Bob and Carol Marceluk’s Ocean City Wildlife Habitat

SAMSUNG CSCGarden Gang members Bob and Carol Marceluk in Ocean City, NJ, and their WILDLIFE HABITAT were featured in the Press of Atlantic City, Saturday, July 12, 2014: “New Boardwalk Attraction,” by Martin DeAngelis.

I met Bob and Carol in 2012 when I taught a series of Gardening for Wildlife Workshops for the Ocean City Environmental Commission . . . and, as they say, the rest is history!

They transformed a large expanse of boring lawn  into gardens full of native nectar plants (that bloom spring through fall), lots and lots of caterpillar plants (including MILKWEED of course), native berry-producing trees and shrubs (for cover and food), water features (including a new pond), neat seating areas.  It has given them SO MUCH pleasure and provided an oasis to migrant and resident wildlife.

I wish I was brave enough to add Bob & Carol Marceluk’s habitat to the “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” that I lead, but taking people into Ocean City in the summer on a weekend  . . .   In the future I might plan a special tour to barrier island gardens on a date after the crazy summer tourist season.  I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, consider writing a comment or words of support for Bob & Carol’s project at the end of the “on line” Press of Atlantic City article.

Four Proposed NJ Bills Affecting Wildlife, You and I, and Wildlife Habitats

sm-Monarch-w-sigHi Gang,

Fellow wildlife-gardening educators Jack and Jesse Connor have brought to my attention 4 bills proposed in the NJ Legislature that we all should be aware of and consider voicing our support.

In short, here are the 4 proposed bills that we can speak up about and show our support:

  • A3133 Requires DEP to establish “private wildlife habitat certification program”; creates affirmative defense against municipal nuisance ordinances for properties certified under the program.
  • A3125 Prohibits sale or planting of certain invasive plant species.
  • A1305 Requires any State entity planting vegetation to use only vegetation native to area being planted, and when purchasing vegetation, to purchase, to the maximum extent possible, only from NJ businesses.
  • A1373 Prohibits use or sale of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Working with Jack and Jesse, Garden Gang member Jean Riling put together a concise document about these 4 proposed NJ Bills and who to contact (depending on where you live):

Four NJ Bills of Interest as of June, 2014 (pdf)

Read it and make your voice heard today!

WOW, what a difference each of these would make!

Have you (or do you know anyone who has) been harassed for having a wildflower meadow or perennial garden? I do, quite a few in fact. Sadly manicured lawn (“neat as a pin, ugly as sin”) is the norm and any venture towards wildlife habitat in the way of native perennial gardens or meadows in some neighborhoods is seen as a threat. No wonder pollinators are struggling!

Are you fighting English Ivy or Bamboo or Japanese Honeysuckle (all invasives) that are spreading from a neighbor’s yard or were planted by the previous property owner? I have. This bill is an excellent start to help address some of the worst invasives. Once passed hopefully additional invasives can be added to the list.

Many of us have read the articles about European Honey Bees and how their numbers have crashed. Well native bees and many other native pollinators are also in dire straits. Here’s our chance to get Neonicotinoids out of NJ! If you’re unaware of Neonicotinoids, be sure to read Jack Connor’s recent Blog post on South Jersey Butterfly B/Log.

Click on Jean Riling’s document above (Four NJ Bills of Interest as of June 2014) to read more and learn how you can voice your support.

I thank you and wildlife thanks you!

2014 Wildlife Garden Tours

Monarch on Meadow Blazing Star with Purple Coneflowers beyond (both are Chocolate Cakes)
Monarch on Meadow Blazing Star with Purple Coneflowers beyond (both are Chocolate Cakes, irresistible to pollinators)

This is the 23rd year I’ve been leading these tours of private backyard wildlife gardens.  And they just keep getting yummier and yummier!

Mark your calendar with the following dates & plan to join me for one, several, or all NINE of the 2014 “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” (pdf)  that I will again be leading for NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May.

Alert your friends, family, neighbors, … anyone you’re trying to HOOK on wildlife gardening!

