In Praise of Poisonous Plants

Convallaria majalis_Lily of the Valley_HudsonGardens-CO_LAH_5740Maybe hemlock has the right idea.

I’ve always avoided incorporating poisonous plants in my garden. When our children were small, I was worried that they would eat a leaf or berry. Now we have small grandchildren who come to visit. Years ago, back in California, we tore out the oleanders and privets, replacing them with artichokes, strawberries, and other “edible landscaping.”

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Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

koala_lonepinekoalasanctuary-brisbane-qld-australia_lah_1957We had one day in Brisbane, and we chose to spend it at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. We had spent twelve days exploring the east coast of Australia, and had yet to see a single koala. I wasn’t going to go home without a good look, even if it had to be at a zoo.

You might get the impression that the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary only contains koalas, but in fact they have a wide range of indigenous Australian mammals, birds, and reptiles, plus an abundance of local birds who just come to visit for the free handouts. And while we certainly enjoyed seeing the koalas up close, I was just as thrilled by good views of a Tasmanian Devil, dingo, duck-billed platypus, and some extremely venomous snakes (safely behind glass). Plus, I got to pet an emu!

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Plant Science for Gardeners

How Plants WorkNew gardening books seem to pop up as regularly as springtime dandelions. Most simply rehash what has been said before—perhaps with a new twist or better photos. But How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do (Science for Gardeners) isn’t your typical treatise on how to grow what. Instead, the author, Linda Chalker-Scott, explains the “why” behind the “how.”

An extension urban horticulturist and associate professor at Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University, Chalker-Scott knows what she’s talking about. This is her third book on horticulture, but there is a lot more. She’s written a series of articles on “Horticultural Myths” that I strongly urge you to read. Then, learn more at “The Informed Gardener,” a series of podcasts, or the informative Garden Professors website. She’s also a driving force behind the Gardening Professors Facebook blog (an extremely helpful research-based Q&A site).

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Rescuing Baby Birds

White-crowned Sparrow juv_GuanellaPass-CO_LAH_0017Nesting season is upon us, and baby birds are everywhere. Some are cute, some are downright ugly, but all are endearing. Isn’t nature wonderful?

But sometimes, it seems as if Mother Nature has a problem. Not all baby birds survive to adulthood. Being caring individuals, when we see a youngster in trouble, our first inclination is to help. We’re hardwired to care for young animals, and our compassion kicks in. But once we’ve gathered up that forlorn ball of fluff, what do we do next?

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Bearded Irises

Iris hyb_DBG_LAH_0592

If you’re looking for an indestructible perennial to grow along Colorado’s Front Range, you can’t beat bearded irises. They’re tough, hardy to zone 3. They’re drought tolerant. They aren’t fussy about soil. Deer and rabbits leave them alone (for the most part). And they come in nearly every color in the rainbow—and then some. How can you lose?

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Head Bangers

Northern Flicker_LAH_1810_filLast year, our son-in-law, Ian, fell when the ladder he was using collapsed out from under him. Given that his head had been more or less at the same level as the eaves of their single story house, it had accelerated to approximately 13 feet per second when it hit the cement patio. Unsurprisingly, the impact knocked him out. Thankfully, all he suffered was a severe concussion. It could have been much worse.

From our backyard, I have been watching a Northern Flicker make a hole in the mostly-dead oak tree next door. According to one website, the woodpecker’s beak is hitting that trunk at a significantly higher speed than Ian’s head was going when it hit the pavement—closer to 19 feet per second.

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Happy Mother’s Day

These photos are my Mother’s Day card to mothers, wanna-be mothers, and those who have (or had) mothers. Where would we be without you?

american-coot-babies_montevistanwr-co_lah_2851

Mama American Coot and her colorful offspring. Monte Vista NWR, Colorado

Australian Wood Ducks, Blue Mountains National Park, NSW, Australia

Australian Wood Ducks, Blue Mountains National Park, NSW, Australia

Prairie Dogs, Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado

Prairie Dogs, Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado

White Pelicans_DingDarlingNWR-FL_LAH_6696

White Pelicans, “Ding” Darling NWR, Florida

Mallard and duckling, Lake Manitou, Colorado

Mallard and duckling, Lake Manitou, Colorado

daintreewildzoo-qld-australia_lah_5136

Mama and Joey, Daintree Wild Zoo, QLD, Australia

And in honor of expectant mothers everywhere…

Definitely a pouch-full!

Congratulations on your pouch-full!

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