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Songbirds and Fragrance in the Garden

Here's a photo -- by excellent wildlife photographer Bud Hensley -- that neatly summarizes an important aspect of this issue. Similar to hummingbirds, songbirds love salvias. Although some songbirds, such as orioles, enjoy sage nectar, most love sage seed. Look closely at Hensley's photo to see the seed in this cute goldfinch's beak as it perches on a fragrant Salvia coccinea.

Many plants in the Salvia genus have pleasingly fragrant foliage. Some have good smelling flowers as well, such as Grape Scented Sage (S. melissodora). If you plant salvias, you create an intoxicating treat for your sense of smell as well as a cafeteria for songbirds. As you deadhead flowers throughout the growing season, remember to allow some to go to seed so they can feed the birds. In autumn, don't tidy the garden too much, because food is scarce for songbirds in winter. Plus perennial salvias are more likely to return the following spring if you wait until then for pruning.

The links in this issue include information about Cornell University's free mobile app for bird identification, ideas for attracting songbirds to your garden and hummingbird recordings from Audubon. Although you might not call it birdsong, hummingbirds vocalize. It's fun to eavesdrop on what they say.

We also introduce you fragrant native plants of California, including White Sage (S. apiana), the intoxicatingly aromatic species used in Native American culture for blessing ceremonies. In the wild, it is found along the Pacific Coast and in chaparral lands, an environment that BirdNote Radio describes in our last link.

Happy reading and happy listening to you from Flowers by the Sea Nursery, publisher of Salvia Guru.

Salvia Guru

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