A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hummingbird Garden 2.0

I’m pleased to report that my second try at a Hummingbird Garden was more successful than my first attempt. I still did not attract any hummingbirds but the flowers looked much better.



What worked: Scarlet King Zinnias, Texas Hummingbird Sage (Salvia coccinea) and Jacob Cline monarda. What didn’t work: Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans), Black Prince snapdragons and Empress of India nasturtiums.

The Pineapple sage grew wonderfully but never bloomed. The nasturtiums were more foliage than flowers and the snapdragons were just very disappointing. They never got very tall and the flowers were inconsequential.

The zinnias are magnificent. The plants are tall. The flowers are bright scarlet and HUGE. I just love them. The monarda is coming along. It was still gangly but it has begun forming nice clumps. I hope within a year or two, it will be as striking as the zinnias.

I have a love/hate relationship with the hummingbird sage. This is the second year that I’ve grown it and I went through the same emotional ups and downs as last year. Initially, I am happy with it because it germinates readily and prolifically from seed. Throughout the summer months, I am less happy with it because it grows slowly and is all foliage. By August, I am questioning whether I will grow it again as the first, spindly flowers start to appear. But once it gets going, I fall in love with it (again). I made sure to take lots of pictures of it to remind myself in the future why I grow this one every year.

One big difference this year is the nectar I am using. The red dye in the commercial preparations is not good for the hummingbirds. I consulted my copy of Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard for a recipe for homemade nectar. It is ridiculously easy to make. I boil a cup of water in my microwave, add 1/3 cup of sugar, allow it to cool and then pour it into the feeder. I clean the feeder while the nectar is cooling.

I will be studying my book over the winter as I make out my seed orders for the spring. I have wild columbine that blooms in the spring and attracts hummingbirds. The zinnias and hummingbird sage bloom in the late summer. I am in search of flowers that bloom in early to mid-summer to fill in the gap.


At 2:29 PM, Blogger Karrin said...

Thank you for the wonderful information on hummingbird gardens. My husband is an avid bird watcher and I a gardener. A hummingbird garden sounds like just the thing for us to try!


At 12:00 AM, Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Hi Old Roses,

I think you're too far north for the Salvia elegans. I grew Pineapple sage in Illinois, but the first frosts usually killed it just as it began to fully open.

My pineapple sage is just starting to open a few florets here in Austin. Like many of my perennial salvias, if Pineapple sage is not frozen back too hard in winter, it blooms spring and fall but with few blooms in midsummer.

This summer we saw hummingbirds sipping from Abelia, Butterfly bush, and honeysuckle. Good luck with attracting the little flyers to your place!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

At 2:43 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Annie, the Master Gardeners grow Pineapple Sage successfully in their herb garden which is where I was introduced to it. I think the problem with mine is that it didn't get enough sun. I have a lot of shade in my yard. Rather than just letting the plant die during the winter, I'm going to see if I can donate it to be propagated over the winter and the resulting cuttings could then be sold at a spring sale by one of the groups I volunteer with.

At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Layanee said...

That's it! More zinnias next year!!! What could be better?

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Naturegirl said...

I have red bee balm in my hummingbird garden and they are truly attracted to the color! I also place feeders around the plants so they stay and feed! I do 1 c. sugar to 4 cup water..therefore I have lots of extra! Soon our hummers will fly away until next summer :( NG

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Phillip said...

Do you grow Salvia guaranitica "Black and Blue." Hummingbirds love it! You might have to treat it as an annual in your climate though.

I love pineapple sage too. It doesn't bloom until fall here.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger OldRoses said...

NG, I'm so glad to hear that the monarda is a good attractor.

Philip, thanks for the suggestion. I'll look it up. Pineapple Sage is an annual here. Most people take cuttings to winter over and then out again in the spring.

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