How to attract birds, bees, butterflies

  • Wed Mar 7th, 2012 8:25pm
  • Life

By Martha Stewart Syndicated Columnist

Q: What can I plant in my garden that will attract birds, bees and butterflies?

A: Bees and butterflies pollinate flowers, which set the seeds that attract birds. Avian visitors add liveliness and beauty to a landscape, and prey on pests.

To attract bees and butterflies, choose plants with blooms that bear plenty of pollen. Go easy on the hybrids. (Double blooms and petals in unexpected hues are some clues that a plant is a cross.) These produce pollen that isn’t viable.

Native plants are also a good choice, as pollinators are attracted to the familiar. Some plants to try: agastache, salvia, sunflowers and goldenrod. When choosing plants, keep in mind that varying form, bloom time, color and height makes for a rich buffet.

Entice birds year-round with plants that provide food well past fall, such as bayberry or holly. Learn more at

Q: Sometimes my magnolia buds freeze before they can open. Can I prevent this?

A: Unfortunately, no. Many magnolias flower from late February to April, so there’s always the chance that frost will harm the fleshy, watery petals.

Protect shrub-size specimens with burlap or a blanket until the threat of frost passes. If a deep chill is looming and the buds are about to unfurl, cut a few branches to enjoy indoors and hope that Mother Nature will be more forgiving next year.

You can also hedge your bets by adding to your garden a magnolia that will bloom a little later. These flower as late as May or June. Varieties include yellow-hued Amber, Sun Spire and Yellow Bird; coral-pink Rose Marie; and fragrant white Oyama. Find these and other late bloomers at

Q: How do I remove onion odor from my cutting board?

A: To lift the offending smell from a wooden board, scrub the surface with coarse salt and lemon juice or with a baking soda paste. Rinse, and wipe dry.

Clean a plastic board with hot, soapy water or, if it fits, in the dishwasher. If the smell lingers, wash it again. As a last resort, add a teaspoon of bleach to a quart of water, and apply to the board’s surface. After a few minutes, rinse well and dry.

Q: What’s the difference between the terms “vintage,” “antique” and “collectible”?

A: These terms are often used interchangeably to describe items made in the past. Their usage is somewhat fluid, but each has a distinct meaning.

Before 1930, “antique” referred to an older object with aesthetic or historical significance. Such an elastic term could describe a relic from ancient Greece or furnishings from Baroque France, making it difficult for U.S. Customs to decide whether to collect duties.

The U.S. Tariff Act of 1930 introduced a more objective meaning for “antique”: an item made at least 100 years ago (and therefore exempt from duties). Objects from ancient cultures have been further separated; they are known as “antiquities.”

“Vintage” applies to objects that are neither contemporary nor antique, such as a 1950s Edward Wormley sofa, 1960s Vera Neumann linens or a 1980s Azzedine Alaia dress.

“Collectible” describes items coveted by enough people to create a market for them. These pieces may have been made at any time by hand or machine.

Address questions to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 W. 26th St., Ninth floor, New York, NY 10001. Send email to

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