2011 Garden Resolutions

Resolutions seem to evoke visions of negatives with a list of fresh resolves for positives. Since gardening is always a labor of love and enjoyment, this year my list will only focus on the ongoing pleasures of gardening.

For the 2011 gardening season, I will continue to










in my gardens

and I’ll strive to do more

Mulching and Weeding

and planting of natives…..


Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Harsh Winter? Help the Birds…

The winter months can be a difficult time for birds when the weather is extremely cold and icy or the ground is snow-covered and food is scarce.  Yes, life can be tough for birds with insects gone, water frozen, and shelter difficult to find. This is a good time to supplement nature’s food supply with high calorie foods to help our feathered friends.  Oil sunflower seeds provide the best all around food source for the vast majority of birds. The outer shell is thinner than the striped sunflower shell and the kernel inside is larger than the striped-sunflower seed kernel. Another option is the shelled sunflower kernels, a favorite of numbers of birds. Suet is one of the best high calorie winter foods to tempt a number of birds from woodpeckers to chickadees. And finally, in one feeder, I cater to our three species of nuthatches, titmice, the woodpeckers, Carolina wrens, bluebirds and the occasional brown creeper that prefer this high protein mix.

Eastern bluebird (S. sialis)

We hang several large capacity tubular feeders suspended from high branches, provide a platform feeder, two domed bluebird feeders, a suet feeder and supply a sprinkling of feed over the ground for juncos, doves, finches, sparrows, pine siskins. Water is furnished by using a heating element for the pond that provides a hole in the ice.

According to Audubon, studies show that it’s a myth that feeding birds makes them dependent on feeders. It’s believed that perhaps only a quarter of a bird’s diet comes from feeders except in the harshest of weather conditions. The notion that feeding birds keeps them from migrating has also been debunked. According to Audubon, bird migration is triggered by changes in the length of the day, not the availability of food. Any bird that lingers past migration is either ill, injured or lacks the ability to migrate.

But feeding birds with seeds is only part of the picture. Improving landscape habitat is the most important part of inviting birds to your garden. Garden with berries in mind, evergreens for shelter from the winter weather, and a variety of nesting sites for spring and summer. Feeding the birds is a delightful and entertaining activity, bringing them up close and personal, enriching our lives and teaching us about more about the lives of these amazing garden friends.

Enjoy the photos in this post taken by our son who is home from college for the holiday.

Carolina chickadee (P. carolinensis) cracks open a sunflower seed


Dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis) is a ground feeder


Female northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)


White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)


Male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)


Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester


A winter storm delivered some snow on Christmas Day to Hampton Roads for the first time since 1948 giving a festive atmosphere to 15 of my family members gathered in Gloucester. The landscape was sugar-coated when the last family member departed around 8:30 p.m. on the 25th.

With heavy snows overnight, we awoke this morning to a winter wonderland of white frosting views from every window in the house. Mounds of snow were piled on every horizontal surface and it was still accumulating in heavy snowfall.

I grabbed my camera and the dogs and I ventured out on a brisk, windy, snowy walk. We didn’t stay too long, just long enough to witness up close some of the works of art that Mother Nature created with snow.

Wind gusts were brisk and we were pelted by snow falling from tall trees catching us in whiteout conditions for brief moments.

Blasts of wind swirled through the woods causing heavy snow squalls obscuring the trees.

However, when there was a lull in the winds, we enjoyed magical sights of snow encrusted trees in our young woods.

Cold hands and pants soaked through, I decided 30 minutes was time enough to enjoy this delightful snowfall. The dogs and I were ready to head back to dry off in our warm home.

We arrived only to discover we had no electricity….. no heat in the house all day but mister gardener kept a roaring fire in the fireplace and we were snug and warm without electricity until 8:00 p.m. when power was restored. We were fortunate we did not have to face any travel headaches this holiday weekend. We were totally snowbound and liking it.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Total Eclipse of the Moon

July 16, 2000 eclipse

According to NASA, a rare event will occur during the wee hours of tomorrow morning, Dec. 21. A total eclipse of the full moon will occur on winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of the year

The eclipse for the East Coast will begin at approximately 1:33 a.m. with the total eclipse occurring at 3:17 a.m. when the earth’s shadow will completely cover the moon for 72 minutes.  The entire event will last around three hours and twenty-eight minutes.

Lucky for sky viewers on the East Coast who will have clear views unlike many sections of America that are under cloud cover. During the eclipse, we can watch the moon change colors from gray to yellow to orange to red at total eclipse. This phenomena of color occurs due to the indirect light from the sun passing through the earth’s atmosphere where blue hues are filtered out.

The winter solstice is the official beginning of winter with the sun at its lowest in the sky and the earth’s axis will hit full tilt. The last time these events occurred together was Dec. 21, 1638. The next time these events occur on the same calendar day will be Dec. 21, 2094, visible next time from much of Europe, Africa and Asia. Humans throughout time have honored the occasion of winter solstice with celebrations. After tomorrow, days will gradually grow longer until the summer solstice in 2011. Even though the months to come will seem just the same, thoughts turn toward spring with the eventual return of the sun.

