Spring will be marked by the arrival of hummingbirds at the feeders and nature lovers will be buzzing about how many have arrived at whose house and when.
Susan Kirkbride of Sweet Nectar Nursery (www.sweetnectarnursery.com ) said that the sugar water we put in the feeders is the hummingbird's fast food. The nectar and insects they get from flowers is their Slow Food (www.slowfood.com).
In a few weeks, gardeners will be ordering plants and seeds for spring 2009 so I contacted Kirkbride to find out what we could grow to attract more hummingbirds into our gardens and onto our porches when they arrive between late March and mid-April.
Kirkbride said she has been planting seeds every two weeks for the past three months to supply bird and butterfly gardeners through her Internet store.
I first started gardening for butterflies and hummingbirds fifteen years ago, Kirkbride said. Over the years I volunteered at several public butterfly and hummingbird gardens. About four years ago I started the business to sell off the extra plants I had grown for a couple of the gardens where I was volunteering.
Sweet Nectar Nursery offers 225 hummingbird and butterfly friendly perennials, 14 groundcovers and a dozen vine varieties grown from cuttings and seed in Kirkbride's greenhouse, under lights in her home and in a one-third acre bed.
She said the most unusual plant she grows is stinging nettle, the host plant of the Red Admiral and Painted Lady butterflies. Other unique plants in her catalog include firecracker vine, Erythrina (Cherokee Bean), and six varieties of milkweed.
The earliest flowers that will bring hummingbirds are flowering quince, flowering currant, Aquilegia Canadensis (red Columbine), and red buckeye.
If you can attract the hummingbirds to your garden with something red, they will stay and check out all of your flowers, red or otherwise, to see which are good nectar sources, Kirkbride said. You can help attract hummingbirds to your yard in the spring by putting out red or orange surveyors tape or ribbons.
Perennials loved by hummingbirds include:
- Agastache - Tutti Frutti, Heather Queen, Apricot Sprite and rupestris.
-Bee Balm variety Monarda Jacob Cline
-Cuphea David Verity
- Salvia (Guaranitica 'Black and Blue', greggii Autumn Sage, coccinea 'Coral Nymph' & 'Lady in red', elegans - Pineapple Sage, and subrotunda.).
If your garden stays moist or wet, grow Lobelia cardinalis and Lobelia speciosa (it’s more hardy), Mimulus cardinalis and Jewelweed
Vines loved by hummingbirds: Campsis radicans (Trumpet Creeper), Cypress Vine, Cardinal Climber and Lonicera sempervirens (Coral Honeysuckle)
Shrubs and Trees that attract hummingbirds: Red Buckeye, flowering Quince and Flowering currant.
Annuals you can start indoors early: Salvia coccinea Lady in Red or a similar red colored cultivar, Snapdragons, Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana), Cleome. Zinnias and Marigold are useful, because they attract the small insects that hummingbirds eat.
Kirkbride said that she provides water for her backyard birds.
I have a half barrel filled with water and water plants, Kirkbride said. Birds need the plants to land on. Hummingbirds prefer moving water such as the spray from a fountain.
They also will hang out where there is a Leaf-Mister mounted ten-feet above ground according to the Hummingbird Society's web page (hummingbirdsociety.org). Birdbaths.com has Leaf Misters, $29 with free shipping.
For more information about how to get started on your spring butterfly and hummingbird garden, contact Susan Kirkbride, Sweet Nectar Nursery, 18121 NE 128th Avenue, Battle Ground, WA 98604 - Tel. 360.624.4901.