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Gift ideas for gardeners
Q. Last week you gave us some ideas about Christmas presents for gardeners in general. How about some ideas for a gardener interested in birds?
A. Gardeners with a special interest in attracting birds to the landscape need a copy of Attracting Birds to Southern Gardens by Thomas Pope, Neil Odenwald, and Charles Fryling Jr. There are lots of good books from the north on attracting birds, but this book is superior for southern gardeners. They do an especially good job of covering hummingbirds.
Does your gardener feed the birds? If he or she does or would if the squirrels could be controlled, consider buying them an Absolute brand steel bird feeder with weight-sensitive perch. The squirrels can’t chew through it and the feed hopper closes to anything heavier than a cardinal, if that is the way you set the weight-sensitive perch. They work very well. Absolute steel feeders sell at $29.95 and up.
If your gardener appreciates the value of birds in the landscape but doesn’t need a squirrel-proof bird feeder, you might want to consider a purple martin house, complete with telescoping pole. It is a more expensive gift, ranging from $100 to more than $200.
Q. Are any of the winter annuals deer-proof? I tried pansies, but they disappeared in one day!
A. The deer do not eat snapdragons in my neighborhood.
Q. On your radio show, you mentioned an onion that had more pungency than the sweet onions on the market now. What was it and where can we get it?
A. The onion is “Creole Red.” Dixondale Farms is the wholesale producer. Check and see if your local retail nursery has it. If not, go to the Dixondale website, www.dixondalefarms.com.
Q. Which tomato has the most cold tolerance?
A. Tomatoes aren’t bred for cold tolerance. All need to be protected from freezing temperatures.
Q. What are the shrubs I see with the small red fruits? The plants can be 10 or 12 feet tall. They also seem to have thorns. Do the birds eat them?
A. It sounds like you are describing firethorn or pyracantha. They make excellent ornamental shrubs and small trees. They can be espaliered or hedged. The birds love the fruit. They are eaten after the first freeze softens them.
Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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