Two more questions poured in last week and they are both good.
Doug Moulton, from South-Western Ontario, wrote to me two years ago about controlling weeds, and at the time I recommended he go to the U.S. and buy the appropriate product there, and bring it back. Since the products are legal federally, there should be no problem. And, Doug has now written again with another question and made a comment on that previous inquiry. Here is his letter:
“Wondering if there is a problem nailing or screwing things (such as bird houses) to our trees? We have mostly maple trees on our property and don't want any of them to die. Thank you for your previous advice about 'weed and feed'. We brought some back to Ontario from the US and it works great....just like the old stuff we used to have here!”
When it comes to nailing or screwing things to trees we are always better to err on the side of what is best for the tree(s). However, if you think about trees in an arboretum, almost always they have labels attached to them—often a special type of attachment is used whereby the labels are held away from the tree bark by springs on the two screws. In addition, those institutions generally have a policy of going around and loosening the two screws on each tree label annually. That is the important part—the screws or nails should never be allowed to penetrate the tree completely so that they cannot be removed.
As I see it, by attaching bird houses to trees, you run the risk of the attachment screws or nails becoming imbedded so they cannot be removed, and that would be a negative. Also, as the tree grows, a closely attached birdhouse would begin to be forced into the bark of the tree causing a larger area of disturbance. These happenings are not going to kill the tree(s), but they are not the best policy.
The one way around this would be to use the botanical institutions’ method of loosening the attachment screws annually, but the springs behind the birdhouse might cause it to be too movable which would not be liked by the birds.
So, I’ll leave it to you; if you can devise a way to prohibit the attachment screws and the birdhouses themselves from damaging the tree, then by all means give it a try.
The second question came from Susan Paul who lives in the Vancouver area. Here is what she wrote: “Hi there, I came across info about you while searching the availability of Brunfelsia pauciflora here in Vancouver. My mother has a shrub in her garden...in New Zealand. Love the scent and wondered whether it would have any hope of surviving our climate....could you keep in out in summer and bring it in in winter? I only have a small apt. Thanks for any info you may be able to give me.”
You are asking about one of my favourite plants Susan, the common name of which is Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow. It gets that name from its blooming habit. Here is what I said about the plant on this site in December 2000, while I was still living in Toronto:
“I have one plant that I’ve grown as a houseplant since one of my trips to South Africa—somewhere back in 1986 I think. It is Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow (Brunfelsia pauciflora). This is quite a woody plant that grows well for us in an east/south-facing window. It blooms from early spring well into the summer, and I am sure would bloom over a longer period if the room was warmer in the winter. Its flowers start out purple and a day or so later lighten to powder blue, and final go to white. Virtually every day the plant is covered with blooms in all stages of colouration. It’s hard to find in stores, but if you have patience you’ll eventually find one.”
Now, here is what I said about it eight years later in January 2008 after we had moved it to Parksville five years earlier: “I also don’t know why I did not think of one of my favourite (fragrant) house plants first. That would by Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow (Brunfelsia pauciflora). I first saw one in South Africa in the mid-70s, and knew I had to have one. I found it in Toronto [at Humber Nurseries] and bought it immediately. That is well over two decades ago now! It still blooms regularly for us here. The common name comes from the fact that the flowers open with a purple colour and gradually fade to mid-blue, and finally change to white before falling off. Both the flowers and seeds, incidentally, are poisonous.
“Now, something else that I saw in Toronto (at Humber Nurseries, actually), called Showy Medinilla (Medinilla magnifica) is an absolute must if only you can find one. I did not pick it up the day I saw it as I was in a rush. Only five days later, when I went to get it, someone else had bought it! It is a native of the Philippines, and like the Brunfelsia actually is a shrub. I took some good photos of it in flower at the Belgium Royal Greenhouses at Meise in May 1982 (only open to the public by prior reservation) but I also have excellent shots of the plant in fruit, taken just recently on the Big Island of Hawaii. They too are included here.”
Now, as to your question Susan, I am virtually certain that Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow would not be hardy outdoors here or in the slightly cooler lower mainland areas of B.C. You could, however, do what we do, put it outside for the summer (it is about to go out this week, in fact) and bring it back in when it gets cool.
One warning about the plant has to do with the fact it tends to lose most of its evergreen leaves twice each year and that should not cause you to fret. The new ones come out quickly.
By the way, I only mentioned the Medinilla magnifica as I thought it might interest you as well. We have recently acquired one right here on Vancouver Island.