Calvin R. Finch, Ph.D., Conservation Director, San Antonio Water System,
Week of November 5, 2001
Q. Is there any way to feed the cardinals, chicadees, and titmice without feeding the English sparrows and white wing doves?
A. To eliminate the doves, use a feeder that has a weight-sensitive perch. An Absolute brand feeder is steel to keep the squirrels from chewing it and the perch can be set to accept cardinals but set to close to white wings.
Slowing down the sparrows is more of a problem. Cardinals like safflower seed, but sparrows are not fond of it. You can also purchase a sparrow trap to reduce the population.
Q. What are some good ornamental grasses to use in the landscape? Will deer eat them?
A. Deer are browsers and prefer broadleaf plants to grasses. Maiden grass is attractive. There are several muhly grasses such as Lindheimer and Autumn Blush. The Autumn Blush has a pink seed head. Purple fountain grass is striking but is cold sensitive. Plant it in spring and protect clumps over the winter by placing them in a building for the winter. They are easy to transplant.
Q. How do I protect my bougainvillea from the cold?
A. Bougainvillea does not like cool weather. Blooming stops at about 50 degrees F. It does need protection from freezing temperatures. Prune as much as necessary to allow for easy storage and stack them one upon another. They do not even have to be watered in the winter. Plumeria is the same.
Oriental hibiscus requires light and an occasional watering in addition to cold protection to survive the winter.
Q. What are the best shade trees for wildlife? We just bought a new property and it is devoid of trees. We want birds, squirrels and butterflies to move in.
A Live oak and Texas red oak provide acorns and are great shade trees. Mulberries and hackberries are not on the recommended tree list, but they provide wildlife food. Hackberries mature their fruit in the fall. Mulberries have berries in late spring. Anaqua and Chinese pistache are good berry producers. For a small tree plant yaupon holly, Mexican plum, Mexican buckeye, persimmon, brasil, and loquat.