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”

(A bit belated) Bloom Day for January

Here are a few of the flowers blooming in our garden this month.

orange tropical hibiscus

This beautiful light orange tropical hibiscus — this large shrub is growing on the middle level of the retaining walls along the front lawn.

orange tropical hibiscus

Below:  Rudbeckia laciniata or cutleaf coneflowers — this is a double variety, possibly ‘Goldquelle,’ ‘Hortensia,’ or ‘Goldenglow.’

Double Rudbeckia

This 3′ to 5′ rudbeckia — usually seen with single coneflower blooms — is native to eastern North America. A double variety appeared in 1897 and became popular as an “outhouse flower,” planted to shield privies from view.

When we arrived in Rwanda, there was one clump in the garden. I divided it, and now, because it is a “vigorous spreader,” I have about 25 plants.


I’m pretty sure the plant below is another American native in our garden: Datura stramonium or Jimson weed or Jamestown weed.

entrance and jimson weed

Because all parts of the plant can produce delirium or bizarre behavior if ingested or smoked, it played a small role in colonial American history when it drugged British soldiers sent to quell a 1676 uprising in Virginia.

The James-Town Weed . . . , being an early plant, was gather’d very young for a boil’d salad, by some of the soldiers sent thither to quell the rebellion of Bacon; and some of them ate plentifully of it, the effect of which was a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow up a feather in the air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another, stark naked, was sitting up in a corner like a monkey, grinning and making mows [grimaces] at them; a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll.

In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves. . . .  [A]fter eleven days [they] returned themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.

The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705

jimson weed

Below:  Salvia leucantha or Mexican sage — when we moved in over a year ago, there was one clump near the driveway.  I divided it, and now we have the purple and white flowers all around the semi-circle of pavement.

mexican sage

I like its tall, twisty, rather floppy nature, but I think those same attributes annoy our gardener, who keeps trying to stake it upright.

mexican sage and driveway 2

The driveway area is mainly planted with the sage, ‘Fairy’ (I think) roses, yellow daylilies, Jimson weed, and orange lantana. There are also several palm trees, which will eventually add some vertical interest. I’m thinking of adding either some tall, dark pink celosia, burgundy sunflowers, or cranberry-colored hardy hibiscus.

mexican sage and driveway

I am not responsible for the bright yellow and white paint on the curbs, by the way.  I go back and forth about whether I like it or not.

Below:  We have finally stopped using the cutting garden as a holding area for various plants being moved from one place to another.

cutting garden

It is now planted out with zinnias, borage, and cosmos seedlings, as well as some perennials, like the pink chrysanthemums below.

pink chrysatheums in cutting garden

I have really tried to like those acid yellow dahlias in the background, but I just can’t, and I think they are going into the compost pile quite soon.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is the 15th day of each month. To see what’s blooming in other garden bloggers’ gardens, check out May Dreams Gardens.

Foliage Follow Up

When we were at my parents’ house in September, I went around the garden and gathered seeds from their purple coneflowers, lamb’s ear, and wild mullein.  I put them all in one baggie because I thought I would recognize the seedlings as they emerged.  Of course, now I have no idea whether this is lambs ear or mullein.  I hope it’s mostly lamb’s ear, because I should only need a few of the tall, wide mulleins.

mullein or lambs ear

My mother also gave me some kale seeds, which I forgot about and then mixed in with all the other seeds. Then I went and bought a packet of kale seeds and planted them. So now my vegetable garden is about half kale.  Oh well, it does seem to be the vegetable of the moment.

Thanks to Digging for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Follow Up the 16th of every month.

The butterfly garden

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On the same early August day that I visited the Smithsonian’s Heirloom Garden, I also enjoyed a long walk back and forth through the Butterfly Habitat Garden, located on the east side of the National Museum of Natural History.

The garden is made up of plants that have specific relationships to the life cycles of eastern U.S. butterflies. As you walk along, you pass sections that mimic habitats important to the insects: wetlands, meadows, edges of woods, urban gardens.

It’s a long corridor really, bordered by busy 9th Street, N.W., on one side and the museum’s parking lot on the other. Yet, stepping in, you feel enveloped in another world, one that combines a little city polish with naturalism.

I offer these pictures from last summer as more inspiration for those in cold climates who are deep into their nursery catalogs and graph paper, planning for spring.

I haven’t labeled all the plants because the Smithsonian’s interactive map at this link has plant lists for each habitat.  (However, they do not include the grey-green plants in the first and seventh photos  [It’s dinosaur kale, possibly Brassica oleracea var. acephala ‘Lacinato’ or ‘Cavalo Nero’] or the tall plants with the small, purple, fuzzy blooms in the tenth.  [It’s Ironweed, Vernonia.  Thanks James Golden.]  Can anyone identify them?  I feel they are just on the tip of my brain.)

To see much larger versions of the slideshow photos, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then click on the first thumbnail. You’ll be able to scroll through the images in succession. Continue reading “The butterfly garden”