09 December 2008

Planning a 2009 Spring Garden to Attract Hummingbirds

Is your mailbox starting to be stuffed with catalogs yet? Ours is.

Plants, bulbs, seeds, tools, equipment, books - we all need it all if the wording on the catalogs is to be believed.

I love tropical and exotic plants that thrive the first year. Each year, though, as I learn more about sustainable gardening, planting for wildlife, and taking care to leave the earth a little better for my having been here, I put in more and more for nature.

Fewer chemicals go onto our slice of the Earth than they did 10 or 15 years ago. And, more U.S. native plants go into the ground.

This is last spring's bulb bed - 300 flowering bulbs created a spectacular view from our kitchen window.

I found a nursery in the state of Washington, near Portland Oregon, that is called Sweet Nectar Nursery, and contacted the owner, Susan Kirkenbride.

My question was, how can we attract more hummingbirds and butterflies to our gardens without hanging those sugar-water feeders? Here is a map of hummingbird arrival dates.

Kirkenbride knows her stuff. She has been a hummingbird gardener for 15 years and that's what she grows and sells at Sweet Nectar. Click here to visit her online.

Hummingbirds are wired in their brains to look for cup shaped flowers in any color of red. Their best nectar sources are in those flowers.

The Hummingbird Society says

Hummingbirds weigh 2 to 20 grams, feed on nectar, insects and tiny spiders. They have long and slender beaks and extensible tongues. Their feet are tiny and designed for perching.

But why red flowers?

Insects compete with hummingbirds for nectar. Insects can see many colors but not at the red end of the color spectrum. To insects reds appear to be black. Hummingbirds can see the full spectrum and have their pick of the red flowers for nectar.

Why tubular flowers?

The hummingbird's tongue can extend a distance roughly equal to its beak length so it can reach where most insects cannot. Downward-hanging blossoms with no "landing" platform such as honeysuckle, are also less attractive to insects, leaving that nectar for hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds also need a source of water for bathing. Shallow, moving water is one preference. A leaf mister mounted 10-feet high is another.

Mints they like: Hyssop, Bee Balm and Salvias.

For all things Salvia check out the website of an English Salvia enthusiast at Robin's Salvias.

Mallows they like: Turk's Cap, Flowering Maple (Abutilon pictus), Hollyhock (as Alcea rosea) Hardy Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon.

Penstemmons: All

At https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/mjrock/web/nectarnews9.pdf

the author reviews his 2006 hummingbird garden, describing his successes and not-so-much.

One of his hummingbird hits was a Salvia Guaraniticia, Blue Brazilian Sage. Fortunately, seeds are available from Select Seeds.

If you want to share your hummingbird enthusiasm, HUMNET is at http://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/HUMNETintro.html with an email conversation, archives and advice.

Click over to Hummingbirds.net operated by Lanny Chambers in a St. Louis suburb. Lots of information on his site, too.

These are great resources put together with a lot of love for hummingbirds. Click around and think spring.

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