Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Little, Bitty Hummers

They weigh less than a penny, fly 50 mph and are smaller than your thumb.

IF I owned the camera of my dreams, I'd show you Calliope Hummingbirds, flitting around this honeysuckle vine. All photos, so far, are just a blur.

In Western gardens, you can time their arrival. They follow the blooming of columbines and lilacs. But, they'll hang around all summer if you offer them the right kind of plants.

Hummingbirds can't smell. Their favorites are big nectar producers with red, orange and pink, tubular flowers. They also love mosquitoes and gnats - so it's to everyone's benefit to invite hummers into the yard.

Ever wonder why hummingbirds ignore your garden and gather near the feeder? Cultivated hybrid plants produce very little nectar, compared to native plants.

Here's what's growing in my hummingbird garden:*
  • Bee Balm
  • Columbine
  • Coral Honeysuckle
  • Hummingbird Mint
  • Lupine
  • Penstemon
Mixing hummingbird nectar is easy: 1 part white sugar with 4 parts water. Boil, cool, then serve it in a red-colored feeder. Change it every 3-4 days.

PS: They can fly backwards!

* Each of these hearty Western perennials is USDA zone 5 (or colder.) Check out Spring Hill Nursery for plant combinations to attract little hummers. Visit the Hummingbird Society for more cool ideas!

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