can click on ‘Continue reading’ below to scroll through larger images of the garden. (And you can see the garden in other seasons here.)

Continue reading “Urban Bird Habitat Garden”

Prairie strip, Washington, D.C.

Hellstrip west of Museum of Natural History, Wash., DC/enclos*ureThis is an example of how nice an urban ‘hellstrip’ can be. It’s just to the west of the Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution. I took this photo in the last few days of September.

Hellstrip west of Museum of Natural History, Wash., DC/enclos*ureI think they are all American native plants. I see a fine grass I can’t identify (just visible in the top photo), goldenrod (‘Fireworks’?), amsonia (I think), and the seedheads of purple coneflower.

I like the arrangement of squares of a single species, one after another, rather than all of the plants in one long mix.  It goes well with the surrounding architecture.

Sometimes I save a weed if its leaves
are spread fern-like, hand-like,
or if it grows with a certain impertinence.
I let the goldenrod stay and the wild asters.
I save the violets in spring.   People who kill violets
will do anything.

Ann Struthers, from “Planting the Sand Cherry

Recent finds

I knew the thing
before I knew its name. . . .*

Dec 24 Gerbera

I went outside yesterday and discovered this single dark orange Gerbera daisy (probably Gerbera jamesonii or Transvaal daisy) in the back flower bed.

I was so pleased because I’ve been looking for more orange flowers to tie together two orange-flowered shrubs about 7′ apart in a mostly yellow section of the front garden (they are too large to move).  It divided into four little plants when I transplanted it.

We have a lot of coral pink Gerberas.  They bloom all the time and are a nice color for setting off flowers in red, orange and white, and violet and blue areas.

Dec 24 pink Gerbera

They are also a super-tough perennial for warm climates. Back in Washington, D.C., we mostly see them as cut flowers or potted plants sold in a grocery store. Gerberas are the fifth most-used cut flower in the world, according to Wikipedia.

A couple of weeks ago, I also found this in bloom in the back area:

Dec 24 goldenrod

Goldenrod (Solidago) — I immediately divided it and took some pieces to the yellow border in the front.

I had been watching the plant for a couple of months, thinking it was possibly a weed, but also thinking that it looked familiar. I should have recognized it — Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ is one of my favorite  perennials.

There are over 100 species in the Solidago genus (both it and Gerbera are in the Asteraceae family), so I doubt I’ll identify it more specifically than ‘goldenrod.’  The plant is native to North America, although a few species are found in South America and Eurasia.

I searched for images of Fireworks on Google and found my own picture was number three on the page.  This was sort of thrilling (I lead a very quiet life.)  Strangely, pictures of our dog Sophie, were numbers seven and eight — I guess because I had put them in the same post. (There’s a nicer picture of the plant here.)

An interesting story from Wikipedia:

Inventor Thomas Edison experimented with goldenrod to produce rubber, which it contains naturally.  Edison created a fertilization and cultivation process to maximize the rubber content in each plant. His experiments produced a 12-foot-tall (3.7 m) plant that yielded as much as 12 percent rubber. The tires on the Model T given to him by his friend Henry Ford were made from goldenrod.

Extensive process development was conducted during World War II to commercialize goldenrod as a source of rubber.  The rubber is only contained in the leaves, not the stems or blooms. Typical rubber content of the leaves is 7 percent. The resulting rubber is of low molecular weight, resulting in an excessively tacky compound with poor tensile properties.


David Montgomery of The Washington Post has a sad story today about the elimination of “Ye Olde Yule Log” from this year’s events on the Ellipse (in front of the White House):

For more than 50 years, it was one of the quirky miracles of holiday Washington.  Groundskeepers stoked the fire around the clock. They used a forklift to feed it giant stumps and trunks from trees that had been marked as “hazardous” and culled from national parks in the region. Tourists and residents would gather around the mesmerizing inferno, sharing stories with strangers, feeling uplifted as much by the smoky, sparky nostalgia of it all as by the sheer unlikeliness of such a scene in this locked-down, plugged-in world.

The National Park Service has a contact page here, by the way.

If your potted poinsettias are already getting on your nerves, you may want to cut the “flowers” (I know — bracts) to arrange in a vase.  Here’s an article from The Telegraph on getting them to last.

*by Ian Parks, from “Goldenrod

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day in July

Goldenrod, butterfly milkweed, and common tall phlox.

I’m having more of an in-between-bloom day.  The milkweed has about finished, although the pods are nice, but the goldenrod and cutleaf coneflowers need another week or so.  I do have some nice phlox blooming though. Continue reading “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day in July”