NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

A Gardening Journal

Nature in the Garden: Birds in the Belgian Fence

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A Belgian Fence is any line of trees that are trained into a diamond grid.  Fruit trees, usually—being on a slant helps the branches fruit more heavily—but I had decided on beeches, instead.  This wasn't just a Belgian fence, then.  It was the world's first Belgian fence of beeches.

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A Belgian fence is formed of trees that are trained into a diamond grid.  Fruit trees, usually—being on a slant helps the branches fruit more heavily—but I decided on beeches instead.  This wasn't just a Belgian fence, then.  It was the world's first Belgian fence of beeches.  Heavens. 

 

August is the month to groom the beeches, to tie-in the new growth as well as clip off branches that aren't helpful in creating the grid.  In short, to turn free-range Nature into geoemetric Nature.

 

But then some unfettered Nature brought my work to a pause.  It had suddenly become very noisy around the fence.  Birds weren't just chirping as normal for (I'm proud to say) a certified wildlife habitat, they were shrieking.  Dripping in the August heat, I was too dazed to figure things out quickly. 

 

Just as I got ready to work on the vertical pipe up which, over the years, I'd coaxed a weeping cedar of Lebanon to drape, the noise swelled into true cacophony.

 

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Clippers still in hand, I finally got it.  A small bird's nest in the cedar, only three feet off the ground and full of a pair of chicks.

 

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Closer:  The left one is eyeing me, either from a snooze or out of a paralyzing terror.  The right one is still open-mouthed with interest—or maybe horror at this clumsy giant who had come so close to destroying their lives.

 

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Mom wasn't satisfied that this lumbering human still wasn't going to bring harm, so she continued to flit from perch to perch, hoping to distract me from her babies with loud chirps.  Here she is about eight feet away, atop a "quiver" of rebar.

 

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Seconds later, she's flown a quick ten feet to the west, on the top wire of the other section of the Belgian fence.

 

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Then fifteen feet southeast, to the top pipe of the rose pergola. 

 

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Only I could restore peace to this family, by taking my gaze from the nest and working somewhere else in the garden.  And so this section of the Belgian fence won't get its annual August pruning until later in September, when this late-Summer brood had fledged and flown. 

 

But what if I hadn't figured out in time that the birds were nesting in the cedar, and had shaken the nest to the ground as I gleefully rampaged over the Belgian fence?  It's one thing to train the beeches with fearless fervor; beeches enjoy or a least tolerate pruning no matter how eccentric or enthusiastic.  But nesting birds must have their space and their security.  Suddening chomping through the limb that nestled their nest?  Catastrophy; a sin against Nature.  How could I have been so ignorant, so oblivious? 

 

What good is it to have created certified wildlife habitat (let alone a unique-in-New-England nesting spot in a trained cedar of Lebanon) if the gardener's too dim to stop himself from becoming Darth Vadar to that very wildlife?

 

Gardening is so much about looking at Nature and then responding to it.  About letting yourself see details you'd been too busy or too hasty to see before.  All the more painful, then, for this gardener almost to have not seen—or even heard—what danger I was creating.  I'll do better, I promise. 

 

Here's a closer look at the two forms of European beech that I'm using to create this Belgian fence: Fagus sylvatica 'Ansorgei' and F. sylvatica 'Luteovariegata'.

 
 
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