Woodbridge resident Dr. Chris Loscalzo loves birds. He loves birds so much that, while talking outdoors, he constantly interrupts himself to identify birds by song and by sight. His hobby is bird watching and for the Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count, Dr. Loscalzo and other birders visit the Woodbridge Community Gardens to begin the local bird count. “I started to learn that certain native plants attract birds,” he said. His own yard is very shaded so when he wanted to create a native shrub garden to provide a year-round food source and comfortable habitat for birds he turned to the Woodbridge Community Gardens.
First Selectman Ellen Scalettar asked Dr. Loscalzo for a tour of the native shrub garden and the mini orchard that he has created for the local wildlife and residents to enjoy at the far edge of the Community Gardens. He has turned six 25 x 40 foot plots into a mecca for wildlife and wildlife lovers. He planted 60 shrubs of 10 varieties to create cover for birds. Most of the shrubs are fruit bearing, including blueberries, viburnum, chokeberry, elderberries and winterberry. The shrubs, which began as one-foot-tall plants, are now large, bushy and healthy.
For the first few years he spent many hours tending the garden – weeding, feeding and watering. After the shrub garden was stable, Dr. Loscalzo converted the contiguous three fallow plots into an orchard. “I don’t know why I decided to do this,” he joked to Scalettar. “It was far more work than I expected.”
If the native shrub garden is for the birds, the orchard is for the humans. His orchard includes 24 semi-dwarf trees – 16 apples and eight pears. There are benches in both areas to invite residents to enjoy the view and the bird song. The fruit trees were planted four years ago and are already tall enough that Dr. Loscalzo uses a ladder to reach the highest branches. He invites the public to enjoy the apples and the pears. “This is for people to enjoy,” he said. “The goal was for it to be self-perpetuating, but I can’t imagine how many hundreds of hours I’ve spent here, and I haven’t regretted a minute of it.”
“You’ve done so much for our community,” Scalettar told him while enjoying a freshly picked apple. “It’s lovely, and we thank you.”
Dr. Loscalzo is also a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Best Outdoor Maintenance and Management Practices for Town-Owned Land recently created by Scalettar.