Come on over to the Sawyer Free Library tonight and learn how you can create a welcoming haven for birds, bees, and butterflies!
Reader Allen Sloane writes:
It was a pleasure to meet and talk with you on Saturday.
Thanks for all the info on poke weeds. My dog doesn’t seem to have any interest in the berries so some day I’ll get around to removing it.
Last night I went to look at it and right next to it is this plant which has decided to blossom. I have seen a couple of other plants in the neighborhood so I don’t know if they are from seed or it is a cultural decision to grow them. Be my guest if you want to answer via your daily post.
The gorgeous flower in the photo that you sent is the North American native Hibiscus moscheutos, also known by many common names, including rose mallow, swamp mallow, eastern rosemallow, and crimson-eyed rose mallow. Crimson-eyed rose mallow blooms in shades of pure white to cheery pink and deepest rose red.
To answer your question, the seeds are dispersed by birds, and they are also readily available in nurseries. Locally, Wolf Hill always has a lovely selection. I plant rose mallows widely in my client’s native plants gardens as well as in Arts and Crafts period gardens because they are beautiful, easily tended, and are a terrific source of nectar for ruby-throated hummingbirds. H. moscheutos grow beautifully along marsh edges as well as in gardens. There’s a sweet patch growing at Niles Pond, and I am sure we would see many more if phragmites weren’t supplanting all our marsh wildflowers.
We planted a patch at the HarborWalk, but sadly they were stolen. Next year I am hoping we can replace the lost plants!
The following is an excerpt from an article that I wrote awhile back, titled “Growing Native:”
“…Throughout the American Arts and Crafts movement, and well into the 1930’s, home and garden magazines, among the most influential sources of ideas for the homeowner, espoused the use of native plants in the landscape. Perhaps the most notable was Gustav Stickley’s The Craftsman, which was published for fifteen years, beginning in 1901. Stickley revered the North American white oak (Quercus alba), admiring it for its majestic role in the eastern forest and for its unique strength and figuring of the wood for furniture making. A sense of connectedness to nature is at the heart of the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement and the popular writing of the era reflects how to create this relationship.
I am reminded of a lovely and memorable cover of Country Living for the September 1905 issue featuring a drift of rose mallows (Hibiscus moscheutos), which resemble and are closely related to hollyhocks (Alcea rosea). Both are members of the Malvaceae or Mallow Family. Hibiscus moscheutos are commonly referred to as crimson-eyed rose mallow and also marsh mallow, because the roots were used to make marshmallows. Rose mallows are a practical and economical native perennial as they reliably return year after year, unlike hollyhocks, although charming and beautiful, are short-lived (with the exception of Alcea rugosa). Rose mallows bloom in shades of pale pink to deeper rosey pink, from July through the first frost. Although found growing in marshy areas along stream and river banks, rose mallows will flourish in the garden when provided with rich moist soil and planted in a sunny location. New growth is slow to emerge in the spring. When cutting back the expired stalks after the first hard frost of autumn, leave a bit of the woody stalk to mark its spot for the following year. The leaves of Hibiscus moscheutos are a host plant for the Gray Hairstreak butterfly and the flowers provide nectar for Ruby-throated hummingbirds.”
Willowdale Estate Courtyard
Monday night I was filming at Willowdale as we are in the early stages of creating a web page about the butterfly gardens for the Willowdale Estate website. I was hoping to film the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at dusk and did succeed! They were nectaring from the Rose Mallow, hosta, Snowberry Bush, and butterfly bushes.
I love the new bistro lights in the courtyard garden–so romantic!
Trumpeting the Trumpet
Early blooms are an important feature for the vine planted to lure hummingbirds. You want to provide tubular-shaped flowers in shades of red and orange and have your hummingbird feeders hung and ready for the earliest of the northward-migrating scouts. If nothing is available, they will pass by your garden and none will take residence. Hummingbirds can easily distinguish red contrasted against green. We go so far as to plant vivid Red Riding Hood tulips beneath our hummingbird feeders, which hang from the bows of the flowering fruit trees. Although hummingbirds do not nectar from the tulips, the color red draws them into the garden and the flowering fruit trees and sugar water provide sustenance for travel-weary migrants.
Lonicera sempervirens, also called Trumpet and Coral Honeysuckle, is a twining or trailing woody vine native to New England. Trumpet Honeysuckle is not at all fussy about soil and is drought tolerant. Plant in full sun to part shade. If Trumpet Honeysuckle becomes large and ungainly, prune hard to the ground—it grows rapidly and a vigorous pruning will only encourage more flowers.
‘Major Wheeler’ flowers in a deeper red than that of the carmine of ‘Dropmore Scarlet.’ ‘John Clayton’ is a cheery, cadmium yellow, a naturally occurring variant of Lonicera sempervirens, and was originally discovered growing wild in Virginia. The blossoms of ‘Mandarin’ are a lovely shade of Spanish orange.
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 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. I practically bump into the hummingbirds as they are making their daily rounds through the garden flora. Did you know they 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. I glanced up from my work, fully expecting to see a mouse, and was instead delighted to discover a female Ruby-throat 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.
Lonicera sempervirens is a caterpillar food plant for the Snowberry Clearwing moth.
Another great hummingbird question 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?
Dear Gardening Friends, Happy Easter! In a future post I plan to bring you more about the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, today however I will be brief as I have more holiday preparations to tend. This is a reminder to set your hummingbird feeders out as soon as possible. This past week, sightings of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird have been reported as far north as Maine–the northward hummingbird migration is full underway!
A hummingbird’s diet is comprised of nectar and insects. We can lure them to our gardens by providing nectar-rich tubular-shaped flora in shades of red and orange, along with flowers comprised of small florets that attract small insects. At this time of year there isn’t much to offer in the way of flowering sustenance for the hummingbirds. Several weeks ago I took our feeders out of storage, gave them a good wash with vinegar, soap, and water, filled them with a sugar and water mixture, and hung them throughout the garden.
The eye-cathing Red Riding Hood tulips (although not a particularly 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. The tulips are planted 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 five years or so, it has been our great good fortune to host throughout the nesting season female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and offspring.
Four Flower Frolic Feeder
Hummingbirds, along with bats and certain species of moths, have an unusual method of drinking nectar called swing-hovering, which allows them to nectar while in mid-air. Ruby-throated hummingbirds expend vast amounts of energy during their migration–averaging approximately 52 wingbeats per minute. For this reason, I find the best hummingbird feeders are those that also offer a a place to perch while feeding (see photo and videoclip).
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.
Warmest wishes, for spring and for chocolate in your Easter basket!
In anticipation of spring and your spring planting plans (and as I am sorting through mountains of photos, film footage, and text for the butterfly gardening show), I am planning a little series here on the blog. The focus is all about sharing information and photos about individual plant species that provide sustenance and shelter for the pollinators that grace our gardens.
Two of our very favorite native plant species for attracting Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the blossoms of the northern catalpa tree (Catalpa speciosa) and trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), both of which belong to the Bignonia family. Catalpa trees bear white flowers with violet nectar guides and, despite their color differences, Catalpa blossoms and the red-orange flowers of trumpet creeper reveal several similarities, The reproductive structures are positioned inside at the top lip of the opening, surrounded by five asymmetrically shaped petals fused together. As the hummingbird pokes its head deep inside the trumpet-shaped blossom to extract nectar, the pollen-bearing sticky stamens and pistils attach to its forehead and transfer pollen from one blossom to the next.
Nectar volume influences the blossoms’ attractiveness to the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The small florets of plants such as those of butterfly bushes and zinnias offer nectar, though they require many visits to make it worthwhile. Our native Campsis radicans produces one of the highest known volumes of floral nectar per flower. Hummingbird fledglings quickly learn from their mothers the blossoms that contain the most nectar.
Campsis radicans is found growing throughout much of the eastern half of the country. Unable to support itself vertically, it trails along the ground until it reaches a tree. Tiny aerial rootlets are formed to adhere itself to the surface of the tree to then allow it to climb skyward towards the sunlight. Unlike vines such as Chinese wisteria and bittersweet, which gird and then strangle a tree, trumpet creeper clings tightly. Campsis radicans is a very fast growing and top-heavy vine. It is unsuitable for anything but the strongest structure. As it blooms on the current year’s growth, it can be grown along a solid fence and cut back very vigorously in early spring.
For the intimate garden or garden room, where a less rampant (but no less hardy) grower is a more suitable choice, there are several hybrids of C. radicans with flowers that are as equally attractive to the hummingbirds. ‘Madame Galen’ (Campsis radicans x tagliabuana) flowers in lovely shades of apricot-orange. The newer cultivar ‘Indian Summer’ is described with the less persistent and dense growth characteristics similar to that of ‘Madame Galen’ and beautiful blossoms of apricot-orange with a deeper red eye.
The extended period of florescence of C. radicans corresponds to the span of time in which ruby-throated hummingbirds are living in their northern range. Like Chinese wisteria, trumpet creeper can take six years or more to flower from seed. Plant the largest specimen one’s budget will allow.
|Kingdom||Plantae – Plants|
|Subkingdom||Tracheobionta – Vascular plants|
|Superdivision||Spermatophyta – Seed plants|
|Division||Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants|
|Class||Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons|
|Family||Bignoniaceae – Trumpet-creeper family|
|Genus||Campsis Lour. – campsis|