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Winter Garden Hues: Birds of a ‘Colorful’ Feather

In the Northeast, we love our change in seasons. And around this time each year, as winter is on the horizon, Deck and Patio’s blog has offered ideas on trees and bushes whose bark or berries bring color to winter gardens.

Today, however, we’re focusing on a very special and even more lively source of winter garden beauty: colorful avian visitors that can be enticed with just a little effort on our part.



Take the bright red plumage of the Cardinal. The male’s full-bodied red actually gets more striking during winter.

This is when some of their remaining gray-tipped feathers fall off, showing even more vibrant red.

What a picture they make resting on icy branches and snow.

“If you want to attract them, Cardinals love black oil sunflower and safflower seeds,” says Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, NY.

It’s helpful to note that Cardinals usually eat early in the morning or late in the evening so make sure feeders are well stocked at these times. Also, being a larger bird, they prefer a larger feeder that won’t sway too much as they eat.


Blue Jays

Blue Jays are another colorful bird that stays around in winter.

These gorgeous birds love to congregate in groups come winter. They also will squirrel food away. Some have witnessed Blue Jays hiding nuts in trees.

And as for sound, they have been known to scare off other birds by imitating the call of hawks.



“They also like nuts and peanuts,” says Vultaggio.

“I use a peanut wreath and fill it with shelled peanuts. This type of feeder attracts a lot of Blue Jays.

They are such fun to watch — not to mention they add a lot of color against the white landscape.”





Chickadees prefer the same type of seeds as the Cardinal: black oil sunflower and safflower. Vultaggio is also delighted by their sounds — ‘they actually say chickadee when they sing.”

Chickadees are vibrant even though, as part of the Titmouse family, they are known for their gray color and lighter bellies.

“They dine primarily on insects, seeds and berries,” adds Vultaggio. “They are active and agile little birds. These little acrobats are a delight to watch when they hang upside down from twigs or at your feeder.




Additional Birds

Vulraggio also puts out suet in winter, which she says attracts other birds including woodpeckers.

“A bird bath is also important. Water is often scarce in the dead of winter.

Of course, you don’t want the water to ice up and there are lots of bird bath heaters, including solar heated bird baths.

Pictured here is a Heated Deck-Mounted Birdbath by Allied Precision.

“You’ll also find that in winter these birds tend to appear in groups since many eyes make it safer to watch out for predators. Birds are such a wonderful way to add color to your winter garden.”





To achieve color through flora, a previous Deck and Patio blog includes a fairly comprehensive list of flora that will help “lift winter doldrums with outdoor color and texture” — information that we put together also with the help of Sandra Vultaggio.

Winterberry (shown here) is a great example of the color and texture available in winter. This dramatic and colorful bush is from a species of the deciduous holly family and is native to the Northeast.

A slow grower, it loses its leaves each autumn. And, birds love the berries…what more needs to be said.


By |2017-11-16T13:35:00+00:00November 16th, 2017|Gardening, Landscaping, outdoor maintenance, Seasonal Landscapes|Comments Off on Winter Garden Hues: Birds of a ‘Colorful’ Feather

April Gardening is For the Birds: Some “To Do’s” and “Not To Do’s”

Today’s garden planning goes well beyond simply color and texture. Some of the delights of outdoor living are the amazing creatures our gardens and water features attract.

With that in mind, below are some “to do” and “not to do” lawn/garden ideas for the month of April that we put together with the help of Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension.


April “To Do’s”

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

During March and April many birds migrate back up north. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, for example, make their home in Mexico and Central America during winter, and are already en route to our neck of the woods.

So if you want to invite them to your yard, it’s time to fill hummingbird feeders etc. As for blooms, Vultaggio says that these hummingbirds particularly love rhododendrons and azaleas. “They also love Columbine, which they track as they move north.”


Oriolefest feeder

Oriolefest feeder

Other delightful birds — e.g., the Baltimore Oriole and certain Warblers — also arrive on Long Island and other areas of the Northeast in April.

Oriole migration coincides with that of hummingbirds, says Vultaggio — arriving usually a week ahead of their smaller rapid-flapping friends. For the Orioles, she puts out oranges, which they love.

Like hummingbirds, Orioles winter in Mexico and Central and South America. It’s worth planning for their arrival because they don’t stay around long. They begin migrating south again in August. So get your Oriole-feeders out early.



“When it comes to bees, which have been on the decline in alarming numbers, some suggest that we leave dandelions in our lawns for them,” says Vultggio. For while hummingbirds, etc. are going after nectar, the bees are in search of pollen,” she says.

This means it’s a good idea to cultivate both pollen and nectar producing plants, adds Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

“Indeed, we recommend sufficient seasonal plantings so that the right blooms appear from early spring into late fall. We also suggest that you plant them in clusters to provide havens for birds and pollinators.”

Dave says that early April is also a great time to clean and repair any bird houses so they’ll be ready for birds to nest.


April “Not to Do’s” 


“April is a good time of year to postpone any severe pruning you might want to do,” says Vultaggio. “This time of year is usually mating season, and squirrels and birds are busy building their nests.”

“You don’t want to be cutting down trees while these creatures are nesting. Also, it’s helpful to the birds if you don’t make a thorough clean up of your yard during spring maintenance. Leave behind loose twigs and leaves for them to build their nests.”

During April, gardeners often find it necessary to go after insects and pests that might destroy their garden. This can mean applying fungicide or spraying insecticides.

“Be sure that when you do this, not to spray the blooming trees and shrubs. You don’t want to harm birds, bees and other pollinating insects,” adds Dave Stockwell.


Finally, Vultaggio says that doing a few things — and not doing some others — will help attract all the beautiful creatures we want to enjoy when outdoors. In fact, right now, she is daily tracking the 2017 migration of hummingbirds to our area in the Northeast.

“I went to just this morning. And guess what? They were already in Virginia.”



2016 Baltimore Oriole Sighting on Long Island:

2016 Baltimore Oriole Sighting on Long Island:

This photo of a Baltimore Oriole was taken by Sandra Vultaggio last spring. Note: yellow/orange Helianthus and pink Zinnias in her garden make a perfect spot for her feeder. “The feeder is actually a hummingbird feeder,” says Vultaggio, “but Orioles will feed from it as well.”