<strong>Susan J. of Windsor asks:</strong> <em>I've never heard of a toad lily, and was told they are really beautiful and do very well in the garden, and that they bloom in late summer/early fall. What can you tell me about them?</em>

Toad lily (Tricyrtis), is not a common plant you find very often in the landscape, but it's one that's definitely worth planting.

Not only is it a fall-bloomer, but it thrives in partial to moderate shade, making it a true showstopper. If you're lucky enough to find one of these blooming beauties to put in your garden, just follow these helpful hints to keep your lily toad happy:

Plant it in organically enriched, moist soil that is a little on the acidic side. If you have clay soil, add organic matter such as leaf mold, rotted manure or compost, to improve it. To keep your plants at their best, don't let the soil dry out. Plant the toad lily in light to moderate shade conditions.

Toad lily is a clump-forming perennial that should grow to about 24 inches tall and wide, so give each plant room to grow to reach its full size. Plant the toad lily where you can see and appreciate the breathtaking details of its flowers. They're just amazing. One selection, a plant formally known as Tricyrtis 'Shirohotogisu', has beautiful pure-white blooms that look like a cross between an orchid and a passion flower. Its arching stems rise to 2 feet in the garden! Another real plus is that the toad lily doesn't have any serious problems, except for the occasional snail or slug.


<strong>Emily H. of Santa Rosa asks:</strong> <em>What plants could I grow to attract and feed the birds as the weather starts getting colder? I'm not too fond of always buying birdseed.</em>

Whether those birds in your garden are year-round residents, winter guests, or just passing through, all types birds will enjoy a nutritious feast right from your own garden from all the nutritious seed to be found.

Don't cut off those dried flower stalks and stems. All you have to do is leave the seed heads on your plants, allowing them to dry and mature, and nature will do the rest. Mature seed heads of many of the summer and fall blooming plants will provide a natural food source for many types of birds throughout the winter months.

Many songbirds eat insects during summer, but come winter, many change their diet to seed, berries and other vegetable matter.

There are dozens of flowers that produce seeds to tempt birds to visit and/or make their nests and take up residence in your garden. The most popular seed-bearing flowers for backyard birds such as cardinals, chickadees, gold finches, Indigo bunting, nutcatcher, sparrow, and towhees include:

Asters, Black-eyed susans, Coneflowers, Coreopsis, Corncockle, Cornflowers, Cosmos, Daisies, Evening primroses, Flax, Globe thistle, Goldenrods, Hibiscus, Joe Pye Weed, Knapweed, Mallow, Marigolds, Moss roses, Mullein, Sedum, Sunflowers, Violets, and Zinnias

In addition to eating certain yummy insects, some birds, like the bluebird, also enjoys berries. Especially in the winter when they are nice and ripe.

Trees and Shrubs with lots of berries that can keep your birds happy year-round:

Arbutus (Strawberry tree), Aronia (red chokeberry), Berberis (Barberry), Callicarpa (Beautyberry), Celastrus (bittersweet), Celtis occidentalis (hackberry), Cornus (flowering dogwood), Cotoneaster (cotoneaster), Crateagus (hawthorn), Euonymus fortunei, Ilex (holly), Juniperus (juniper), Kolkwitzia (Beautybush), Lonicera maackii * (honeysuckle), Malus (flowering crabapple), Myrica (bayberry), Nandina (Heavenly bamboo), Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo), Pyracantha (firethorn), Ribes(Current), Sambucus (Elderberry), Symphoricarpos (snowberry), and Viburnum (cranberrybush viburnum).