As my grandmother always said, “Horses sweat. Men perspire. Women glow.” How do we avoid this sticky situation? Kids run through sprinklers and adults head for the air conditioning, but what do the birds do when the thermometer climbs? They don’t sweat they can’t take advantage of the A/C. However, that doesn’t mean they just sit there and bake, either.
Because birds have relatively high body temperatures—a Golden Kinglet’s temperature was measured at 111° F!—it’s critical that they avoid getting too warm. Many essential proteins begin to break down at temperatures just a few degrees higher, so overheating could easily be fatal. Thankfully, birds have all sorts of ways of beating the heat.
Continue reading “Cool Birds”
From a distance, a blooming fernbush (Chamaebatiaria millefolium) resembles a lovely white lilac bush, but no lilac would be in bloom at this time of year. Growing to seven feet high and wide, these shapely shrubs are covered in upright sprays of showy white flowers from June through August. Individual blossoms are reminiscent of single roses, and attract bees and butterflies. Come autumn, the flowers are replaced by russet seed heads.
A closer inspection reveals reddish peeling bark and the aromatic, finely dissected leaves that give Fernbush its common name. Even in our cold climate, these leaves stay on the bush for most of the year; branches are bare for a mere three to four months each winter. Fall foliage is an attractive copper color.
Continue reading “Fabulous Fernbush”
Most landscapes look terrific in May and June. The leaves are fresh and new. From pink crabapples to purple lilacs, it seems as if everything is in bloom. The contrast with the lifeless browns and grays of winter is enough to send you cavorting across the glowing, emerald green lawn.
It’s tempting—irresistible, really—to rush to the local garden center and buy everything with flowers on it. I’ve been subjected to Facebook photos of flowers since March (I have a lot of friends in California), and finally it’s our turn!
Continue reading “Beyond Spring”
You’ve been hard at work all spring. First you started some seeds indoors, then you hardened them off so they will withstand the rigors of Colorado weather. You set your transplants in beds you carefully prepared with just the right amendments and fertilizers. Then you seeded some other crops (such as bush beans and squash) outdoors where they are to grow, and now you have cute little seedlings, putting out their first true leaves, on their way to providing you with some delicious eating.
Finally, it’s time to take a break, sit back, and snooze in your hammock (in between chores such as watering and weeding), and wait for your crops to mature.
Continue reading “Season-long Harvests”
My lettuce is blooming. Instead of sweet, tender Buttercrunch and crisp red Prizehead, I have leaves so bitter, even my hens are spurning them. Rats.
At this time of year, it’s common for leafy greens to bloom or, as it’s known in garden-speak, bolt. Long hours of sunlight, combined with torrid temperatures induce flowering. In most cases, there’s nothing to be done. It’s simply time to pull the plants that haven’t yet been harvested and add them to the compost pile.
For example, spinach blooms when days last more than 14 to 16 hours. (Interestingly, spinach will only bloom when days are long.) Warm temperatures will accelerate this process. Dorothy Hinshaw Patent and Diane E. Bilderback explain why this happens in The Book of Garden Secrets:
Continue reading “Help! My Lettuce is Blooming!”
The fun thing about growing any kind of summer squash is that no matter which variety you choose, you’re likely to be blessed with a bumper crop. Not only that, but zucchini tastes a lot like patty pan which tastes a lot like crookneck which tastes a lot like the new globular introductions. It’s hard to go wrong.
However, there are subtle differences. I’ve trialed a number of varieties. Surprisingly, some varieties succumbed to a heat wave, hail storm, or torrential downpour, while others persevered. Others took too long to produce a crop. I find the days to harvest given in the catalogs have little in common with what actually happens in my garden, probably because our nights are so cool.
Continue reading “My Favorite Summer Squash”
We’re in the middle of summer, that season I’ve waited for all year. All those December dreams of dahlias, March musings of marigolds—and now it’s too hot to go outside! A friend and I have been planning, then delaying, a trip to the Denver Botanic Gardens for several weeks, hoping for a cooler day that will allow for a more enjoyable visit and better photos. Meanwhile, what’s a sweaty flower lover to do?
Head for the hills!
Continue reading “Cool Wildflowers”
July is not the best time to go birding. The sweat drips from under your floppy hat and smears the view through your binos, and there’s a puddle soaking your shirt under your sling/backpack/fanny pack. It’s a challenge just carrying enough water to stay hydrated.
The birds aren’t cooperating, either. Most of the males have stopped singing now that they have their mates and their territories. Soon they’ll be molting out of their breeding plumage into something much duller and harder to identify. Some are already thinking about heading south, although they won’t actually leave town for a few more weeks.
Continue reading “Mid-Summer Abundance”
Spring migration is over, and the birds are all focused on mating and raising their families. The weather is too darn hot outside to be enjoyable, especially when one is hauling binos, field guide, water, scope with tripod, notebook, lunch, and possibly a camera. Then, to top things off, the sun is coming up at an hour when even birders would prefer to catch a few extra zzz’s. The early birds can have their worms.
Of course, most of us won’t let a few inconveniences like that stop us from birding. Sure, we may have a bit less enthusiasm, but we’ll still traipse around in the hot sun if there is the possibility of seeing some birds. But wait. You don’t have to suffer in the heat. There are a few things we can do to make our excursions more bearable.
Continue reading “Some Cool Birding Ideas”