Birds and Blooms Blog

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Great Gift Idea: Botanical Garden Membership

Do you know someone who would enjoy a membership to their local botanical garden?  Gardens constantly change their appearance throughout the year as plants come into bloom and fade only to be replaced by others.  Imagine their joy as they visit the botanical garden and discovering something new each time.

A membership to a botanical garden is a great gift idea and has other benefits including newsletters, discounts in the gift shops and classes offered through the gardens.  Many gardens hold special events throughout the year, which can include art exhibits, concerts, plant sales, winter lights, etc.

Another membership benefit that many botanical gardens offer is called the “Reciprocal Admissions Program”, which allows members to use their membership for admission to other participating botanical gardens throughout the United States.


Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden

I am a member of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.  I visit the gardens several times during the year, take classes and buy plants at their biannual plant sales.  The beauty of these gardens never ceases to amaze me.

During a trip through the upper Midwest this summer, I was able to visit several other botanical gardens.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, Wisconsin

I visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens while visiting Madison, Wisconsin.  They had creative container plantings filled with a combination of vegetables and flowers, which I loved.  The Thai Pavilion and garden were not to be missed, filled with cold-hardy plants that had a tropical appearance that could survive Wisconsin winters.

Green Bay Botanical Gardens

Another garden that I visited was the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.  I was lucky enough to be visiting when the peonies were in full bloom.  Since peonies don’t grow in the desert Southwest, where I live, I was in heaven!  I also spotted a trellis made from branches and twine, which inspired me to try to make my own someday.

Frederik Meijer Gardens

The third garden I visited on my trip were the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  What I really enjoyed about this garden was how kid-friendly it was, filled with exhibits from a large wooden fort to a variety of animal prints to identify along the pathways.  Throughout the gardens were examples of beatiful artwork, including a giant horse.

Because of my membership at my local botanical garden, I was able to visit these three botanical gardens for free through the Reciprocal Admissions Program!

Most botanical garden memberships start at $40 and gift memberships are often available.  For a list of botanical gardens that participate in the Reciprocal Admissions Program, click here for the link, which will direct you toward your local botanical garden’s website where you can sign up for a gift membership for the gardener in your life.  This is a gift that will continue to give throughout the year!

Help Find Bird Species on a Christmas Bird Count

Rob Ripma

One of my favorite activities this time of year is participating in many Christmas Bird Counts (CBC). Groups of birders spend a day out looking for as many bird species as they can all within a CBC circle. The circles all have a diameter of 15 miles and there are circles all over the United States and beyond! Click here for a map showing all CBC locations.

There are a couple of ways that you can help with the CBCs. First, if you live within a count circle and have bird feeders, consider counting the birds that visit your yard on the day of the count. Not only will you help get an accurate count of some of the common feeder birds, many times rare birds are found at people’s feeders. The second way that you can help is by going out birding on the count day. Everyone is welcome, from novices to experts, and groups get divided so that if you are a novice birder, there will be someone more experienced with the group to help. Contact the compiler for the count that you would like to participate in (their name and email address can be found by following the link for the map above) and they’ll help you get assigned to a team for the count day!

On Saturday, I helped lead a group of Boy Scouts during a local CBC. Our best bird was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!

On Saturday, I helped lead a group of Boy Scouts during a local CBC. Our best bird was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!

Natural Christmas Decor Ideas

Jill Staake

Living in Florida means that my Christmas decor is both indoors and out. I’ve been enjoying using native holly berries and pine to create decorations, as well as adding them to some of my existing plants to create fun displays. Here are a few of the ways I’ve been using natural Christmas decor this year.

Succulent and Holly Displays

My Halloween succulent display (in small plastic cauldrons) was ready for a new seasonal home, so I created some pretty pots for them using metallic blue paint, snowflake stickers, and Mod Podge (to hold the stickers in place). I mixed the succulents with sprigs of native Dahoon Holly and crystal bead decorations.

Natural Christmas Decor Succulents

Natural Christmas Decor

Glass Block with Holly and Lights

I tucked a few more sprigs of holly into my aloe plant and set the pot into a Christmas themed tin. Then, I used a glass block specially made for craft projects, and filled it with holly, crystal bead decor, and a string of red battery operated glimmer lights, and tied a gauze ribbon around it all. Simple and pretty, with a little extra shimmer at night.

Natural Christmas Decor

Natural Christmas Decor

Holly and Pine Swags

Perhaps my favorite natural Christmas decor this year was also the easiest. I created swags of longleaf pine and holly berries, tied with rustic woven ribbon. I made many of these to decorate the butterfly garden where I work, including several that I used to dress up our large metal frog statue – an instant favorite!

Natural Christmas Decor Pine Holly Swag

Natural Christmas Decor Frog

How do you use natural items in your own Christmas decor? Tell us in the comments section!

Give the Gift of Membership to a Bird Society

Do you tend to wait until the last minute to find gifts for the people in your life?  Well, if you have someone who loves birds, I’m about to make your gift giving this holiday very simple.

Northern cardinal in the Arizona desert

Northern cardinal in the Arizona desert

How about a membership to the Audubon Society?

In addition to 6 issues of their beautiful magazine, your gift recipient will have access to their local Audubon chapter, admission to Audubon sanctuaries and workshops.

All this for $20 a year.  Click here to sign up for a gift membership.

Costa's Hummingbird

Costa’s Hummingbird

If you know someone who loves hummingbirds, how about a membership to the Hummingbird Society?  Your gift recepient will get their newsletter and can even add a beautiful calendar filled with spectacular hummingbird photos to your order.

Yearly memberships are $30.  Click here to join.

Lilac Breasted Roller from South Africa

Lilac Breasted Roller from South Africa

For the international birder in your life, a membership to The Nature Conservancy may be just the ticket.  As their name suggests, conservation of natural habitats for birds and other wildlife throughout the world are their focus.  Membership benefits include 6 issues of their magazine, monthly newsletters and reports on conservation efforts where you live.

Gift memberships start at $25.  Click here to purchase a gift membership.

There are other birding organizations that offer gift memberships.  Click here for a list.

I don’t know about you, but I love giving a gift that is uniquely personal because it focuses on the recipient’s interests, like birding.  Of course, buying a bird society gift membership with just a few clicks of the mouse and not having to get into your car and braving long shopping lines is nice too!

Bird Species Profile: Common Goldeneye

Rob Ripma

As lakes begin to freeze in the winter, waterfowl species tend to become concentrated in the ever shrinking bodies of water. The lakes that hold on to open water the longest can quickly become amazing places to see a variety of duck species. When out birding recently, I was able to spend some time observing one of my favorite waterfowl species, Common Goldeneye. This bird species has a large range and can be found throughout most of North America as well as in Europe and Asia. You can see eBird reports on this map.

Male Common Goldeneyes are striking birds with very distinct plumage. (Photo by Brian Zwiebel - Sabrewing Nature Tours)

Male Common Goldeneyes are striking birds with very distinct plumage. (Photo by Brian Zwiebel – Sabrewing Nature Tours)


Female Common Goldeneyes are not quite as striking as the males but I still think they are beautiful ducks.

Female Common Goldeneyes are not quite as striking as the males but I still think they are beautiful ducks.


Have you ever had the chance to see a Common Goldeneye? Tell us about you experiences watching waterfowl in the comment sections!

From Our Community

Monday in the Midwest December 22, 2014

Good Morning,  Don't see a post I will start one and be back a little later.   Carol
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