By Jodi Torpey
For the last 17 years I’ve worked to create an eco-friendly naturescape in my suburban backyard. I’ve planted native flowers, added low-maintenance perennial plants, reduced water use, and eliminated synthetic chemicals.
My certified wildlife habitat includes food, water, shelter, and places for all kinds of insects, birds, and fuzzy critters to raise their young. But this year I’m concentrating my wildlife-loving efforts to attract more hummingbirds, all season long.
These flighty birds typically show up at the end of summer to enjoy nectar from the Agastache plants. But if I start in April with a few sugar-water feeders and then plant nectar-rich flowers, such as bleeding hearts, they might start to show up sooner.
Spring-blooming honeysuckle flowers can also turn a hummingbird’s head. The long, tubular blossoms are the perfect shape for the birds’ needlelike bills. An arbor supports vines and provides a handy perch, so birds can take a break between feedings.
Besides delicious flowers, hummingbirds appreciate plants with fuzzy foliage. The birds harvest fibers from plants, for example lamb’s ears, to help line their tiny nests.
I also place a small fountain nearby to offer the kind of moving water source hummingbirds like best.
Hummingbirds can’t live on nectar alone, so it’s important to supply the spiders, gnats, flies, aphids, and flying ants that supplement their diet. A vibrant mix of trees, shrubs, and low-growing plants helps attract these protein-rich food sources to the naturescape. All the more reason to keep pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides out of the garden.
The summer-blooming blossoms of bee balm are a favorite of birds and insects. A mix of red and purple Monarda is especially attractive, but you need space between plants, so hummingbirds have room to hover while feeding.
The brilliant-orange flowers of trumpet vine attract hummers to the landscape in late summer into fall. These perennial vines offer a fast-growing but low-maintenance sweet food source.
Hummingbirds are what I want to see in my naturescape this season. What watchable wildlife do you want to attract to your eco-friendly garden?
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