Fall seems to have come late this year, and I’ve been caught a little off guard. My planters and garden are nothing short of pitiful, and our winged friends are giving my yard a wide berth. A little birdie must have told them to steer clear of our barren plot. Enter Morrison’s Home and Garden in Plymouth, where I can redeem myself in the eyes of my neighbors, both human and avian.
First, the plants – literally – they’re right out front, so you can easily load your car. I often think of mums as the quintessential seasonal plant, but, I don’t like the amount of work fall annuals require for their short duration, so I ask owner Walter Morrison, III (known to most as Morry) about perennial mums. Politely trying not to smile, Morry says that he orders them in spring, which is when they should be planted. Oops. He does suggest several alternative autumn-blooming perennials, showing me Montauk (or Nippon) Daisies, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, and Fall Asters with spunky purple blooms, which he says are actually stronger than mums. Morry also shows me a small shrub, slightly twiggy at the moment, that I learn is witch hazel. “This,” he tells me, “will flower in February, even before forsythia, before snowdrops.” It flowers in February? Morry’s totally got my attention. After a brief sidebar about the medicinal uses of witch hazel and a (relatively) local producer in Connecticut we head inside to pick up something for the birds.
Let me tell you, if there’s a birdfeeder made on planet Earth, Morrison’s has it. Hanging from the rafters, shelved on end caps, hung from the walls, there are birdfeeders of every size, shape and material imaginable. And of course there are stacks of birdfood, everything from small hunks of suet to 20lb bags of seed. I typically fill my feeders with sunflower seeds, but I might also try something new this time. Talking with Morry, I learn that the price of sunflower seeds has gone up noticeably this year, due to a perfect storm of factors. Among them is an increase in corn prices that led many Midwestern farmers to switch a great deal of their acreage from sunflowers to corn, and flooding that affected crops in areas like North Dakota’s Red River Valley. Agribusiness strikes again. I wonder momentarily about starting a local birdfood csa. Instead, Morry hands me a bag of small brown pellets. “Dried mealworms,” he says, “high in protein.” They’re nutritious, already dead and served up in a squirrel-proof small mesh screen feeder? I’m sold!