A shocking notion: Bring outdoors in for Pet's sake

Green thumbs up

to animal enrichment -- bring some of the outdoors in to your pets. Zookeepers know how important this is, and devote much effort to introducing novelty into captive animals' lives. In our 23 years working in gardens at the Detroit Zoo we've seen that tigers like mint, apes enjoy flowers, wolverines play with cast-off antlers, bison adore mulberry and snow monkeys perk up when they can clamber around in the cut-down remains of a dead tree. The wild things we call family appreciate the same kinds of diversion.


Fraxy examines every new thing that comes in the door and is especially fond of scented greens. Yet we never know which way she'll go. We recently gave her a choice between sumptuous just-pruned sprays of falsecypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) and a bundle of sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) with batt-able bangles. She chose the grass.

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Buster, on the other hand, is apparently not so appreciative of Nature. We're told: "As you can see, I put the Christmas tree in the front window ... thus preventing his Highness from checking out all the happenings in the hood. He is gonna POUT for the next three weeks. How will I survive?" Photo ©2011 J. Kuskowski


Green thumbs down

to razing your garden in winter. It is practical to cut plants down in fall when the cutting is easy and the clearance makes weeding simpler. But you can bundle what you cut and prop it up in the yard, like shocked corn. Birds will be able to glean the seeds and take cover from wind on a bundle's lee side.


I have a homegrown bird feeder next to my driveway called Pampas grass. It is about 12-15 feet tall and full of seeds. The sparrows and other small birds love it. It is fun to watch them out of my kitchen window.
- F. K. -

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Redwing blackbirds (above: male, left, female, right) are as much a part of our lives and well-being as the plants in our garden. We would be very sad if we stopped hearing that rusty-gate screek of his call, or could no longer watch the young males learn to hide their colors when in others' territories. But where would they be if we cut down all the vegetation they use for nest building and perches?

Below: Peacocks scoured our Detroit Zoo garden, recently, poking at grasses, eating Viburnum berries, and trailing delighted children in their wake.