I have set my alarm for 3 a.m and will step outside, protected by a down jacket, hat and mittens, just to witness this once in my lifetime event.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

I Love Snow!

Although I cannot tolerate frigid temperatures as I could in younger days, I am energized by a snowy day. I’m not sure why but even a light dusting of powdery snow like we had this week will lift my spirits. With the investment of warm down jackets and insulated boots to keep me toasty, I’m drawn outdoors for quiet walks in fresh fallen snow. And walks must be sooner rather than later for in our temperate Tidewater climate, it can snow today and 24 hours later it can be gone.

The snowy adventure that awaits seems to revive me from a semi dormant state of indoor life. How uplifting it is to witness Mother Nature’s artistic frosting of a lackluster and gloomy fall landscape. It is now transformed into a sugary winter wonderland. Even the most ordinary seed pod is now a goblet holding frozen crystals, or a rosebud is looking good enough to eat with a dollop of whipped snow atop. Small details you might otherwise miss in form and texture for a brief period, is boosted by the miracle of a little snow.

Daylily seed pod

Knockout rose

Kerria japonica

'Little Gem' magnolia


cattail at the pond

umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata)

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

A River of Blooms…

Last month our garden club gave a living gift to Ware Academy in Gloucester, a gift that will continue to give each spring. We planted 2,100 daffodil bulbs, the first installment of a three-year plan to plant A River of Daffodils at the school. Over 34 members of the club, husbands and children participated in the morning labor of love.

Husbands arrived on this warm, sunny morning with several truckloads of compost from Yorktown to prepare the base for the raised bed. Using a metal grid to mark evenly spaced squares, members went to work placing the bulbs selected from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. More truckloads of compost fully covered the bulbs, evenly spread by hand. A final 4 yards of pine bark supplied by husbands topped off the project.

The daffodils bulbs selected for the first year of the three year project are Pink Charm, Ice Follies, Tripartite, February Gold and Geranium. These glorious daffodils will be in bloom at Ware Academy during the community’s Daffodil Festival on March 26 – 27, 2011.  On the same weekend, the Garden Club of Gloucester will hold their 61st Annual Daffodil Show at Ware Academy, a new location for the show. Be sure to look for the new River of Daffodils and stop in and visit the show where hundreds of daffodils in a vast array of sizes and colors will be displayed.

Ware Academy is located on John Clayton Memorial Highway conveniently located between Gloucester Courthouse and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

I’m Getting Soft…

As a youngster, I watched my father stand at the window watching squirrels that were on the bird feeder watching him. “They’re nothing but rats with fuzzy tails….,” he mumbled. Gee, I thought those were harsh words. I liked the little fellas, their tails flicking and chat-chat-chat sounds as they spotted the frowning enemy looming large at the window. Like so many people around the world, my dad spent years trying to outsmart squirrels that depleted his costly sunflower seeds. Of course, nothing worked. Don’t you know you can’t outsmart a squirrel?

Later in life, when I began to feed my own birds, I was amused by the antics of those silly squirrels that seemed to jump extreme distances or drop from unseen places in trees or travel upside down on wires to reach my feeders. That feeling of amusement lasted… ummmm…. about 2 years when it was replace by annoyance… then exasperation… then anger.

Maybe it was the cost of the good bird seed I bought or maybe it’s simply in our genes but somehow I picked up my father’s quest to outsmart the rodents that raided the feeders. No longer were they cute little squirrels. They are rodents… rodents that now look at me, tails flicking with their chat-chat-chats as they view the enemy looming large in the window from their perch in the middle of my feeder. I am my father after all.  It doesn’t help that one lab hates them and guards the feeders. These squirrels wear watches. They know the dog’s schedule. When the dogs come inside, the squirrels immediately appear and have a party. I hear them on the roof. The trees quiver with activity. They walk by the windows and stand up to look at me just inches away. A taunt? Yes, I think so.

For more years that I can count, I have declared war on feeder-raiding squirrels but when I visited my daughter in Maine last week, I was amazed that she was at peace with her squirrels. Like I once was, she is amused by the antics of her squirrels. They do not eat her sunflower seeds. What’s the secret? “Roasted peanuts in the shell,” she said. The squirrels have their own feeder and they adore roasted peanuts. Her costly oil sunflower seed is close by in a platform feeder. They’re not interested in the bird feeders or the suet.  She purchases unsalted roasted peanuts for human consumption, not raw peanuts in the pet store.  So now I’m home and I’m attempting to declare my own truce with these squirrels.  I’ve placed roasted nuts on the ground and watched the squirrels. They’re still unsure of my intentions and nervously watch me as they ‘steal’ a nut and run away to eat it.  But, hey, they do love this new diet and for the past week, the peanut solution has worked. No squirrels on the bird feeders.  I do mix raw peanuts and a little corn with the roasted peanuts just because I think raw peanuts have more nutrients. I am humane! Stay tuned.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester