NYC Rooftop Gardner big photo

NYC Rooftop Gardner big photo
September, 2013

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Mockingbird


I have been trying to grow Telekia Speciosa for a very long time.  It took me two whole years to identify the plant as I had seen it up at Innisfree in the summer of 2012.  Then I purchased seeds from two separate organic farms online and nothing came up from either batch, a total of 4 plantings, plus one set of stratified seeds.  I was getting annoyed as I'd been wanting this plant for a long time.  Then one day a whole bunch of seedlings emerged and I was ecstatic.  Finally, it looked like a BIG BOUNTY of yellow and brown flowers would be blooming later in the summer.  The shoots grew vigorously and in such abundance I could just imagine a beautiful stand of this exotic daisy-like flower.  Within a month they were nearly 3 feet tall.  I transplanted them to a few choice spots.  When the flower buds formed, they were little white specs that sort-of resembled tomatoes.  Hmm, definitely not the large Rudbekia-like blossoms I was expecting.  Soon enough, clusters of small green berries appeared.  I took photos and posted them on All About for identification.  At first I was told they were Deadly Nightshade which is poisonous.  A few posts later I was informed that it was Black Nightshade, and they were edible.  I tried a few and they were tasty;  not as sweet as blueberries, but similar.  By now, they were taking over the container with my baby Gingko tree, and the 2 other pots where I had planted them.  The leaves were infested with mites and looked totally moth-eaten.  I was ready to  pull them all out as soon as I had a free morning.


Next time I was up in the garden reading a book and relaxing when a grayish-brown bird with a white belly landed on a pole and started squawking.  For years, we’ve had a continuous flow of Mourning doves and Catbirds, but I had never seen this bird before. 


I watched it turn in each of the 4 cardinal directions, perched on that black exhaust pipe, announcing something to each direction.  I knew not what the special message was, or who it was meant for.  But I was intrigued by the new visitor and watched curiously.  With a flap of it’s wings, it hopped from the pipe onto the Gingko, and then dove into the Nightshade. It hopped back to the black pipe with a berry in it’s beak.  With a swift jerking motion, it tilted it's head back, opened it's beak, and down rolled the berry.  Then it flew up to the railing above the elevator shaft and wiped it's bill on the cloth rope that was holding the outdoor lighting in place.  After a few more chirps, it flew back down to the black pipe, squawked to the 4 directions and dove into the bush again, repeated the ritual.


At that point I decided that I would not be pulling out theMockingbird2   Nightshade.  Until that moment, it had not occurred to me that other creatures were feasting on what I thought was an invasive plant.  The Mockingbird came to eat berries every day for several weeks until I became inspired to harvest some for myself.  My husband declared they were delicious and ate them on his granola every morning.  Message from the universe:  Consider the bigger picture before making decisions.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Nancy, I love this story, and the mockingbirds of the city bring me so much joy. I'm glad you are sharing your plants with them :) They are such strong and brave and generous creatures. They sing me awake every spring, and serenade me with sweet melancholic tunes during summer nights when the males are looking for that special female. I also like seeing them at the corners of tall buildings, whistling to me as I walk by.