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My Secret Garden - Participant# 108 || 2004 Contest

Donna's Wildlife Habitat
by Donna Mc Donald-Bailey (Ocean Springs, Mississippi Gulf Coast, USA)

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Pictures published within Contest are property of the authors and can not be used without author's permission.

We live in zone 8b/9a and usually have very mild winters. Late January and Febuary are usually our coldest months but there have been many occasions that we are wearing shorts and have the a/c in Febuary. They are also our wettest months. Rarely we get a little snow but it is usually gone by the next day if it even last a day. Our winters are like a roller coaster. It may go down to 30 one night and go back up to 60 or 70 the next day. We occassionally get in the mid to low 20's but it doesn't last more than a few days at a time and usually gets in the 40's to 50's in the afternoon when it does. I believe our last snowfall was in March of 94 which was a real shock since we are getting into spring by then.

When we first got our property the main priority was to get it cleared so we could get moved on. We removed about 40 huge Pine Trees but left all the other. Our friends chipped in and helped cut the trees.
Then we had to get someone to remove them all. Wow the tractors really messed the property up.
So we started bringing in dirt to fix it back up. We started at about 3' in the center and worked our way out a little at a time down to about 1/2' of dirt at the edges. It dried it up pretty well but not completely.
We ended up having to remove the trees we left because the dirt was killing them. I replaced them with native Maple and Willow trees that I dug up or that popped up on and around our property mostly. So they are all thriving. I also added a Cedar tree, several Sycamores, and a Black Locust. I tried others but they didn't survive in the damp sandy soil. I planted 40 Azaelas that all died.

Here is a pic of the east side of my home today in August 2004 from the front of my property running towards the back (North to South). My property is 150' x 150'.

I chose to put my home is side ways because I didn't want to sit out on the front porch and watch the street. I wanted to view my flowers and the birds.

I have planted more thin gs that died than I care to remember. We got moved on to the property in 6 months from when we began working on it. We had a ditch dug across the back and down both sides 25' inside our boundry so we could keep it drained and continue to work on it. When we completed adding the dirt out to the property line and planted grass I started with flower beds and shrubs.
We used Banana trees and Pampas grass to hide the huge septic system required by the Department of Health.

Loquat

Loquat

I had a very large raised bed garden for several years and grew some of the sweetest canteloupes and carrots you ever put in your mouth. I also grew a 15 lb cabbage one year. We fenced it all in so our dogs could run loose.

Salvia Splendens

Salvia Splendens

Planting on my property is a big challenge. I have areas from very dry to very wet and if it is not wet in summer it is in winter causing loss of plants.

Zinnias

Zinnias

After Hurricane Georges the vegetable garden and raised flowers beds were gone. We got some kinds of sea grass growing in all the bed thatt we couldn't get rid of from the 3' of saltwater that was on our property.

That also ended our dream of building our own home so we just purchased a larger one and had it moved here.

Zinnia
Brugmansia

Now I am a container gardener for the most part. I still put things in the ground trying to get things to grow in different places.

Everything does pretty well on the North East side (My Brugmansias).

 

Brugmansia

The North West side is the driest and full sun all day so that is as much a challenge as dealing with the wet. I have always fed the birds and even put a feeder out before we moved on the property. One day I decided to put my video camera to see what was emptying my feeders on a daily basis.

Wow was I amazed that the awesome selection that passed through my yard that spring. That was it. I was hooked on bird watching. I decided to find out what I needed to do to attrak them and keep them around.

Most of what I had done to the property fit the bill already by fullfilling the needs of shelter and nesting sites with the trees and shrubs that had been planted.

Then I began working on plants and trees for food for the birds, hummingbirds, moths, and butterflies etc.

Datura

Brugmansia

I had seen a white trumpet plant in a magazine and ordered it. It was the most amazing plant I ever had and the smell is to die for.

Wow I found out many years later what Brugmansias and Daturas were and that there were many kinds. So I began collecting them and they are food for the large night moths.

The Brugmansia in the ground come back each spring bigger and better.

Clerodendrum thomsoniae

Clerodendrum thomsoniae

They are my most prized plants next to my clerodendrum collection.

I have all kinds of plants and I plant a huge wildflower plot every year in my old garden area for the butterflies, bees and hummers. I have to fight with Hubbie to keep him from mowing back there. I want to keep it in a natural state with just one path mowed to walk around it and the animals love it.

 

I have Pampas Grass all across the front on the North east side for privacy inside the fence and Arbovites running there also outside the fence. It is a great windbreak in winter and wonderful shelter for the animals.

 

Lonicera japonica

Lonicera japonica

Lonicera japonica (honeysuckle)

I have honeysuckle, pampas grass, and bananas 3/4 of the way down on the east side then there is a open area for my feeding stations for the animals going back to a semi shady corner which has bananas.

 

Pachystachys lutea

Pachystachys lutea
(Yellow Shrimp)

 

I intend to plant all my Shrimps plants, some gingers, various firespike, and 2 pawpaw trees I have in there come spring and get them out of pots. I have already planted 3 red buckeyes and 3 beautyberry there this spring.