We’ll be visiting 18 gardens over a 3-day period – six delightful and unique gardens each day.  These wildlife-friendly gardens offer so many ideas in the way of design, use of space, plant combinations, native plants that are lovely AND beneficial to wildlife, “chocolate cake” nectar plants, key caterpillar plants, great native shrub ideas, “how to” create your own meadow ideas, garden accents and features like misters, dragonfly ponds, arbors . . .

Imagine getting a glimpse into private backyard wildlife gardens, interacting with the artists who created them, having each and every garden and wildlife question answered, enjoying it with a group of fellow wildlife gardeners, all while being entertained by buzzing and hungry and feisty hummingbirds, dazzling dragonflies, glittering butterflies and other pollinators!  Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it ? !

Enjoy a SNEAK PEAK (South Tour, North TourMid-County Tour) into some of the gardens we’ve visited in the past.  I’ve updated these links to include many new gardens added in recent years.

“Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” (pdf)

with NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May

1600 Delaware Ave., Cape May, NJ 08204

(609)898-8848

 

Tours of Private BUTTERFLY Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, July 18: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Saturday, July 19: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

Sunday, July 20: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Pollinators galore (Sachem and Bumble Bee) are drawn to Purple Coneflower

More butterfly and hummingbird gardens are tucked into Cape May County than probably anywhere else in the country. Mid-July is the time of peak butterfly diversity and numbers. Gardens look completely different from one month to the next (so seriously consider all 9 tours). Learn the magic combination of native nectar plants and caterpillar plants that makes a garden especially attractive to butterflies. Design ideas and new wildlife plants will be showcased while tour participants are entertained by a blizzard of butterflies and hummingbirds.

 

Tours of Private HUMMINGBIRD Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, August 15: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Saturday, August 16: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Sunday, August 17: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird nectaring on Bee Balm

At the peak of Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration, we’ll savor an array of diverse gardens that have hosted nesting hummingbirds since May and are now drawing in dozens of migrants. Native nectar plants, healthy insect populations, water sources, and adequate cover are key elements of each garden.

 

 

Tours of Private MONARCH (butterfly) Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 19: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

Saturday, Sept. 20: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Sunday, Sept. 21: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Monarchs and a hungry Preying Mantis have come to dine  on New England Aster

At the peak of Cape May County’s world-famous fall Monarch migration, tour diverse gardens that have hosted Monarchs since May. Each features native nectar plants and as many as five different kinds of milkweed (used by Monarchs for egg laying to create the next generation). With the downward spiral of the Monarch population, time will tell, but we hope our gardens will be hosting Monarchs and Monarch eggs, caterpillars, and maybe even a chrysalis. The complex Monarch migration will be both explained and enjoyed.  Fall gardens will be full of other butterflies and many interesting pollinators.

TOUR DETAILS AND PRICING

Gardening naturalist and author, Pat Sutton, leads these tours, which include her own garden in Goshen (North tour). Bring lunch since the group will eat in one of the gardens.

If some of you are keen to create a butterfly & hummingbird garden, be sure to download the article & plant list I wrote / created:

Limit: 25 per tour.
Nine Tours / Cost per tour: $35 members (NJ Audubon), $45 nonmembers.
(Join three tours at a discounted rate of $90 members, $115 nonmembers.)
These tours require preregistration with payment.

Registration: you may register by phone at 609.898.8848 with a credit card or send payment to the Nature Center of Cape May, 1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204 (noting which tours and full names, addresses, and phone numbers of registrants).

NCCM reserves the right to cancel programs, and refunds are available only if NCCM cancels the event. Walk-ins are welcome on a space-available basis. Become a member of NJAS and receive discounts in the gift shop and on many programs.

MISTER for Wildlife Garden

001-mister-1-w-sigIn nearly all my programs and workshops I recommend adding a MISTER to your wildlife habitat.  This suggestion is often met with some confused looks, so I thought I’d follow it up here with some photos that can help walk you through it and understand how simple it can be.  NO ELECTRICITY needed, just a hose connection.

Why a mister, you may ask?

A mister can serve a dual purpose: (1) offering a place for songbirds, including hummingbirds, to bathe, and (2) moistening an otherwise dry part of your garden where you can plant goodies under it that like wet feet, like Cardinal Flower, Swamp Milkweed, Turtlehead, etc.

Misters are especially crucial during rainless summers when everything is bone dry.  To a hummingbird, a bird bath is like the Atlantic Ocean and they’ll never use it.  Instead hummingbirds need rain showers, garden sprinklers (which few of us use because we’ve planted NATIVES which need little pampering), or A MISTER!

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Set up properly, a mister mists down from a nice height over leaves and plants beneath it, drawing in hummingbirds that will fly through it to take a bath or roll around on wet leaves below to bathe, as will warblers and other songbirds as well.  We’ve seen some of our neatest garden visitors at the mister!

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American Redstart (a warbler) bathing under our mister
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Gray Catbird bathing under our mister
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Carolina Chickadee bathing under our mister
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Yelow Warbler bathing under our mister on all the wet Pokeweed leaves. We happily let Pokeweed flourish in the shade under our pines where nothing else easily grows – it’s an incredible bird food and a stunning native plant

Do I need Electricity?  NO!

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NO electricity needed . . . just a hose connection
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Be sure that you buy a mister that has 50-60 feet of tubing so you can wind it up a tree and out a branch.
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Simply turn your hose on in the morn and off at dusk or set up a hose faucet timer to accomplish that automatically

 

You can set your mister up on a hose faucet timer so that it comes on in the early morning and goes off at dusk (or whenever it suits you), or you can simply turn the hose on that is connected to your mister when you want it to come on and turn that hose off when you want it to stop misting (as we do).  We turn ours off at dusk.  Obviously, on rainy days we don’t turn it on.

Where Oh Where Can I Find a Mister?

Misters are sometimes sold at Nature Centers.  Be sure you find one that has 50-60 feet of 1/4 ” black tubing (along with the special mister unit at the end); that way you can easily snake it up into a tree and out to the end of a branch so the mist mists out over a nice-sized area.

On line, a few places I found them available were:

  1.  AMAZON, called “Birds Choice Leaf Mister.”
  2. And HAYNEEDLE, called Backyard Nature Products Leaf Mister

Another product I’ve been told about, but not yet tried is a Fan Mister, like the average person might use around their swimming pool.  Wildlife gardeners can adapt one and use it as a bird mister.  Here’s one (and apparently they’re available at places like Lowes and Home Depot when all the summer stufffffffffffffffff is out):

  1. AMAZON, called Outdoor Fan Mister

It’s fun to place a bench somewhere nearby so that when the wind drifts the mist out over the bench, you’re cooled on a hot summer day.

Happy Gardening,

Pat

November Butterfly Gardens in South Texas

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Queens (and a Monarch or two) on Blue Mistflower

I just returned from a far and distant land where thousands upon thousands of butterflies filled the many native plant wildlife gardens that I visited during my 10-day stay, which included the 18th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival.

Many of the butterflies were exotic (to me) southern species that just make it into the United States.

Since my first visit in 1979 to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, I’ve made 7 additional trips.  That first visit in 1979 was kind of scary.  It was in spring and Clay and I witnessed major fallouts of Broad-winged Hawks and other migrant birds at places like Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.  Exiting the refuge and looking north we cringed.  Farm fields stretched as far as we could see without a tree or hedgerow in sight.  How could these migrants survive once they left refuges like Santa Ana NWR?

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Mexican Bluewing

Thirty-four years later I am hopeful and hugely impressed with favorable changes to the landscape in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, changes that include natural corridors of native plants running between many of the protected parcels.  The official Birding & Butterfly Map of the Rio Grande Valley (available for free at nature centers throughout the Valley) directs visitors and residents to 86 sites, many of which have extensive butterfly gardens planted with native nectar and host plants benefiting all pollinators and attracting insect-eating birds galore.

The area is a bonanza for those of us in the north, whose gardens have been quiet for a good month.

Read my latest post, “South Texas Butterfly Gardens in Late Fall,” on Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens to learn more about:

  1. My recent trip
  2. The “Landscaping for Butterflies” tour of private gardens I led as part of the Texas Butterfly Festival
  3. All the resources available to Lower Rio Grande Valley residents guiding them to plant NATIVE
  4. And to see photos of some pretty jazzy butterflies

Measuring Rainfall

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Drought gardening is the new normal. Here’s our garden July 6, 2010, during a lengthy, blistering hot and rainless stretch.

With rain so precious and drought gardening being the new normal, I wanted to know exactly how much rainfall my garden received.

So I joined the “Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS),” bought my official rain gauge for $25, and began collecting rainfall data during the recent nor’easter.  I tallied a total of 4.02″ of rain between October 7-13, 2013.  WOW!

Read all about it in my October 2013 Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens post, “Rainfall: How Much?”.

And consider joining CoCoRaHS to contribute additional data for a more complete picture (details in my post).

Hummingbird Gardens

humm-perched-w-sig.jpg
Young Ruby-throated Hummingbird with pollen covering its head

As young leave the nest and as hummingbirds that nested on the Gaspe Peninsula in eastern Canada and other points north begin to move south, hummingbird activity in our gardens soars.  The time to easily see lots and lots of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds is fast approaching: late July through first week in September.

 

2013 Tours of Private Hummingbird Gardens

That being the case, I’m once again looking forward to leading “Tours of Private Hummingbird Gardens.”   This year I’ve scheduled the tours mid-week, to avoid summer-at-the-shore weekend traffic.  Join me, if you can, to see 18 fabulous hummingbird gardens over a three-day period: August 20-22 (Tuesday-Thursday).   My own garden (and Eleanor and Gordon’s Engel’s garden below) will be on the “North Tour” (August 22), but all the gardens are wickedly delicious and full of hummingbirds.

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My own garden in mid-July. It will look completely different by the August “Tours of Private Hummingbird Gardens”
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Eleanor Engel in the meadow that she and her husband Gordon created after successfully removing bamboo – what a Success Story!

 

 Enjoy my recent posts about hummingbirds on “Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens”:

2013 Wildlife Garden Tours

001 - Monarchs w-sigThis is the 22nd year I’ve been leading these tours of private backyard wildlife gardens.  And they just keep getting yummier and yummier!

Be sure to mark your calendar with the following dates & plan to join me on one, several, or all NINE of the 2013 “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” (pdf) that I will again be leading for NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May.

NEW in 2013

The tours will be held mid-week (Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday)
to avoid weekend seashore resort traffic!

Alert your friends, family, neighbors, … anyone you’re trying to HOOK on wildlife gardening!

These wildlife-friendly gardens offer so many ideas in the way of design, use of space, plant combinations, native plants that are lovely AND beneficial to wildlife, “chocolate cake” nectar plants, key caterpillar plants, great native shrub ideas, “how to” create your own meadow ideas, garden accents and features like misters, dragonfly ponds, arbors . . .

Imagine getting a glimpse into private backyard wildlife gardens, interacting with the artists who created them, having each and every garden and wildlife question answered, and enjoying it with a group of fellow wildlife gardeners.

Enjoy a SNEAK PEAK (South Tour, North TourMid-County Tour) into some of the gardens we’ve visited in the past.

“Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” (pdf)

with NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May

1600 Delaware Ave., Cape May, NJ 08204

(609)898-8848

 

Tours of Private BUTTERFLY Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 16: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Wednesday, July 17: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

Thursday, July 18: SOUTH “Cape Island”

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Tiger Swallowtails (male on left, female on right) on Joe-pye-weed, a native perennial that is a Chocolate Cake to butterflies

More butterfly and hummingbird gardens are tucked into Cape May County than probably anywhere else in the country. Mid-July is the time of peak butterfly diversity and numbers. Gardens look completely different from one month to the next (so seriously consider all 9 tours). Learn the magic combination of native nectar plants and caterpillar plants that makes a garden especially attractive to butterflies. Design ideas and new wildlife plants will be showcased while tour participants are entertained by a blizzard of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Tours of Private HUMMINGBIRD Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, August 20: SOUTH “Cape Island

Wednesday, August 21: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Thursday, August 22: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

003 - Ruby-th Humm w-sig
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (one of dozens) in Sutton’s garden

At the peak of Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration, we’ll savor an array of diverse gardens that have hosted nesting hummingbirds since May and are now drawing in dozens of migrants. Native nectar plants, healthy insect populations, water sources, and adequate cover are key elements of each garden.

