How to Bird Watch Like A Pro

There are so many things to love about Springtime: longer days, warmer temperatures, and color bursting from every branch in the form of leaves, flowers and backyard birds. 

 

Bird watching: it sounds like a hobby for old folks, right? The truth is, bird watching is nature’s yoga. Whether you go on a hike and actively search for birds or simply gaze out of a window, bird watching has proved to be excellent for reducing stress. It has even been shown to aid in calming and lifting the mood of dementia patients. Nursing homes that have created outdoor spaces to attract feathered friends have found that they have been able to reduce medication in patients who regularly participate in bird watching. 

 

You can easily attract more birds to your own backyard with a few simple elements:

 

1. Water

Birds are naturally attracted to water, not only to drink, but also to bathe. Birdbaths are a great addition to any yard or garden. Be sure to change the water every two to three days, if it lasts that long. Vigorous bathing or high temperatures can leave your birdbath dry in less than a day. However if you really want to attract more birds, install a water fountain. The sound of running water is a bird magnet, drawing them to the water source. The Elements 4 Life store has a variety of fountains in styles from formal to whimsical to contemporary. 

 

2. Food

Birds have many natural food sources in the spring, summer and fall, when berries, seeds and insects are plentiful. However they enjoy feeders as well. A variety of feeders placed around your yard will attract a larger variety of birds. Finches love thistle feeders, woodpeckers love suet feeders, and cardinals and other ground-feeding birds will appreciate a platform feeder full of sunflower seeds, safflower kernels or millet.

 

3. Shelter

Shelter can be shrubs, a brush pile, a nest in a tree, or a birdhouse. Birds use shelter to protect themselves from predators and the elements. Mockingbirds love holly bushes, and blue birds will build a perfect pine straw nest in a properly placed bird box. 

 

4. Foliage 

By planting a variety of foliage in your backyard you will attract a variety of birds. Different bird species have their preferences of foliage to call home. Shrubs under 5 feet tall, short trees and tall trees with sturdy branches are all prime bird real estate. 

 

If you really find yourself enjoying creating a backyard bird habitat, visit the National Wildlife Federation at www.nwf.org for more information on how to garden for wildlife to learn to attract more than just birds!

How to make your Charlotte Spring blooms last

There’s no denying it, spring has sprung in the Queen City! And Charlotteans are excited about it.  After a cold, wet and dreary February, nothing feels better than putting away my boots and breaking out the flip-flops. 

Everywhere you look our beautiful native trees are bursting with color, seemingly reflecting our own welcome to the warm weather and sunshine. The early bloomers, including redbuds, Bradford pears, tulip magnolias, forsythia and cherry trees are putting on a show in every backyard, on every neighborhood street and along every greenway right now. Sadly their show is short-lived as their blooms make way for almost equally stunning bright green leaves. 

I love to prolong my enjoyment of the spring show by cutting some flowering branches and making arrangements for my tabletops. That’s right, tree branches. It doesn’t have to grow on a stem to be put in a vase. Using flowering tree branches is an inexpensive and fun way to bring a fresh and natural look to any room. I like to get creative by cutting branches of different species of trees, with blooms of different colors and sizes, and just playing with the arrangement.  While I have quite a few flowering trees in my own yard, every year I find myself envious of the gorgeous redbud in my neighbor’s yard. And every year I ask her if I may cut a few small branches from it. I cut what I need for my arrangement and enough to present her with an arrangement, which includes blooms from my own trees. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to score some good-neighbor points and make someone’s day!

 

Cutting blooms from trees is a little different than cutting fresh flowers. Here are some tips to make a long-lasting floral arrangement from flowering tree branches:

 

Cut branches in the morning while the air is still cool.

 

Have your supplies ready. You’ll need a bucket of cool (not cold) water, sharp scissors or gardening shears, and a vase that fits the size of the arrangement you want to create. Don’t have a great vase? Come check out our newest vases, jars, pots and containers at The Elements 4 Life. We have a great selection of sizes, shapes & colors to compliment your décor!

 

Once you cut your branches, place them directly into your bucket of water.  Choose a variety of flowers of varying sizes, shapes and colors to create an interesting arrangement. (Cut branches from the back side of trees and shrubs so you can still enjoy the view.)

 

Once you’ve collected all of your branches, remove the leaves from the lower portion of the branch (the portion that will be under water in the vase.) Otherwise the leaves will decay in the water, drastically shortening the life of your arrangement. 

 

Have your vase ready and filled with cool water. You can prepare a home- made flower preservative to add to your water, which will extend the life of your arrangement:

 

Mix 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of household bleach, and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice per 1 quart of water. The sugar is food, the bleach keeps it clean and the lemon juice keeps it acidic which helps with absorption. 

 

Remove your branches from the bucket of water and cut an additional inch off of the bottom, at a 45-degree angle.  Woody branches will also appreciate a small (1/2 to 1 inch) vertical cut to draw the water up the branch. Hold the branch under water while cutting if possible. This will prevent air from entering the branch. Place your freshly cut branch directly into the vase.   

 

Display your arrangement out of direct sun and change the water frequently, re-cutting the branches if necessary. 

 

We would love to see your flowering branch arrangements! Email your photos to amy@theelements4life.com. We would love to share your creations on our Facebook and Instagram!