Gardener Gal: Little Birds and Suffering Plants | Way of life

Dear Gardener Gal: This may be a lost cause, but I have attached some photos of my frost damaged trees.

The low temperatures this time really took us by surprise. It’s usually not as cold as expected for us because we live by the water. Of course, that was the case this time.

Leslie Derrenbacker

girl gardener

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What are the chances that one of them will return? If they are dead, I want to remove them as soon as possible. — I appreciate your help, Michael.

Dear Michael: Your tropical garden paradise has definitely taken a hit, hasn’t it? Your traveller’s tree, foxtails and aracia palms look very unsightly.

All three trees grow north of their comfort zone. You’ve gotten away with it so far because we’ve had such mild winters. I think we’ve all pushed the limits a bit.

I know I’ve covered less and less each time there’s a frost or light frost warning. We all had a reminder of what winters used to be like.

Time will tell how your two palms fared. Of course, don’t cut anything yet. We usually have another freeze, maybe a freeze in March.

Keep an eye on the growth from the center of your palms. If the newest sling stays brown and comes off easily within a month, hire someone to play “Taps” and take it off.

The Traveler’s Tree (related to the Bird of Paradise and Banana Trees) just seems to have some leaf burn. Watch for the trunk to become mushy. Even then, you might still have suction cups coming from the base. Good luck to you.

Dear Readers: As you probably already know, February is basically spring in Florida. Birds have searched or built nest sites and wrens in particular are not picky. Absolutely any place where they can pile up twigs or grass can be their babies’ future home. These crazy birds don’t even have a specific height from the ground. One foot off the ground or in the eaves of a barn. They do not care.

Be aware in the coming weeks and months of increased wren activity near potted plants or in carports or porches. Sometimes you won’t know they’re nesting in a porch plant until you go to water it and a bird flies away. Once you’re conscious, leave everyone alone and water this plant from the saucer rather than the top until the babies have fledged.

The day the children decide to leave the nest can be very stressful for everyone involved. The babies seem far too small and helpless to leave, but please don’t interfere. If they can get to a shrub for cover, they’re usually good to go. The parents will be flailing around like crazy and very stressed until they round up the little buggers somewhere safe, so don’t make the situation worse by “helping”.

You CAN help by keeping your dogs and cats indoors or on a leash until at least the next day.

Any fledgling with no or very few feathers found on the ground or brought by a pet should be immediately returned to the nest if possible. Do not try to feed them. (For the record, bread and milk can kill a baby bird. Milk…really?)

A wicker basket hung near the original nest will sometimes work in a pinch. The parent will continue to feed the baby, even if you touch it, and it can climb up the sides when it is big enough to fly away.

Keep an eye out for our little gardening companions!

“Gardener Gal” Leslie Derrenbacker is a master gardener and Florida native. Send your questions to

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