Leonotis nepetaefolia

Leonotis nepetaefolia

Passiflora Violacea

Passiflora Violacea

Running across the southeast part of the backyard is more honeysuckle on one half and the other half (west side) which is the wildlfie area I have sword jack bean vines, cross vine, passiflora vines, assorted gingers and cannas, clitoria vines, fig tree, 2 mulberry trees, 5 hamelia patens, black cherry, serviceberry, pyracantha, and a flowering crab apple.

 

Passiflora-incarnata

Passiflora incarnata

Passiflora Violacea

Columbine

Columbine

I also have a perennial container garden since all my wildflower seeds washed away with 3 days and nights of rain after I sowed them th is year.

I keep most of my tropicals in pots and I have a greenhouse that I keep them in in winter. I keep the temp at a 50 degree minimum. The plants that are in the ground such as Brugmansia are cut back to a few inches and covered heavily with mulch.

 

Sesbania punicea

Sesbania punicea

Gelsemium sempervirens

Gelsemium sempervirens
(Caroline jessamine)

Coming up the back west side toward the front I have more honeysuckle (favorite nesting sites for the brown thrasher and mockingbirds and nectar for the orioles and hummers), spanish flag vine, 3 kinds of passiflora, blackeye susan vine, pink fuzzybean vine, rosarypea vine, yellow butterfly vine, manettia vine, cats claw vine, ragoon creeper vine, 2 kinds of hawaiian woodrose vine, 6 different dutchmans pipevines, mandevilla, desert trumpet vine, porcelin vine, snail vine, velvet bean vine, gloriosa lily vine, oxen redeye vine, and a blue perennial Morning glory vine.

Honeysuckle

Trumpet Honeysuckle

Praymantis

Praymantis

This all gives beauty and privacy to me by covering the fence and food and nesting sites for the animals. I have a small pond/birdbath my hubby and I made ourselves. Wasn't happy with the original design so I changed it this spring

Thunbergia battiscombei

Thunbergia battiscombei

I put a arbor over it and have calla lilies in pots on the water side and thunbergia battiscombei on the out side.

Looking for the orange clock vine since the battiscombei doesn't get over 3 feet. I believe the orange with the purple will be beautiful and it will cover the arbor.

Senecio confusus

Senecio confusus

Balloon Flower

Balloon Flower

Malva sylvestris

Malva sylvestris Zebrina

All I can really say is that I have created a wonderful complete wildlife habitat that is just as pleasing to the eye for me as it is to the animals. It is certified by the National Wildlife Federation and I proudly display my sign for all to see. The Audubon group comes to my home as part of the annual Christmas Bird Count to see what I have going on.

I have little changes in the wildlife here in winter. Mostly for what ever reason I see fewer of my year round birds except for the blackbirds which I get about 100 of but I pick up a few species of winter migrants and have lots of migrants that pass through to refuel on their way across the gulf. I get about 50 American Goldfinches and the White-throated Sparrow is my favorite winter migrant. Their song is so sweet and the first sound you hear before it is even light outside. Once we get a cold snap all the butterflies leave. I'm still hoping to have a wintering hummingbird here and maybe some of the western hummingbirds that have been wintering along the coast the last few years.

Malvaviscus My best plant accomplishment is a crepe myrtle tree I rooted from a 8" piece of green wood 2 years ago. It is thriving so I went and bought 2 more since I had to cut down my maple tree in front of the porch due to disease last month. They are a great warbler attracter and fast growing.

Tibochina multiflora

Tibouchina multiflora

I really don't use much fertilizer. Mostly when I pot a plant up I put in Sta Green Bloom Starter 90 day slow release fertilizer in the soil. I may use some miricale grow 2 or 3 times in the entire growing season. The plants in the ground get fertilized in early spring and late summer when the lawn is fertilized. I don't want any plants that have to be pampered. I have far to many plants and other things to do caring for this wildlife habitat.

I only use pesticides on ant beds or in winter in the greenhouse only if there is no other way to be rid of the pest and never for any reason near any of the feeding stations or bird baths.

Malvaviscus

Malvaviscus

Am I finished with my habitat?? Never!!!

See more pictures at Donna's Birds, Flowers and other Wildlife (Web Album)
More about butterfly attractors: Butterfly page

Coreopsis

Iochroma Fuchsioides

Iochroma Fuchsioides

Diclipteria suberecta

Diclipteria suberecta

Rosey Columbine

 
 

A note from TopTropicals:

Donna's garden was also destroyed by Hurrican Ivan on Sept 16, 2004... We are very sorry, Donna! We wish you to restore this beauty as soon as possible and will be happy to help you with more plants. Stay safe. We wish it never ever happens again.
Today our new Brugmansia Golden Lady first bloomed. It was a plant grown from Donna's cutting that she sent to us couple months ago. Thanks, Donna! Your plants will live forever.

Tatiana & Mike

 

 

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