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Gardening for Hummingbirds

By: Kathryn Courtney

Well, we have survived a Biblical flood as Mayor Sylvester Turner says. So many of us are still out of our homes or are cleaning up the aftermath. We’re tired, cranky and generally on edge. What can we do to relieve some of this stress and frustration? Jim is having Prayer in the Garden this Saturday, September 2. That will definitely help. Sitting outside in the sun today helped me tremendously. So many birds, butterflies and moths, lizards and other critters were out in the sun too, celebrating the end of the rain. Soon, we will have our hummingbird migration throughout the Gulf Coast. At last, something to look forward to!

To be ready for the hummingbirds when they reach your yard you need several things. First is a chemical free, safe environment. Garden organically for the wildlife in your backyard. Do this not only for the health of the hummingbirds but also for the welfare of your kids, your pets and yourself. It’s very easy and in the long run, very rewarding. Hummingbirds need places to rest and nest. Provide them cover in the form of bushes and small trees. The hummingbirds in my backyard particularly love my climbing roses. They perch on the branches and build nests in the brambles. Also provide a source

Fire bush

of water for these birds. They prefer running water. I have found bubblers or small solar fountains floating in a regular birdbath work great. If you have a fountain in your yard, that’s great too. Make sure there is a place for the birds to perch or land that is shallow. This gives the hummingbirds access to the water.

Now, on to my favorite part. The plants. You can use feeders if you want but I like to grow the plants hummingbirds prefer. If you use feeders, make sure they are always clean. Also use a hummingbird safe food. Never put red dye in your hummingbird food. Plants are just easier to grow and you never have to worry about organic plants being safe. You can learn all of this in our Hummingbird Class on Saturday, September 23.
Salvia

Hummingbirds have developed a long narrow beak and a proboscis (like a tongue) to get nectar out of tubular shaped flowers. They also prefer the colors red and purple. This gives you a very long list of plants to pick from. The most popular hummingbird plant is actually called hummingbird bush, fire bush or hamelia. I have seen these bushes in many yards. Some get quite large but

Dwarf Esperanza

there are also dwarf varieties. Other plants that come to mind are flame acanthus, firecracker fern, any type of red or purple salvia, porterweed, liatris, red shrimp plant, beebalm and so many more. There are a few vines that hummingbirds love. Honeysuckle and crossvine are two favorites. Make sure you have a large area if you want to plant these. You will have lots of hummingbirds but also lots of vine. There are new domestic varieties that are much tamer than the

Crossvine

natives. If you look at pictures of all these plants you can see a trend. All of them have tubular flowers and they are all red, red-orange or purple. Most any flower that fits this description will be a hummingbird plant. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a great website: www.wildflower.org . They have lists of all the plants and also which ones are native if that’s important to you. All of us at the nursery have some hummingbird knowledge. If you have a question, ask us. If we don’t know the answer we can find it for you.

It’s time to get out of the house! Enough with the rain and the flood. Even though it’s still squishy, let’s all try to get outside in our gardens and get ready for the hummingbirds.