Tours of Private MONARCH (butterfly) Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 24: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

Wednesday, Sept. 25: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Thursday, Sept. 26: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

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Migrating Monarchs nectaring on Seaside Goldenrod, a native perennial that many pollinators are drawn to.

At the peak of Cape May County’s world-famous fall Monarch migration, tour diverse gardens that have hosted Monarchs since May. Each features native nectar plants and as many as five different kinds of milkweed (used by Monarchs for egg laying to create the next generation). Expect clouds of Monarchs and other butterflies, Monarch eggs, caterpillars, and maybe even a chrysalis. The complex Monarch migration will be both explained and enjoyed.

TOUR DETAILS AND PRICING

Gardening naturalist and author, Pat Sutton, leads these tours, which include her own garden in Goshen (North tour). Bring lunch since the group will eat in one of the gardens.

If some of you are keen to create a butterfly & hummingbird garden, be sure to download the article & plant list I wrote / created:

Limit: 25 per tour.
Nine Tours / Cost per tour: $35 members (NJ Audubon), $45 nonmembers.
(Join three tours at a discounted rate of $90 members, $115 nonmembers.)
These tours require preregistration with payment.

Registration: you may register by phone at 609.898.8848 with a credit card or send payment to the Nature Center of Cape May, 1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204 (noting which tours and full names, addresses, and phone numbers of registrants).

NCCM reserves the right to cancel programs, and refunds are available only if NCCM cancels the event. Walk-ins are welcome on a space-available basis. Become a member of NJAS and receive discounts in the gift shop and on many programs.

Ken Soltesz, Dragonfly Mentor

Ken Soltesz in the center surrounded by an enthusiastic group during a Cape May Bird Observatory Dragonfly Walk he led, June 20, 1992.

Those of us who have been nurtured by mentors are the lucky ones.

My strength as an educator and wealth of knowledge as a naturalist are largely due to five very important mentors in my life.

  1. My husband, Clay, put a pair of binoculars into my hands (when I was still a bookworm) and opened up a world of wonder to me.
  2. Bill Bailey taught me botany, coastal erosion, pollinators, and so much more. After our first day afield I was afraid to take a step without first looking down to see the many plants I might crush. Prior to my outings with Bill Bailey I had only noticed the bright and showy obvious plants.
  3. Al Nicholson shared the mystery and beauty of Bear Swamp and many other South Jersey wilderness areas with Clay and I.
  4. Ed Manners shared a wealth of information he had gathered over 40 years of studying Saw-whet Owls at a winter owl roost along the Delaware River in New Jersey across from the Philadelphia Airport – sadly developed and gone today.
  5. And Ken Soltesz put names to over 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies in Cape May County, helping me (and many others) to become intimate with them, their natural history, and needs (fishless ponds to breed in).

Ken Soltesz entered Cape May County’s natural history scene in 1989 and turned it upside down with his keen interest in dragons and damsels. He grew a small army of odonate enthusiasts.

I lost my dear friend and mentor, Ken Soltesz, on September 20, 2012. Ken was passionate about the natural world, delving into its mysteries and studying it from every angle.   He touched my life and the lives of many others.

Learn more about this amazing naturalist and sharing mentor by reading my latest post on Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens.

Spring Cleanup in the Wildlife Garden

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Garden Spider egg case (emptied out by hungry birds)

Spring cleaning, if done with wildlife in mind, is a slow process. On hands and knees each section is tackled slowly enough to spot garden treasures (overwintering chrysalises on stems, partially grown caterpillars in curled up leaves, microscopic eggs on plant material). This spring many treasures were found along the way: several spider egg sacks (one intact and one that had been discovered by hungry birds and emptied sometime over the winter), Carolina Mantid egg cases, and plant stems that were nibbled to the core (proof that the garden’s dormant insects aided wintering birds).

Learn more about how to clean up your wildlife garden without overdoing it by reading my latest column on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens website (where over 25 of us contribute educational and informative columns to guide and encourage wildlife gardeners, so they don’t make the same mistakes we did).