Written by an area Landscape Architect and birdwatcher with over 30 years of experience with landscaping in north Texas: what works and what doesn't. Emphasis on attracting birds to north Texas yards, and reducing required yard maintenance. Tips, trivia and proven advice for a natural, low-cost approach for this unique and sensitive part of the country.
are good – necessities to most birds – but a very common misstep is putting a birdhouse near a birdfeeder. Feeders
should be in very visible locations. When a bird sees it and it’s safe, they
fly to the feeder and often eat neaerbny. Consequently, there can be a lot of activity near a feeder.
the other hand, a birdhouse (sometimes called a nestbox) should be in a
somewhat secretive, almost hidden place. This is where incubation takes place,
and baby birds are raised. Lots of activity and high visibility are big negatives. A
few species (like Wrens and Swallows) don’t mind this, but most avoid nesting
near a high-activity area.
main thing that prospective bird parents look for is the availability of insects.After all, almost all nestling birds eat
insects – not seed. So a nearby birdfeeder is definitely not a bonus.
One of north
Texas’ most common birds is the Tufted Titmouse. Primarily these medium-sized, mostly gray
birds eat seeds.But about 40% of their
diet is ants, beetles, wasps, insect eggs, spiders, bees and their favorite -
caterpillars. If you spray your whole yard with bug poison forget about having Titmice or many other species of birds.
YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect
emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is a
recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas,
and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA),
International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation
and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net
When I started my formal education
in Landscape Architecture last century (really!) my professor gave me some
advice we can all use. “If you only have a modest bit of money to spend for a
landscape design,” he told me “spend most of it on a large tree to serve as an
anchor to the landscape design.”
In design terminology, a large tree
is the “formgiver” that landscapes often crave. It’s the anchor around which
all other landscape elements revolve.In
everyday terms, trees can reduce your heating and air conditioning costs
considerably. Trees help clean the air. Trees add beauty and color.Trees provide shelter from the rain and sun.
Trees can be home to many different kinds of wildlife including birds. At the top of most
lists, also, is that trees add considerable value to your home.
To that list I’d add that trees let
us live. In one year, two healthy mature trees produce roughly the amount of
oxygen breathed in by the average adult during that same year (Think of that
the next time a tree is cut down).
Choosing the right tree for your
yard is a decision not to be made hastily. Here are six guidelines to help you
make the right choice;
SIZE – To the amazement of some, trees grow bigger every year. A
large tree is called a “canopy” tree. Examples for the north Texas area are pecan, bur
oak, cedar elm and green ash. Small decorative trees are called "understory”
trees. They include redbud, Mexican plum and yaupon holly. Make sure the tree
you select has a size that won’t have you cutting it back every year.
– A mature tree has a very distinct shape. It may be tall & thin,
spreading, oval, or several other shapes. Of course, a new, young tree
(whatever the species) looks something like a stick. But this will certainly
change. Also look at a tree’s branching habit. Some trees (magnolia for
instance) have branches near the ground. Others (like cedar elm and most oaks)
branch about eye-level.
– Sure, every tree is green at some time. But you may want one that’s
perpetually green – or “evergreen”. Several species have vibrant fall color
(like sweetgum, blackjack oak and persimmon). Maybe you want nice flowers?
– All trees need good drainage (3 or 4
hours after a heavy rain, no water should still be puddled there). A few
kinds can take poor drainage, but none thrive in it. So choose a location where
water doesn’t stand.
Good drainage is particularly
important during the first few years a tree spends in the ground – when it
needs water frequently. After that, especially if you’ve planted a native tree
like redbud, pecan, red oak, juniper etc., it should be watered only in extreme
and prolonged drought. So avoid planting a tree in the middle of your lawn, which you’ll
probably water frequently. Frequent watering stunts a tree's growth.
– There’s not a tree alive that doesn’t need light. Different species, however,
do best in differing light conditions. If you plant a species that likes full
sun, in dappled shade, it may live. But it won’t grow much, and will look
sickly all the time.
Printed tags on trees often say
“full sun” or “partial shade”, but add your own common sense. Remember that the
tag was a probably written by someone who lives somewhere else – where “full
sun” means something other than what it means in Texas.
CARE – Most trees
native to north Texas
demand very little maintenance from you. Just the occasional fertilization (Maybe none, depending on your soil),
perhaps a pruning of a branch that’s hanging over a sidewalk, or an occasional
light watering (necessary in a drought
only). Native trees have evolved to withstand most insects and diseases,
thrive in our poor soil and require very little water.
Faddish, aggressively marketed, non-native trees
(like austree and royal paulonia), on the other hand, often require a lot of
ongoing, expensive care.
Why am I telling you this now? Since we’re
in “the south”, an ideal time to plant any tree is right now, when it's dormant – up until spring. So get busy!
OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape
Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years.
He is the recipient of a
Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the
American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of
Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His
office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.