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Ripon master gardener talks about his feathered friends
A pleasantly surprised Dolores Pawloski is excited as cockatoo Maggie gently walks up to her proffered hand at the end of the Manteca Garden Club meeting at the public library. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
There are just four simple things to keep in mind if you want some feathered friends to accentuate your garden.

So says horticulturist and master gardener Harry Dedini of Ripon who shared the four simple rules with members of the Manteca Garden Club at their monthly meeting on Monday.

First, you have to have a water source so the avian visitors don’t go elsewhere to quench their thirst. Birds get thirsty, too, Dedini said. But don’t think your swimming pool will do because you’re not talking about “kamikaze birds.” A shallow water source will suffice, said Dedini who is also a rosarian and the current vice president of the Stockton Rose Society.

“Any animal has to have water. If there’s no water, the animal is just going to pass by; it’s not going to stay,” he said.

Food is another important thing that will attract birds in the garden, he said. You can, in fact, tailor the type of food source available in your garden to the type of birds you want to see in your private Eden.

You have to know what a particular creature snacks on so they’ll adopt your garden as their home, Dedini explained in an interview before his garden club presentation.

Using butterflies as an example, he said, “If you like butterflies, you have to plant flowers that butterflies like, because they don’t like all flowers.”

Some people forget that the (caterpillars) that turn into butterflies eat a specific kind of weed, he added. “If you don’t have those weeds present within a half-mile or so, you’re not going to get the butterflies; they’re just going to pass through. Here in Ripon, you have the (Stanislaus) river. At the couple of parks down there, they have native plants. There are lots of nettles and milkweeds. Worms eat nettles, and those worms turn into the painted ladies butterflies.”

He recalled a time when his crape myrtle with its dried seeds brought a flock of hungry canaries in his garden. “In three days, they ate every single seed of that crape myrtle,” he said.

“And we used to have drunk robins over the pyracantha berries,” he added with a laugh.

The other two things that you need to create a habitat for birds or butterflies in the garden are shelter and nesting material.

“Any animal needs some kind of shelter – that could be all kinds of different things. And it needs some place or material to raise its young. With birds, they need nesting material like feathers, twigs, grass or mud,” said Dedini who, besides being a master gardener, has a Bachelor of Science degree in ornamental horticulture from Cal Poly – Pomona and a master’s degree in agricultural plant science from California State University, Fresno. He is also a past president of the Ripon Garden Club, a past Valley Lode District Director, and vice president of the State Landscape Design Council.

Birds and butterflies, in fact, are not the only ones that require all the four basic things above – i.e., water, food, nesting materials, and shelter – Dedini pointed out.

“Creating a habitat is the same for any animal. And it’s the same for humans. You have to have food to eat. And if there’s no water, you’re going to look for water,” he said.