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Welcome to My Jungle - April, 2016

Bird feeders, though wonderful for feeding and bringing feathered friends in close, require regular maintenance to maintain the health of visiting birds and visual appeal of the garden. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, feeders should be hand cleaned about once every two weeks with soap and boiling water or a dilute bleach solution (no more than 1 part bleach to 9 parts water), and then allowed to dry thoroughly before refilling. This process not only removes unsightly bird droppings and other contaminants that potentially spread infectious bird diseases, but it also serves to remove any moldy or decomposing seeds and hulls that tend to accumulate in cracks and crevices, which can also make birds sick.

Another challenge with bird feeders is everything that drops to the ground. Beyond bird droppings, hulls and grain fillers that birds don't seem to prefer end up on the ground and results in a combination of moldy spoiled food and a weedy mess from uneaten seeds that have germinated. To reduce some of this, purchase no-waste bird food or single-type seeds like sunflowers that are more highly preferred by most seed-eating backyard birds. Not only will you notice less on the ground, but you will notice an increase in visits. Also, rake away seed residue under feeders regularly. By keeping the area clean, you are also providing a healthier environment for ground feeding birds to come in and clean up any seeds that do make it to the ground.

Plant acquisition for the Jungle has begun in earnest. One nursery surprisingly shipped the first week of February, necessitating the purchase of a rolling covered plant stand to store and protect plants until a more suitable planting time. Once anchored with a cement block, this easy to assemble/disassemble and quite reasonably priced ($39.99) greenhouse has been quite useful.

One plant being trialed this year in the Jungle is Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Snow Cream'- Oriental Paperbush. Given a specimen is growing outside quite nicely at the Missouri Botanical Garden (Bulb Gardens), it seemed a safer risk to acquire and not kill such a gorgeous shrub even though most sources site USDA 7b as its bottom end of hardiness. Edgeworthia is a member of the Daphne Family (Thymelaeaceae) and its bark fibers are traditionally used for making handmade Japanese tissue and paper. In addition, fragrant, golden yellow flowers are borne in pendulous clusters on branch tips from mid-February to early-April. At the end of bloom, dark green lanceolate leaves (3-5") begin emerging to add an uncommon texture to the garden design.

As mentioned last year, this is the time to order fall-planted bulbs before you physically and mentally get too worn out from spring planting. When they come in the fall, you'll groan at the work still ahead of you, but you'll be singing your own praises the following spring.