Saturday, August 7, 2010

Making Your Backyard a Hummingbird Haven

Hummingbirds can see the bright red that normally is the color of the nectar put in those funky looking hummingbird feeders (yes, I have two of them too) from a distance which is why that color is the one used. Truth is that hummingbirds will drink the nectar from flowers of a variety of colors.

When choosing the flowers for your hummingbirds, a few things should be kept in mind. The hummingbirds seek shelter among vines, they perch on them to rest and survey their surroundings, and they use the spent flowers as nesting material.

The top picks for vines to allure the hummingbird are:
1. Cardinal Climber - fast growing annual, 10 - 20 ft tall, red flowers in the summer months
2. Clematis - Evergreen and deciduous vines, 5 - 30 ft, variety of colors
3. Cross Vine - Evergreen/Semi Evergreen woody vines, 20 - 50 ft, orangey to scarlet flowers
4. Cypress Vine - Annual to 20 ft, red or scarlet
5. Honeysuckle - Fast growing deciduous vine, 10 - 20 ft, orangey, yellow or red flowers
6. Jasmine - Evergreen and semi evergreen, grows to 30 ft, white to rose colored blooms
7. Morning Glory - Fast growing annual, 10 - 15 ft, red, white, blue, purple or bi color blooms
8. Scarlet Runner Bean - Fast growing annual to 15 ft, scarlet flowers
9. Trumpet Creeper - Vigorous climber to 30 ft, orange and scarlet blooms

Some vines are prolific growers and need to be trimmed up or they will take over your garden and choke all the other things out of existence. My Clematis are on a metal arch at the front of the little garden I've started, one of the hummingbird feeders, with it's bright red nectar hangs from that same trellis. The flowers on the Clematis are light purple and dark purple so the red feeder brings the hummingbirds in.

I also have, I think, the Trumpet Creeper mentioned above. It's a beautiful plant with dark green leaves and big orangey-red flowers on it. It is also very invasive and tries to take over, so it gets cut back every year. The other bird feeder is on the trellis by that flower.

Also in the garden are the ever popular "Butterfly Bush or Brush" (depending on who you're talking to), which has not brought any Butterflies to my yard but the birds seem to like them!

Decorating with vines can be very satisfying as well as very frustrating. Vines can be trained to follow trellis's, fence lines, light poles, or any number of things and make the garden a beautiful place as well as a haven for your hummingbirds. But they need to be properly taken care of and trimmed regularly if they are like the Trumpet Creeper.

In addition to the vines the hummingbird loves, there are many other flowers of note that can grace your garden and draw the tiny little birds to it. Try to plant a variety of nectar rich plants in your garden... after all, you don't like to eat the same thing over and over and over do you? Well, they don't either. Pick flowers that will bloom at different times too to keep the hummingbirds around longer.

The best picks for Perennials are:
1. Bee Balm - Blooms of red, pink, white and purple on stalks up to 4' tall in midsummer.
2. Butterfly Weed - Blooms in shades of orange and red in the summer reaching 3' tall
3. Cardinal Flower - Shades of red, pink or white in the summer and grows up to 5' tall.
4. Columbine - Broad range of colors blooming in the spring, 1 - 3' tall
5. Coral Bells - White to coral colored tiny flowers on long-lasting wands, blooms in the late spring.
6. Crocosmia - Red and orange blooms in mid-summer reaching 3' tall.
7. Evening Primrose - Yellow or pink flowers, 2 - 3' tall, blooms in the Spring
8. Hyssop - Violet to blue blooms in mid-summer. Reaches 3' tall. Also attracts bees.
9. Indian Pink or Pinkroot - Red and yellow blooms on 1 - 2' stalks, blooms in the late Spring.
10.Maltese Cross - Red flowers on a 2 - 3' plant blooms in the Summer.
11.Penstemon - Red, purple and white blooms on stalks that reach 4' in the Summer.
12.Red Hot Poker - grows to 4' tall with plumes of red, yellow, orange,or bi color flowers.
13.Salvia - Blooms of red, maroon, purple or indigo on 1 - 5' stalks.
14.Speedwell - Generally 1 - 2' tall with purple, blue, pink or white blooms.
15.Verbena - Summer blooms of red, pink, purple, or white that reach about a foot tall.

Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to a container of petunia's and verbena's that overflow the container in bright colors. Butterflies are also attracted to a container of English Butterfly, euphorbia, spurge and betony that are attractive to the gardener also because of it's beauty and low maintenance. Another pretty favorite combination of hummingbirds and gardeners alike is the Ogon sweet flag, Coral bells and mini petunia's of bright colors.

And, finally, nesting time. The hummingbirds nest is typically made of small pieces of soft plant fibers and bits of leaves that creates its flexible shape that expands as the nestlings grow. Fluffy plant down and animal hair line the inside and bits of lichen and moss cleverly camouflage the outside. The seed heads from the Clematis and Honeysuckle transform into fuzzy balls of soft fibers that the hummingbird uses for nest building material. The Pasque flower, Pussy Willow and Blanket flower offer similar soft fibers. The Lambs ear (I love that plant, its sooooo soft!), the silken plumes of ornamental grasses and all milkweeds provide nesting materials. The Ruby-Throated hummingbird will attach her nest to a twig or branch using the spider silk from a web. Put out nesting materials in an empty suet cage, like hair, yarn pieces and string.

Have fun with it, feed them, and provide them the means for nesting. Make a hummingbird happy!!

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