“Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.” ~ Wizard of Oz
Bluebirds are a joy to see with their beautiful blue plumage. Their coloring has been said to resemble the blue sky above and the red dirt below! Three kinds of Bluebirds call Texas home, the Eastern, Mountain, and Western. The Eastern Bluebird is the one most commonly seen in the Parker County area. They are useful around houses and farms as they have a hearty appetite for many kinds of insects.
What to plant
Bluebirds prefer open grassy areas with small trees and shrubs. In addition to insects, bluebirds eat berries and fruits. Some good native trees and shrubs to plant in the north-central Texas area include Yaupon and Possum Haw Holly, Rough Leaf Dogwood, Elbow Bush, Eastern Red Cedar, and Pokeberry.
When to prepare
January – March is time to get bluebird houses out. Bluebirds begin nesting in late February – early March. If you have existing houses, clean them out at this time. do go ahead and remove old nests. A bluebird nest is neat and tidy, constructed mostly of grass. By comparison, an English Sparrow nest is sloppy and made with various materials, twigs, paper, string etc..
Use a house that can be opened, preferably from the side, so that it can be cleaned out yearly. An easy way to mount a house, drive a 4’ piece of rebar into the ground about 2’. Slide a 6 to 7 ft galvanized steel pipe over the rebar. the smooth steel pipe makes it harder for predators ( snakes, cats, raccoons) to get access to the nest box. Mount the houses at about 5-6 feet. English Sparrows are also a threat to nesting bluebirds. If you notice sparrows trying to nest in a bluebird house, remove their nesting material. You might have to do this several times before the sparrows give up and go look for a house elsewhere.
Female birds will lay 4-5 eggs. The male Bluebirds will bring food to the female while she is nesting. Eggs will hatch in 13-15 days. Male and female will help feed the young for about a month till the young birds can find food on their own.
So thankful for the rain we got recently. My plants were really getting thirsty! I don’t water my landscape much. I’ve tried to plant mostly drought-tolerant plants in my yard. Most all of them have survived the drought this summer.
Here are some of the drought tolerant plants that have made it in my landscape with no extra watering, just what little rain that we had this summer.
Texas Sage – (pictured above) A shrub for full sun and well-drained soil. Nice purple flowers!
Rough Leaf Dogwood – These are very versatile shrubs, they grow in sun to shade, soil preference from dry to seasonal poor drainage. Useful for erosion control and as a screen under trees. Many species of birds feed on the white berries that ripen in the fall.
Mexican Oregano – I’ve grown this plant for years. I didn’t water it at all this year and it has suffered, but it is still alive! Covered with lavender-colored flowers all season, the hummingbirds love this plant. The leaves are edible, and the plant is also deer resistant.
Agave – Of course, there are quite a few varieties of agaves that do well here. One of my favorites is the Whales Tongue Agave. They really make a statement in the landscape and there is no need for supplemental watering.
Possum Haw Holly – A very versatile small tree, it will take full sun to dappled shade. The female trees will have bright red berries that stay on the tree from fall to early spring, (until the Cedar Waxwings arrive!)
Autumn Sage ( Salvia greggii) – A shrubby perennial that blooms from spring to fall. It takes full sun to partial shade. These salvias are very drought-tolerant but bloom much better with occasional watering. Hummingbirds and butterflies both like this plant.
All of these plants that I’ve mentioned are well established in my landscape. Anything newly planted in the landscape will need supplemental watering the first couple of years at least.
Well, I hope we get nice rains this fall and winter and average temperatures!
I went outside this morning to water some plants in my front yard. I made my way to the pot of Pink Flamingo Celosia which has been growing nicely & blooming. I love this plant because it provides great nourishment for the butterflies. To my utter shock, the leaves and flowers were stripped bare. They even managed to pull one plant up by the roots! I guess the deer were hungry last night! They have munched on it a couple of other times, but not to this extent. Every evening at dusk, I watch the deer go across our front yard; I suppose going to greener pastures across the street. There are always at least 2 or 3 does and several fawns. Last night there were a few bucks with them. I don’t mind sharing my Celosia with them (although I wish they’d leave a little for the butterflies)!
Urban sprawl and deer-resistant plants
Urban sprawl is certainly impacting these deer, and they are being forced to live in smaller and smaller islands of habitat throughout the region. So, I guess if my plants look tasty to them…they won’t hesitate to eat.
However, I also have several kinds of salvia planted which they leave alone. Keep in mind, “deer-resistant” doesn’t mean deer will never try these plants, just that they don’t prefer them.
Here are a few more plants that deer don’t seem to bother:
Texas Mountain Laurel
When considering a landscape design, it is important to decide what your preferences are regarding attracting wildlife. If you like seeing them and don’t mind sharing your plants, there are many native plants that can provide benefits to these critters. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to keep your plants bite-free, you can still find a great variety of plants (both native and ornamental) that can meet your needs.
At Stuart Nursery you can also purchase, Plantskydd, a deer repellent product. It comes in a liquid or a granular to sprinkle on the ground. It is organic. If you have deer in your area and you have new trees planted you might want to protect the trunk against rubbing with some fencing. Sometimes just three or four t-posts installed around the trunk will keep them away.
With all the new development and building in Parker county, deer are losing their ‘stomping grounds’. By using deer-resistant plants and possibly deer repellents hopefully, we can learn to live with them!