Our garden of Eden is visited by hummingbirds, dragonflies, butterflies, frogs and toads, hawks, squirrels, a resident pair of doves, blue jays, crows, flickers, a few hawks and a large assortment of smaller local birds. 2003 saw two humming bird nests, two Mockingbird nests in the roses bushes with three hungry babies and a precarious but successful dove nest. Hummingbird moths frequent the bunny garden.
An oasis in such a hot climate makes an appealing area for both humans and critters. Some of the factors include immense greenery, seclusion, waterfalls and ponds, birdbaths, bird feeders, birdhouses, squirrel feeders, tall eucalyptus trees, flowering vine covered fences, and tall sunflowers in the summer.
The plants in the yard are selected not only for their durability in our zone, but for their uniqueness and usefulness. Food is specifically provided for hummers, birds, cats and bunnies.
The vines that cover the fences provide privacy and seclusion, provide nesting and nectar for the hummers, and easily propagated for friends and family. The vines currently include clematis, honeysuckle, several different trumpet vines, a bower vine, star jasmine, a red passion flower, pink jasmine, wisteria, morning glory and flowering maple. The clematis is the best thing in the world to make wreaths with.
Plants selected for the hummers include Lily of the Nile, Carolina Jasmine, a Catalpa tree, salvia, far too many to list. See the plant list here and look for the key "H" on the right column.
Hummingbird feeders are place on each side of the house and remain all year as the Anna's are year long visitors. The nectar (homemade, 4 cups of water to one cup of sugar) is changed regularly and every other day during the hot season. Calculations say we are feeding almost a dozen hummers full time. The hummers build nests in the clematis every year, usually three to five feet above the ground. More about our named hummers here.
There are three very tall eucalyptus trees in the far corner of the property behind the shop. There are several hawk nests in it, a few red tailed hawks and during the summer literally hundreds of dragonflies hum around them. The dragonflies frequent the ponds constantly. The hummers hang there, too, along with the local vocal crows. When you are working in the shop you can hear constant "plunk!" noises on the tin roof. I highly suspect crows dropping things like walnut, pecan and peanut shells. Notice none of those trees on our property. The shop is also a wonderful place to be in the rain. The trees provide nesting material for the birds, bark for my birdhouses and seed pods for wreaths.
Spring time is always so grand. It takes us about a month to stop grabbing each other and saying, "Look! Look!" The Butterfly house is finally built and up in the herb garden. Plants chosen to feed these delicate creatures are here.
Every so often, a frog, or a toad will show up in the ponds. When David found the first one, I really did not believe him. Then I saw that head and those huge eyes lurking just above the water line and apologized for days. This guy was huge! We noticed a severe decline in the baby fish and I chased Froggie away. I felt quite bad about it later and bought David a green plastic frog, the kind for the bathtub, and he cheerfully sits on a lily pad and doesn't eat baby fish. In the winter, he keeps the hot tub yellow rubber ducky company.
The red tailed squirrels are a delight to watch. Pooh, the cat who thinks she is a dog, will sit up on a trellis near the walnut basket and drool. Ever since we chopped down the dying walnut tree, we buy, borrow, beg and steal walnuts for these guys. Two walnut squirrel feeders are placed so that we can watch the squirrels come get their nuts from the bedroom. The tree system in town is so that these squirrely characters can travel anywhere they want, and they do! I find walnut trees growing out of every pot in the yard. The dogs seem to keep the squirrels on their side of the house by barking at them and I have never had them bother something they weren't supposed to. Well, I have never caught them.
A pair of lovely doves, forever found sitting side by side, have lived in the immediate area for several years now. They are fed from feeder in the driveway, and are always outside on the poles to say good morning.
The bluejays are the most annoying, taking anything they can get their hands on and irritating the mama hummers on purpose. It is terribly funny to see them try and get the squirrel food and manage to fly away with it. We buy them peanuts, black sunflower seeds, walnuts and other birdfoods as found in the markets. Then, I made friends with Peanut, who has me, over the last few years, well trained. More on Peanut here. 2009: Sadly, Peanut left us, his fate unknown, but we are fairly certain we are now feeding Sunnapea, Son of Peanut.
My first Hummingbird Moth drew a gasp from me. Besides being quite large, they are exquisite. They hover over flowers and extract the nectar JUST like a hummingbird. Ok, I screamed when I saw my first June bug.
The greenery is just that, as green as we can find, preferring evergreens to deciduous. In spring we fill up all the areas that have diminished during the winter and make the yard as full as humanly possible. Seeds are started in the greenhouse by the middle of February, the vegetable garden is year round.
The largest waterfall is on the east pondside, which drops from the large upper built up wooden 700 gallon tank with the fish to the lower, ground level cement pond with a bridge connecting the east front with the walnut area. The sound from this waterfall can almost be heard in the front yard and never fails to soothe the spirit. It is the most active area for visitors, human and creature. The lower pond is also Ralf's (border collie) bathtub.
A new waterfall, being rebuilt again is on the back side of the house. It is built out of Yosemite slate and channels to a smaller, in ground cement pond. It's a work in progress.
Three large wine tubs form the waterfall in northern Africa, right next to the hot tub. Water irises live there, and the atmosphere is quite soothing sitting in the tub.
One winetub and a frog spout is placed on the forest deck, just outside the winter atrium. Cala lilies live there, and it is another dog drinking bowl. David had to build a wrought iron frame to set inside the tub to keep Ralf out of it.
The last waterfall is a commercial type, placed in the winter atrium to help provide humidity for the potted plants. This is Pooh's swimming pool and drinking fountain.
The waterfalls are grand (and really easy) to make. The few lessons I learned are priceless and are here:
More about the ponds, fish and pond maintenance here.
Local birds sighted and identified are: White Turtle Ring necked Doves, Common Ground Doves, Flickers, Robins, Junko, White Crowned Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, Black Billed Magpie, Scrub Bluejay, Anna Hummingbirds and Black Chin Hummingbirds, Northern Mockingbird, Snowy Egret, Blue Heron, American Crow, Towhee, and even a Cedar Wax Wing this year.
Some great garden links are here