Today’s photos are from Susan Warde in St. Paul, Minnesota (Zone 4b).
I love ponds and waterfalls and fountains but don’t want to deal with the work they entail. So my “water feature” consists of bird baths—a dozen of them: four each in the front, side, and back gardens. Of course they too need some some attention. I clean them two or three times a week and bleach them once a season. And in the fall I need to flip the basins so the winter freeze/thaw cycles (mostly freeze in Minnesota) don’t crack them. Though none of the photos show bathers or drinkers, the birdbaths are heavily patronized—and not just by avian visitors. Squirrels and chipmunks come regularly, and once I even saw a fox drinking, a real treat in the middle of the city.
The crows favor this birdbath in the spring, dunking their snacks in it. I find things like soggy bagels and the entrails of unfortunate small mammals, so for a period of time it needs daily cleaning. In the foreground are sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis, Zones 4–8), a Hosta (Zones 3–9), and a daylily (Hemerocallis hybrid, Zones 3–8). Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana, Zones 3–9) to the right of and behind the birdbath is just opening. Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Zones 5–9), phlox (Phlox paniculata, Zones 4–8), and rudbeckia (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’, Zones 3–9) are also visible.
In this photo from the side yard are astilbes (the one on the left is ‘Vision in Red’; I don’t know the name of the pink ones) and ‘Happy Returns’ daylily. The evergreen is Thuja occidentalis ‘Yellow Ribbon’ (Zones 3–7).
A small birdbath along the side path is almost hidden by a tall bearded iris (Iris ‘Sultry Mood’, Zones 3–9). The yellow blossoms are globe flower (Trollius × cultorum ‘Cheddar’, Zones 4–7), and the pink ones are a geranium (Geranium sanguineum, Zones 3–9).
I have a good view of this birdbath from the kitchen window. It’s near the bird feeders and is thus in frequent use. Decorated with snowdrops, it matches a planter on the back steps that contains herbs. More ‘Vision in Red’ astilbes light up this shady area under a small maple; I think the pink ones are Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Sprite’ (Zones 3–9). There are Japanese painted ferns (Athyium niponicum var. pictum, Zones 3–8), a tall glade fern (Diplasium pycnocarpon, Zones 3–8), and a large Lenten rose (Helleborus × nigercors ‘Winter Star’, Zones 5–9), one of the earliest plants to flower in the garden. The hostas, which have become a ground cover in this spot, are ‘Blue Mouse Ears’. Small creeping irises (Iris cristata, Zones 3–9) are in the foreground, and the chartreuse flower clusters in the lower right are lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis, Zones 3–8).
If you look closely you may be able to see the fern design on the supports of the bench. Perched on top of it is my smallest birdbath. Goldfinches especially are attracted to this one, but this past week a catbird has been bathing in it, without much room to spare. That’s Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ (Zones 3–9) in the background, doing well after having been severely “pruned” by rabbits last winter. The ferns are Japanese painted fern (flanking the bench) and bulblet fern (Cystopteris bulbifera, Zones 3–8) in front. The tiny hostas are ‘Cameo.’
Here’s another low birdbath in the back garden, surrounded by more wild ginger (left) and a mat of Sedum ‘John Creech’ (Zones 3–8). Hostas and ostrich fern (Matteucia struthiopteris, Zones 3–7) form a backdrop.
I need help flipping the top of my largest birdbath, seen here among ferns. The ones arching over the kitty are long beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis, Zones 2–5). To the left are more Japanese painted ferns. Behind the birdbath you can see ‘Lady in Red’ (Athyrium felix-femina var. angustum, Zones 4–8) and to the left of them the fertile fronds of royal fern (Osmunda regalis, Zones 3–9). The small maple is Acer × pseudosieboldianum ‘North Wind’ (Zones 4–8), a replacement for a tree that snapped in half during a heavy snowstorm last April 1.
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