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Hummingbird Flowers Part 1
May 17, 2010

Welcome everyone to another exciting week.

We are so blessed aren't we?

Where is the time going?

We've past mid month already

The first half of last week felt like late March here in Michigan.

I never should've opened my mouth a couple of weeks ago about May bringing a moderation in temperatures.

Killing frosts the first part of the week as the wild strawberries show with the dark eyes that would have been berries had they not frozen off.

Yep, Temperatures the first half of the week (mid to upper 40's) have been about 20 degrees below normal for this time of year.

We had a couple of days of needed rain, but there were wind chills in the forecast for May?

Come on now.

So, on Thursday (a dark, rainy day) I'm playing a couple of Beach Boy CD's with warmer weather on my mind.

No surfing or chicks, but there is Karen's black PT Cruiser in the driveway.

Not exactly a 'Little Deuce Coupe', or 'The Little Old Lady from Pasadena' , but it is turbo charged.

To the right are some of last weeks picture taking opportunities (when the weather allowed).

I digress.

The weather forecasts do call for much better conditions this week.

The Rose-breasted grosbeaks are back :-)

Add there song to the orioles and you have quite a nice chorus going.

I'm not blessed with a large number of this bird, but any number is welcome.

If you live near a marsh, swamp, pond or other waterway where there are cattails.

Look carefully and you may find a Red-winged blackbird nest.

These birds build their nests among the reeds (pictured to your right).

Don't look for papa, he is often to busy with another female or six.

Baby robins are everywhere this spring.

I see a lot of nature on my walks and nature excursions ( a few pictures to share on the right).

Check out your Monarda (Bee Balm).

Do you have a large enough clump where you can prune some of it back if it isn't to far along.

I did this last week, and you may choose to do so as well.

Clip the front or a side of your clump.

Cut it back about half or 6 to inches and this should add to your bloom season.

For me, when the not cut Monarda is done blooming, the portion I have cut back starts to bloom.

The stalks are shorter and bushier, but give me a few more weeks of bloom and happy hummers.

Speaking of hummingbirds and hummingbird flowers,

Many of you as well as neighbors and church friends are wondering where their hummingbirds are while still other seem to have their birds by now.

I have mentioned to some of you about natural die off as hummers usually live only 3 to 5 years, and that nature's bounty is a hummer's first choice.

However, I went to the source for some answers.

Michigan's DNR as well as Biologist, and hummingbird expert, Mark Klym from Texas.

Both have suggested pretty much along the same line.

But Mark took it a step further and reminded me of life's cycles of ups and downs, which seems to be the case for Rubies this year.

Nature is cyclical.

It is Nature's way of weeding out the weak and old.

This happens with all of our wildlife, as nature thins out herds, birds, fish and you name it.

Thank you Mark, you're the best.

(Great Blue Heron at the back of the pond.)

Keeping nature in balance if we don't interfere.

Loss of habitat continues to be an issue as well.

Not just here, but South of the border where countries are still developing and have few concerns about nature or conservation.

It is difficult at best for migrating birds, add shrinking habitats and they really face a challenge

Then, there is the bounty of wild flowers as most of us are experiencing a warmer than usual spring.

With the right amount of moisture and warmer temperatures and nature cuts loose with a bouquet unmatched by human hands.

Remember, hummers are wild and feed in nature first, just like our other feathered friends.

Research shows that our backyard birds feed maybe 25% of the time from our offerings and the rest from nature.

So, if your hummer hasn't shown up yet, give it time and a new one should replace the void if you have habitat and keep your feeders fresh.

(Yellow flag or Wild iris.)

Speaking of hummer flowers.

I have listed below three top notch hummingbird plants.

These plants work wonders from North to South and East to West.

Because two of them are native in parts of the South and in locations where hummers winter over, they are almost a natural attractant to hummingbirds.

To help attract hummingbirds, I think they are a must have in any garden or as potted plants.

Keep an eye on this letter, I will do more hummer plants over the next couple of weeks.

Side note:

This time of year everyone looks for hummingbirds and many magazines, newspapers, E-zines and newsletters write on the subject.

