Creating Habitat Oases for Migrating Songbirds

Join Audubon’s Patrick Comins and Michelle Frankelon April 28 at the Garden Education Center of Greenwich on 1 Bible Street in Cos Cob for a special presentation and walk through Greenwich’s Montgomery Pinetum to learn about simple ways to enhance backyards, school grounds and public parks to provide quality habitat for migrating songbirds. This event is co-sponsored by Audubon Connecticut, Greenwich Tree Conservancy, Bruce Museum and Garden Education Center. An RSVP is suggested to the Greenwich Tree Conservancy at 203- 869-1464. The program takes place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Garden Education Center of Greenwich
Garden Education Center of Greenwich

The Audubon’s Habitat Oases program identifies, improves and conserves important stop-over habitat for migrating songbirds all along the Atlantic migratory flyway, focusing on urban and suburban areas and other landscapes where there is limited quality habitat. The program, performed in collaboration with Audubon chapters, state and municipal parks departments, and other groups, engages volunteer birdwatchers – citizen scientists – in migratory songbird surveys of urban/suburban green spaces. The surveys help to determine the characteristics of high quality stop-over habitat and which species of plants are most beneficial as food sources for migrating songbirds.

Audubon and its partners are using the results of this study to promote the protection of critical stop-over habitats by helping government agencies, corporations, land trusts, and other landowners make informed land use and land protection decisions
They also work to improve the quality of public and private lands as stop-over habitat for migrating birds by guiding the management and landscaping practices of natural resource managers, private landowners and professional landscapers
and strive to develop regionally-specific lists of “bird-friendly” native plants that may be used to guide landscaping practices in parks, gardens and backyards.

Patrick Comins is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, and has worked in the bird conservation arena for the last 15 years. Patrick began his career with the Connecticut Audubon Society, doing bird surveys on the coast at the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and then worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a biological technician at the refuge. He has been with Audubon Connecticut as the Director of Bird Conservation for Connecticut since 2000, overseeing Connecticut’s Important Bird Areas and other conservation programs. He is the principal author of Protecting Connecticut’s Grassland Heritage. Patrick is a past resident of the Connecticut Ornithological Association and was the 2007 recipient of their Mabel Osgood Wright Award. He has written several articles on bird conservation and identification for the Connecticut Warbler and is currently chairman and vice president of the Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

Michelle Frankel, Ph.D., is a Conservation Biologist with Audubon Connecticut and is coordinating the Habitat Oases program in CT, and facilitating the implementation of the program in a number of other states along the Atlantic migratory flyway. Michelle previously worked with Audubon of Florida, where she originally piloted the Habitat Oases program. Prior to her work with Audubon, she was Education Director for Earthspan, a nonprofit that develops and applies advanced technologies for wildlife conservation. Michelle received her Ph.D. in behavioral ecology from Boston University, focusing on forest fragmentation effects on migratory songbirds. She subsequently pursued a post-doctoral fellowship with Tel Aviv University and the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration in Israel, where she studied the impacts of urbanization on the globally-threatened Lesser Kestrel.

New Canaan Nature Center Announces Annual Secret Gardens Tour

The Annual Secret Gardens Tour benefiting the New Canaan Nature Center will take place on Friday, June 8. The popular tour is a fund-raiser for the New Canaan Nature Center and an opportunity for homeowners, gardeners and anyone who appreciates the beauty of the outdoors to be inspired by several outstanding garden settings. The self-guided tour takes place between 10:00a.m. – 4:00p.m., allowing attendees to visit the gardens at their own pace and on their own schedule.
New Cannan Garden Tour

This year’s tour will feature a variety of spectacular New Canaan gardens representing the past, present and future of landscape design. Gardens will include historic estates with meandering garden “rooms,” newly-designed and transformed landscapes and grounds incorporating the latest sustainable practices and plantings. In addition to hundreds of varieties of annuals and perennials, attendees will see a wide variety of majestic specimen trees, unique water features, and delightful woodland gardens.

New Canaan Nature Center is pleased to welcome Elise Landscapes & Nursery and the Bank of New Canaan as the lead sponsors of the tour. Mark Hicks of Elise says “The Secret Gardens Tour is a New Canaan tradition that we are thrilled to support, and we see this as a terrific opportunity to reach out to those who are passionate about garden design and appreciate spectacular landscaping.”

Tour tickets are $75 including lunch or $50 for the tour only. The tour lunch will be available at the New Canaan Nature Center or to take and enjoy while touring the gardens. The lunch is sponsored by Hobbs, Inc., Austin, Patterson, Disston and Devore Associates. Tour tickets will be $60 on the day of the tour. Tickets can be purchased at the New Canaan Nature Center, by calling (203) 966-9577 x50, or online at starting May 1.

Trade Secrets in Litchifeld Hills

Nearly 60 vendors and garden antiques dealers from around the northeast region will set up their wares under the tents at the picturesque LionRock Farm in Sharon, CT, for the 11th annual Trade Secrets on Saturday, May 14.

The yearly event in the state’s Litchfield Hills offers unusual garden plants and topiary from specialized growers and some of the nation’s best known small nurseries, as well as unusual accessories, furniture, statuary, fencing and garden antiques.

The event also includes the opportunity on Sunday, May 15, to tour five extraordinary gardens, most rarely open to the public. These include the sublime Falls Village garden of John Rosselli and Trade Secrets founder, interior designer Bunny Williams, featuring the mock-coliseum pool house, heirloom apple trees in bloom, wild-flowers, a woodland pool, a birdhouse “village,” and a sea of tulips and bulbs,

Another highlight is the private garden of author and noted garden designer Lynden Miller, who is responsible for the beloved Conservatory Garden and rejuvenated Bryant Park in New York City. Her personal garden features mixed herbaceous borders of perennials and shrubs in lovely hues, a daylily walk, a flowering meadow with mowed paths, a woodland garden, a raised herb garden and a cottage garden for unusual plants.

Holabird House Garden in Falls Village includes three acres of perennials, bulbs, cutting, vegetable and herb gardens planted with tiers and rustic fencing, while the Cobble Pond Garden in Sharon, a vintage Olmsted Brothers landscape designed for strolling, features clipped conifers, walled gardens bursting with bulbs and spring blossoms, an apple orchard, and viburnums and wisteria at their peak.

Judy and Patrick Murphy opened Old Farm Nursery in Lakeville in 1988 on land that had been used agriculturally for generations. Living in the old farm house (c 1800) and using the farmland and barns for their landscape business, the Murphys transformed five acres of paddocks and adjacent cornfields into garden rooms with extensive plantings that include a large kitchen and herb garden, perennial borders, a fruit tree allée, a formal boxwood-lined white garden, a woodland shade garden featuring a Japanese maple collection, and a secret garden with a swimming pool.

Proceeds from Trade Secrets go to Women’s Support Services (WSS), a regional non-profit organization celebrating its 30th year in the northwest corner of Connecticut offering free and confidential services to victims of domestic violence.

Trade Secrets includes the antique and plant sale on Saturday, May 14, at LionRock Farm, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for $35, and the tour of five gardens on Sunday, May 15, for $70 ($60 if purchased in advance). For those who want first chance at the vendors on May 14, “early buying” tickets are available for $100, and include early admittance with continental breakfast.

For more information or to purchase advance tickets, phone (860) 364-1080 or visit

For more information on gardens and other spring activities in the area and a free copy of UNWIND, a 112-page color guide to lodging, dining and all the attractions in the Litchfield Hills, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759; (860) 567-4506,
Contributed by Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau