Garden Clippings

By Mike Lang
July 2008
Add to My MSN

FEASTING: Hummingbirds are attracted to red and orange blossoms. They especially like long, tubular flowers, such as these from a honeysuckle shrub, which tend to hold more nectar than other types of blossoms.
iStockPhoto.com/fenkep


Content Tools

Related Content

Eco-Friendly Gardening Advice

Eco-friendly gardening is a rewarding and sustainable way to grow your own organic food, and it can ...

Potato Bugs and Ponderings

All you want to know about potato bugs and more.

Garden Clippings

Soaring fuel prices affect just about everything we do, from travel to grocery bills.

Raised Bed Gardening: Plan Your Vegetables and Herbs in Fall

As the days get chillier, you can still plan for your next year’s production by building new raised ...

This article originally appeared in CAPPER'S July 10, 2001.

There are many things in the garden I anticipate seeing each year before the Kansas wind and heat rob them of their luster - the Juddi viburnum blooming, the appearance of the fall-planted bulbs, and the lush, new growth of the perennials. But one of the most astonishing sights is a side effect of the garden plants - the return of the hummingbirds.

I find it hard to believe that a bird that weighs approximately as much as a penny will leave my yard in the middle of the United States each fall, travel thousands of miles to Mexico or South America for the winter, and then make the return trip to the Lang residence in the spring.

Feeding Activity

Hummingbirds, of course, get their name from the humming sound produced by their wings, which can flap up to 150 times a second. The tremendous activity of the hummingbird requires it to feed every 10 to 15 minutes during the day. The birds consume half their weight in food, and many times their weight in water daily.

Many people notice that the feeding activity of hummingbirds is heightened at sunset. The build-up of reserves at dusk, along with a decrease in heart rate and body temperature, allows them to make it through the night without starving.

Flower nectar is the main component of a hummingbird's diet, but it also feeds on insects to receive the protein necessary for its diet. The solution of sugar and water that we use in hummingbird feeders closely resembles that of flower nectar.

Those who don't want to purchase the nectar can make a homemade version using one part granulated sugar to four parts water. Boiling the solution is recommended to help dissolve the sugar. There is no need to add the red food coloring sometimes suggested: Hummingbirds are attracted to the red color of the feeder base, where the drinking ports are located. Some experts think the red food coloring could be a cause of cancer in the birds.

A common misconception is that gardeners need to take down the feeders early in the fall so the hummers won't be tempted into staying too late in the season. The feeders we put out are only a small portion of the birds' diet. The main portion of their diet is nectar produced by flowers in our gardens, which begin to wane as the time for migration comes near.

Red and orange blossoms seem to attract hummingbirds best, but they can be found feeding on blooms of any color. The hummingbird favors long, tubular flowers, such as those found on honeysuckle. Flowers like these tend to hold more nectar than other types of blossoms. To assure a constant source of hummingbird food for the summer, plan your garden so there are flowers blooming throughout the season.

Plants that attract hummingbirds are:
• Trees - crabapple, hawthorn, red buckeye and tulip tree.
• Shrubs - glossy abelia, buddleia, yucca, honeysuckle, weigela and azalea.
• Vines - honeysuckle, morning glory and trumpet vine.
• Perennials - bee balm, butterfly weed, coral bells, hollyhock, lobelia, hosta, penstemon, foxglove and day lily.
• Annuals - Begonia, canna, cleome, geranium, impatiens, nicotina, red salvia, lantana and petunia.

My favorite plant to watch hummingbirds hover over is the goldflame honeysuckle. The large, flame-red blooms occur throughout the growing season, making the plant a virtual hummingbird magnet. I remember watching hummingbirds on my parents' honeysuckle for hours at a time when I was growing up. Talk about cheap entertainment!


Previous | 1 | 2 | Next






Post a comment below.

 








Subscribe today
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
 

Want to rediscover what made grandma’s house the fun place we all remember? Capper’s Farmer — the newly restored publication from the rural know-how experts at Grit.com — updates the tried-and-true methods your grandparents used for cooking, crafting, gardening and so much more. Subscribe today and discover the joys of homemade living and homesteading insight — with a dash of modern living — that makes up the new Capper’s Farmer.

Save Even More Money with our automatic renewal savings plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Capper's Farmer for only $19.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $19.95 for a one year subscription!