On the Bookshelf

Animal Tracks in the Snow

A favorite winter activity of mine is observing animal tracks in the snow. When I wander about after a snowstorm I usually have my camera available to capture whatever creature has left evidence of its presence.

Finding deer tracks is not unusual in my Connecticut landscape. Deer tracks are so common … like these captured during previous winters …  that I rarely photograph them any more unless the shot is particularly interesting.

Here’s a simple set of deer tracks, and a view of a deer freeway, both within a stone’s throw of my gardens and home.

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animal track in snow-arrowIt’s also not unusual to see tracks left by smaller animals such as chipmunks, squirrels, opossum, raccoon, mice, and the occasional fox. Last week, after finishing my shoveling chores, I spotted the tracks of what I suspect to be a mouse. Normally, I would not photograph simple mouse tracks but these were different. They showed where the mouse traveled atop the snow, then dug under the snow and continued its journey until it headed downward to the soil level. The red arrow shows where the mouse tunneled into the snow.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My resource for deciphering animal tracks is Scats and Tracks of the Northeast, by James C. Halfpenny, PhD and Jim Bruchac.

While the book does not give information pertaining to animal tracks in snow, it does provide drawings and particulars of the tracks … and scat, which is another good way to determine which animal has visited your yard … of 70 different creatures.

The pages describing the white-footed mouse show a gait pattern similar to the tracks I found. The tail tracks make me pretty sure it was a mouse, rather than a chipmunk or vole, that tunneled below the snow. According the the book’s illustrations the tails of chipmunks and voles don’t leave tracks.

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The book is a good resource for staying abreast of the creatures that share your landscape.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Joene Hendry

A Gardening Library – You Can Grow That!

Knowledge is power and, when it comes to gardening one of the best ways to increase one’s gardening knowledge is by cozying up to a good gardening book and absorbing its information from cover to cover.  A gardening library, You Can Grow That!

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You Can Grow That! is a blog meme started by C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening. On the 4th of each month garden bloggers champion the virtues of gardening.  All of this month’s, as well as previous posts from gardeners in multiple zones, can be found at the You Can Grow That! website.

Outside of the shear pleasure of curling up with a good book on a cold, snowy winter’s day, using your gardening off-season or a period of unfriendly gardening weather to improve your gardening aptitude is a great way to avoid pitfalls.

Libraries and bookstores are filled with gardening books of all shapes, sizes and levels of expertise. Over time, I’ve collected many gardening books. Some of these have become go-to reference books … the books I reach for when I need a plant or design idea, more information about a gardening technique, or want to bone-up on a specific topic.

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Two of Michael Dirr’s books serve as wonderful tree and shrub references – Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs and the Manual of Woody Landscape Plants – as do The American Woodland Garden by Rick Darke and Herbaceous Perennial Plants by Allan M. Armitage.

Want to know how to propagate just about any plant? Reach for Making More Plants, by Ken Druse. Perplexed by pruning? Peruse The American Horticulture Society’s Pruning and Training, by Christopher Bricknell and David Joyce.

I often flip through the pages of The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer when looking for design inspiration for a specific setting. Stephanie Cohen and Nancy Ondra offer tried and true ideas.

New Englanders can read Ellen Sousa’s The Green Garden for advice on establishing habitat gardens. In Bringing Nature Home Douglas Tallamy helps all understand why it’s important to value native plantings for native insect and wildlife populations and to find out how to incorporate energy efficiency into your landscape read Sue Reed’s Energy-Wise Landscape Design.

In Teaming with Microbes, Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis explain the down and dirty of the soil food web and how vital healthy soil is to gardening and farming.

Nikki Jabbour’s The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener reveals how she grows edibles, all year, in her Nova Scotia gardens … she’s an inspiration to all who seek to grow some, or more of their own food.

What’s Wrong With My Plant (And How Do I Fix It?) is a step-by-step guide for what ails plants. In it David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth offer organic solutions for treating plant problems and honest advice on when it’s time to replace diseased greenery.

When Aunt Edna or a social media friend suggest a tried-and-true garden remedy, or you question the science behind the latest, greatest gardening tip, it’s likely that Jeff Gillman has an explanation in The Truth About Gardening Remedies. I likewise recommend reading Gillman’s The Truth About Organic Gardening. Though, as an Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP) I don’t encourage or suggest non-organic gardening practices, I do encourage gardeners to ingest balanced information regarding organic and non-organic gardening techniques. Balanced, well-researched information is Gillman’s forte.

This short stack of books does not create a comprehensive gardening reference library but this list forms a good foundation. Gardening aptitude – You Can Grow That! Learning does not need to take a temporary vacation when hands-on gardening is impractical. We can all, seasoned and new gardeners alike, learn about gardening any time, in any climate, just by having a good reference book on hand.

After four decades of collecting and reading gardening books, my bookcase still has room for more … perhaps you have a suggestion or two that you find indispensible?

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Joene Hendry

What defines a native plant; why it matters

You may look at plants growing naturally in the woods, a meadow, or wetlands and think they are natives to Connecticut, but often this is not the case. To be a native, a plant must have grown in our region prior to European settlement.  Some of the plants, trees and shrubs growing in Connecticut wild spaces are actually naturalized – they’ve become accustomed to and grow quite comfortably in our area. Other plants are invasive bullies that overtake or crowd out other plants, often natives. Why does this matter? Think bugs and evolution. Local insects co-evolved with local plants in local conditions. Each Connecticut- or Southern New England-based insect and plant may have a slightly different genetic code than the same type of insect or plant from the Mid-Atlantic region.

This is the topic of my article “In Search of Natives” in the July/August 2012 issue of Connecticut Gardener. In it you’ll find further explanations of what the term native means in regards to plants, where gardeners can find plants native to Connecticut, and where many of the natives sold by Connecticut garden centers are actually grown. Because this is a misunderstood topic, the publishers of Connecticut Gardener, Anne and Will Rowlands, have graciously posted this article online.

2012-3 Connecticut GardenerWhat you won’t get from this link is all the other informative topics covered in Connecticut Gardener: Plants for Dry Shade by Sydney Eddison, Plants for Wet Shade by Nancy DuBrule-Clemente, and Wrapped Up in Vines by Tovah Martin. If you don’t subscribe to Connecticut Gardener you’ll miss a story about efforts to bring the American Chestnut tree back, a Designer Forum on Plants for Privacy, and advice on what gardening tasks to complete in July and August.

But back to natives. New England-based garden coach and designer Ellen W. Sousa covers the value of and how to use native plants in her book, The Green Garden, and professor of entomology and wildlife ecology Douglas W. Tallamy explains the important role native plants play in the lives of insects, and the birds and other creatures that survive on them, in his book, Bringing Nature Home.

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Habitats friendly to native flora and fauna are ever in decline. Gardeners can be front-line defenders against habitat loss by gardening organically and with more natives. These resources will provide any gardener with the knowledge and tools necessary to become a habitat defender.

Garden thoughtfully.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry