Category Archives: Hummingbirds

GOLDEN FLOWER OF THE AZTECS

The brilliant red-orange Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) is a beneficial pollinator magnet. Plant and they will come! Grow a patch of milkweed next to your Mexican Sunflowers and you will not only attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and an array of bee species, but every Monarch Butterfly in the neighborhood will be in your garden.

Its many common names include Red Torch Mexican Sunflower, Bolivian Sunflower, Japanese Sunflower, but one of the loveliest is ‘Golden Flower of the Aztecs.’ Tithonia rotundifolia grows wild in the mountains of Central Mexico and Central America.

Mexican Sunflower is one of my top ten favorites for supporting Monarchs, is extremely easy to grow, and deer do not care for its soft, velvety leaves. Plant in average garden soil, water, and dead head often to extend the blooming period. Ours flower from July through the first frost. Collect the seedheads after the petals have fallen off, but before they dry completely and the songbirds have eaten all the seeds.

SAVE THE DATE – “THE HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN” – MY NEW PRESENTATION FOR THE NORTH SHORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY

THE HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN

OCTOBER 24TH AT 7:30PM

SACRED HEART CHURCH PARISH HALL

62 SCHOOL STREET

MANCHESTER, MA

The North Shore Horticultural Society has invited me to give a presentation about the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Over the years I have shared so much info about attracting this tiny avian pollinator that it was exciting to put the lecture together, just a matter of collecting all the bits into a cohesive program. BTW, it’s been a phenomenal year for hummingbirds in Cape Ann gardens!

“The Hummingbird Garden” is free for members and five dollars for guests.

I am looking forward to giving this program and hope to see you there!

THE HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird that nests in Massachusetts. Learn what to plant to help sustain this elusive beauty while it is breeding in our region and during its annual spring and fall migrations. Through photographs and discussion we’ll learn about the life cycle of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and the best plants to attract this tiniest of breeding birds to your garden.

APPLE BLOSSOM SUNRISE

The view out our bedroom window at sunrise this morning, before all was overtaken by (more) rain clouds.

BTW, the RTHummingbirds and Orioles are loving the nectar from our crabapple and flowering fruit tree blossoms 🙂

THREE HUMMINGBIRDS IN OUR GARDEN TODAY

Shortly before it began raining this afternoon, my husband called to me to the garden to have a look see. Three male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were zinging about, drinking nectar from the flowers and fearlessly whizzing by each other in territorial displays. The tiny boys were mostly interested in our beautiful old Japanese flowering quince ‘Toyo-nishiki’  (Chaenomoles speciosa).  They were also investigating the flowering pear tree and almost-ready to bloom crabapples, but not nearly as much so as the quince.

I hope to see them again on a brighter day, the male’s beautiful red gorget (throat patch) flashes much more brilliantly in the sunshine.

Providing a continuously blooming array of nectar rich flowers, from spring through late summer, will encourage RTHummingbirds to nest nearby and you may even see the fledglings later in the season. You will probably never see the nest as it is only as big as one half a walnut shell, and the eggs only pearl-sized 🙂

BLACK EARTH COMPOST – SIMPLY THE BEST ON THE PLANET!

I cannot say enough good things about BLACK EARTH COMPOST and the amazing guys, Andrew and Connor, who provide this fantastic product. My client’s gardens have never looked as lush and beautiful since I began strictly only using Black Earth Compost to replenish the soil.

Andrew even delivers to my butterfly and ABC gardens at Philips Andover. Thank you Black Earth for making such a great product!

Black Earth Compost not only makes a great product, they provide residential, commercial, and municipal compost pickup. Go here to learn more about their excellent services.

HOW TO ATTRACT HUMMINGBIRDS (AND KEEP THEM COMING) TO YOUR GARDEN

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s diet is comprised of nectar and insects. In early spring there isn’t much to offer in the way of flowering sustenance or insects. Around the first of April, we take our feeders out of storage, give them a good wash with vinegar, soap, and water, fill with a sugar/water mixture, and hang them throughout the garden.

Sugar water recipe: 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Stir to dissolve thoroughly. Never add red dye or replace the sugar with honey. Provide fresh sugar/water every 4 – 5 days. The water will need to be changed more frequently in hot humid weather. Discard water that has black mold and clean feeders throughly.

You can keep hummingbirds coming to your garden throughout the growing season by providing nectar-rich tubular-shaped flora in shades of primarily red, orange, and yellow (although I see them drinking nectar from a rainbow of hues), along with flowers comprised of small florets that attract small insects (the florets at the center of a zinnia plant, for example).

If I could only grow one plant to attract the Ruby-throats, it would be honeysuckle. Not the wonderfully fragrant, but highly invasive Japanese honeysuckle, but our beautiful native Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) that flowers in an array of warm-hued shades of Spanish orange (‘John Clayton’), deep ruby red (‘Major Wheeler’), and my very favorite, the two-toned orange and red ‘Dropmore Scarlet.’

Lonicera sempervirens ‘Dropmore Scarlet’

Trumpet Honeysuckle has myriad uses in the landscape. Cultivate to create vertical layers, in a small garden especially. Plant Lonicera sempervirens to cover an arbor, alongside a porch pillar or to weave through trelliage. Allow it to clamber over an eyesore or down an embankment. Plant at least one near the primary paths of the garden so that you can enjoy the hummingbirds that are drawn to the nectar-rich blossoms. We practically bump into our hummingbirds as they are making their daily rounds through the garden flora.

Did you know Ruby-throated Hummingbirds make a funny squeaky sound? I began to take notice of their presence in our garden, when at my office desk one afternoon in late summer, with windows open wide, I heard very faint, mouse-like squeaks. Glancing up from my work, fully expecting to see a mouse, and was instead delighted to discover a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird outside my office window, nectaring at the vines. Trumpet Honeysuckle not only provides nectar for the hummingbirds, it also offers shelter and succulent berries for a host of birds.

The following are several posts written over the years to help readers attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to their homes and gardens.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

A Hummingbird’s Perspective

Where to Place YOur Hummingbird Feeders

A question written awhile back from my friend Kate:

Where do you place the feeders? Are they okay out in the open and, if so, do the hummingbirds become too nervous to feed if they can be seen by birds of prey?

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds prefer feeding at a station where they perch and observe the landscape, and then zoom in. Hang feeders on the lower limbs of trees and on shepherd’s hooks close to shrubs and above perennial wildflowers, about five to six feet off the ground. I haven’t read or heard too much about birds of prey in regard to hummingbirds; they move too fast, however, bluejays are said to attack nestlings. House cats and praying mantis pose a more serious threat to hummingbirds.

Eye-catching Red Riding Hood tulips, although not a good source of nectar, will attract by the sheer brilliance of their color, are a wonderful species tulip that reliably returns year after year, and multiplies. We plant Red Riding Hood tulips beneath the boughs of flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs, in hopes, that they too will lure the hummingbirds to our garden during their northward migration. And then, again with high hopes, that the hummingbirds will nest in our garden. For the past nine years, it has been our great good fortune to host throughout the nesting season female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and then later in the summer, their fledglings!

Mallows provide nectar in later summer and Red Riding Hood tulips attracts by their color. Both are perennial.

The later blooming annual vine, Cardinal Climber, provides nectar for southward migrating RT Hummingbirds.

A chance encounter with the brilliant emerald green feathered female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, drinking nectar from the Wild Sweet William growing in the sand at the base of the Welcome Good Harbor Beach sign.

She is drinking nectar from the wildflower Saponaria officinalis. The plant’s many common names include Soapwort, Bouncing-bet, and Wild Sweet William. The name Soapwort stems from its old fashioned use in soap making. The leaves contain saponin, which was used to make a mild liquid soap, gentle enough for washing fine textiles.

Saponaria blooms during the summertime. Although introduced from Eurasia, you can find this wildflower growing in every state of the continental US.

The hummingbird in the clip is a female. She lacks the brilliant red-feathered throat patch, or gorget, of the male. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are all around us, you just have to know what to plant to bring them to your garden. Mostly they eat tiny insects but if you plant their favorite nectar-providing plants, they will come!

 

Salem State University Keynote Speaker Kim Smith Spotlights Plight of the Monarch Butterflies

Salem State keynote spotlights beauty, plight of monarch butterflies

 

Smith, who spoke on campus Thursday, April 12, makes nature films and contributes to the daily blog Good Morning Gloucester. She also helps communities and individuals build gardens specifically aimed at attracting butterflies, bees and beneficial bugs.

On behalf of the Earth Days Planning Committee, Carol Zoppel, a campus librarian and co-chair of Earth Days Week, presented Smith with the Friend of the Earth Award.

“Salem State University’s Earth Days committee would like to recognize Kim Smith for her artistic and advocacy work on behalf of wildlife through her films, photo, gardens, and writings,” said Zoppel. Smith received her award and a framed poster of her program.

READ COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

…Smith also reflected on our involvement with these creatures.

“I think compassion for all living creatures is really important,” said Smith. “Right here in our own backyards and beaches we have small winged creatures like Monarchs and Piping Plovers that are struggling to survive.”

She added, “Our actions and how we chose to live our lives has tremendous impact.”