Category Archives: Hummingbird plants

Postcard from the Hummingbirds: We’re On Our Way!

The hummingbirds are coming! The hummingbirds are coming! As of this week, ruby-throated hummingbirds have been spotted making their way north into the Carolinas and Virginia!

Hummingbird Migration Map

Disinfect feeders with a dilute bleach solution and fill with a sugar/water solution of 1 part sugar: 4 parts water

Fill feeders with a sugar/water solution of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.

There’s still a foot of snow on the ground here on our farm, so I’m guessing no hummer will even consider making their way to New England for another 3 or 4 weeks yet, when bugs are flying and sapsucker wells are flowing freely. The males usually arrive here in central MA sometime in April, scouting out good breeding habitat. Females don’t usually arrive til later in the spring, when nectar plants begin blooming and insect food is plentiful.

But if they could, I’m sure our summertime visitors would send a postcard saying “We’re on our way. Looking forward to our visit! See you soon. p.s. Get those feeders up and please plant more of that Coral Honeysuckle for us! Love, the Rubythroats”

So it’s time to get those sugar-water feeders cleaned and hanging! They’re coming soon! Keep watching the migration map and please help out by reporting any sightings!

Hummingbirds love the red tubular flowers of Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

Hummingbirds love the red tubular flowers of Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

p.s. and plan to grow some native Coral Honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens) in a sunny spot on your property this year. The hummingbirds will appreciate it, and may well decide to return to your habitat every year if they like what you have to offer!

Hardy New England Hummingbirds: It’s always hard to believe any tropical bird would consider the cold New England climate as a good place to live and breed, but our few months of warm and wonderful summery weather with a glorious variety of blooming flowers and plenty of flying insects means that many ruby-throated hummingbirds DO consider our New England “rainforest” region to be a perfect place to raise a family. At least, in the summertime. Come August and September, they’re on the way back to the tropics for the winter, and after this particularly brutal winter of 2015, I can’t say I blame them!

Small Habitat Gardens of Worcester MA West

It’s tough to drive safely around here when summer gardens are at their peak! I’m sure other gardeners can relate to what I call garden rubbernecking, when you really ought to be watching the road but wow! did you see those dahlias!! and WHAT is that gorgeous tree? oooh! beautiful hanging baskets! Recently I’ve been carrying a camera on my travels, snapping photos of front-yard gardens and the colorful containers and window boxes that are in their full glory right now in the Worcester area. Here’s a selection of some small urban gardens and container plantings that I consider habitat-friendly. In other words, they don’t just look pretty, but their flowers, seeds and foliage supply food, shelter, structure and other resources to a variety of birds, beneficial insects and even amphibians that will visit an urban habitat.

First stop on my tour is downtown Spencer, where Appleblossoms has beautified its corner of Main and Mechanic St. for the past several years with these stunning window boxes.The flowering penta, impatiens and bacopa bring hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators right into the urban landscape, and the lush and colorful display must cheer many an early morning commuter along route 9:

_MG_5990Next stop is a side street just uphill from downtown, where I noticed this sidewalk retaining wall planted entirely with colorful hummingbird and butterfly-friendly annuals, including spider flower (Cleome) and blue and pink salvia:

spencer-ch-stI’m sure this garden attracts hordes of hummers all through the day. It certainly brings color and beauty to a once-elegant but now sadly neglected area of Spencer.

On to West Brookfield, where the historic town common features several large flowering containers worth a mention. This one is made up of scarlet runner bean vine (its orangey-red flowers are a hummingbird magnet) and bacopa (with tiny white flowers that bees love), plus other foliage plants that provide shelter and a resting place for tiny forms of wildlife through the summer:

west brookfield containerI’m not sure who waters and maintains these containers, but their extra-large size enables them to withstand drought much better than your average patio pot or window box, which in hot weather usually needs watering once or even twice per day. When it comes to containers, the larger the better, unless you use self-watering containers or automatic irrigation.

A few miles to the east in Worcester, here’s a front-yard garden near Tatnuck Square where, instead of wasting an otherwise unused space on a bit of ailing lawn, the homeowners have filled the front with plants that flower right through the seasons, providing a small oasis of biodiversity smack in the middle of a busy city intersection:

tatnuck-streetside-gardenGranted, this might be a little too ‘naturalized’ for some urban tastes, and the curb is overgrown with weedy, invasive stuff that most people don’t want in their yards, but this garden certainly grabs the attention as you pass through, and might even encourage a ponder about the possibilities, and wasted opportunities, of the typical American front yard. There is probably more life per square foot in this garden than anywhere else in the city of Worcester!

Last but not least, I love this charming front-yard garden on a side street of Worcester’s West Side. You can see that this little garden is lovingly tended, and with its colorful variety of shrubs and perennials, I’m sure it has something blooming right through the season. The hydrangea, pink garden phlox, purple coneflower, coreopsis are all great nectar plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and the dense shrubbery protects songbird nests from bad weather and predators.The annuals sweet alyssum, blue salvia and orange marigold fill in the gaps for an eye-popping show of refreshing color during the dog days of summer. I’d love to live across from this gardener’s house!

worcester-west-sideSo…my message is that you really don’t need a lot of space to invite wildlife and nature into your lives. Whether you garden on a 1/4 acre or just a porch railing, you can bring the beauty and life-sustaining qualities of plants into the smallest of garden spaces. In the process, you’ll be making your little patch of the earth a little healthier, prettier, and friendlier to all those who pass…