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Make your yard more entertaining with hummingbirds
When you sit outside in your garden, what's your attention drawn to?
In my garden, my attention is immediately taken away from the plants to the hummingbirds as they zip and zoom by on their way to their nectar feeders. Quickly they speed by again just missing my head to check out what's in bloom for a good sip of nectar. Then they are off again to perch on the very top of a tree to survey the landscape and rest a while.
Do you want to attract hummingbirds to your garden?
It can be easily done by adding a few nectar feeders in different locations. Hummers can be territorial around food sources and often claim the feeder as their own. So don't be surprised if only one bird at a time visits a feeder. Having several feeders around your garden will allow more birds to visit your yard and keep you entertained.
Keep a close eye on the feeders as with all that feasting on sugar water it will quickly disappear. Mix a solution of one part white granulated sugar to four parts water, bring it to a boil and let it cool before putting it into the feeder. It's not necessary to add red food coloring in the sugar solution as the red decorations around the feeder openings are enough to attract them.
The birds drink their water from the feeder, however, they still need water to bathe. With drinking all the sticky sugar water, it ultimately lands on their feathers and they need to bathe to keep their plumage in top form for zipping around. Given their size, a small shallow basin of water will work perfectly.
Now that you have the birds drawn into your garden, add some flowering plants to your landscape that are rich in nectar and are tubular in shape. Their favorite color is red but don't be mistaken, as they are attracted to most flowers of any color.
Hummingbirds have no sense of smell, so the fragrance in flowers are not a concern to them. Consider plants with a long bloom time or repeat bloomers for a reliable source of food for many weeks to come. Native species are always preferred, as once established they thrive with minimal care. Also avoid chemicals as much as possible as it can contaminate the nectar and eliminate some of the insects the birds feast on.
Hummingbird gardens can be as small as a hanging basket to as large as an entire yard. Here are just a few tried and true plants that will keep these flying jewels in your garden. Some easy to grow colorful annuals are cleome, lantana, petunias, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Perennials such as bee balm, butterfly bush, cardinal flower, coral honeysuckle, hostas, phlox, salvia and wild columbine will keep them coming back for more sips. As the flowers die back, be sure to deadhead them to encourage another round of blooms. For flowering trees, look no further than mimosa, red buckeye and tulip poplar. Trees also provide a quick shelter from predators plus it's a wonderful place for a nesting area.
For bird watching and picture taking, consider installing objects that they can perch on. They like to rest on my clothesline and bean trellis. Some people go as far as to install a hummingbird sized swing. No, I haven't gone down this path yet but as the saying goes: "never say never."
As the summer wears on, you may notice an increase in hummingbird activity. That's a signal that migration is hitting its stride. It will be impossible for one hummer to claim his feeder so you may see all the sip seats taken. Enjoy your guests as they fuel up for the next leg of their journey. Sit back and relax as you too will be enchanted with the antics and sounds of these flying jewels. Happy Gardening!
Lyndall Noyes-Brownell is the co-chair of the Black Mountain Beautification Committee, an Extension Master Gardener volunteer of Buncombe County and chair of the Black Mountain Blooms Seed Lending Library. She is the webmaster for blackmountainbeautification.org and cares for plant containers in downtown Black Mountain.