Not many sources suggest this, they want to keep a person all to themselves, but..........

It is my hope that you read everything you can on hummingbirds and nature.

I hope you will glean even one little morsel or bit of information from me and other articles and letters.

If you and I can learn just one little fact or important item, than we all have done our job and our hummingbirds and all of nature is one step closer.

I encourage you learn from as many sources as possible, it is good for you and wildlife.

(May apple in bloom.)


We all adore hummingbirds.

Putting out some hummingbird feeders filled with a solution of sugar water (4 parts water, 1 part sugar, boiled) will get hummingbirds out where you can see them easily (sometimes).

Yet, they canít live on sugar alone.

Hummingbirds need protein, fats, carbohydrates and minerals, just like all animals.

They can get everything they need from plants that you grow in your garden and the insects that feed on those plants.

Red, tubular flowers will attract the tiny, overworked hummingbird.

Grow any plant with long red flowers and you will get hummingbirds in your garden.

Grow a sea of red and you are almost sure to attract hummers.

For that matter, ruby-throated hummingbirds will investigate anything red.

You can prove this easily enough by wearing a bright red shirt and standing still in your garden on a sunny day with good hummingbird activity.

The birds will come close enough to prove to themselves that you arenít the mother of all nectar sources.

This is also a good time to hang on to a hummer feeder and see if they buzz you and feed.

Flowers are where it is really at however, and here a bit of information on what I think are three very needed plants for any hummingbird garden.

If I could grow but one plant to attract hummingbirds,it would be salvia or sage.

Red salvia (Salvia splendens). is an annual commonly used as a bedding plant, you can usually buy trays or flats of red salvia at virtually every garden center and they arenít particularly expensive.

With time and a place to grow them, it is rather easy to start from seed as well.

Donít plant just two or three; fill up a bed with red.

A red wave.

No hummingbird will be able to resist this display of red and abundance of nectar rich flowers.

Annuals blooms from spring to killing frost and only get better a the season wears on providing you care for them (deadhead, feed and water).


"Salvia spendens" is a tender tropical perennial that originates in Brazil and is typically grown as a warm weather annual bedding plant.

It has long been a garden standard, reliably blooming over an extended period.

Ever more varieties are being developed, giving a wide range of colors, including white, salmon and purple, as well as the traditional bright red, and heights from about 8 in (20 cm) to more than 3 ft (0.9 m).

Leaves are bright to dark green, elliptical and toothed. Flowers grow on spikes and are two-lipped, with a flat lower lip and helmet-shaped upper lip.

I like these plants, not only for their color and attracting hummers, but they are critter resistant too.

Rabbits, deer and even woodchucks leave them alone.

Little if any insect issues.

Slugs do enjoy them, so plan accordingly if you plant in moist or shady conditions.

You will want to plant in average or enriched soil and fertilize as needed.

Over a long season, flowers will drop, leaving a ragged spike.

When this happens, cut the plant back or deadhead, new growth emerges refreshed.

In cooler climates, plant in full sun. In areas with very hot summers, partial shade, especially in the afternoon, reduces stress.

Average to slightly dry, well drained soil. Larger varieties with deeper roots need less water than dwarf varieties.

This plant continue to grow and improve as the season wears on.

Often it is at its peak when killing frost wipes out my plants.

It will reseed or save a few to plant your own next year.

Scarlet sage or Texas sage (Salvia coccinea), is a native tender perennial of Texas.

Scarlet sage is a subshrub perennial in warmer climates and an annual where winter temperatures stay below freezing for more than a few hours at a time.

This sage reaches 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) tall, with 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) triangular leaves on long petioles (leaf stems) opposite each other on a square stem.

The showy flowers are bright red, about an inch long, and arranged in loose whorls along the upright stem. Blooms appear continuously from early summer to first frost.

This species grows wild throughout the dry soils and waste places from South Carolina to Florida and west to Texas and Central America.

Hardy to Z9-10.

It does best in full sun but can tolerate intermittent shade.

Tolerates drought, but flowering suffers without supplemental watering during dry spells.

Plants will reseed.

A can't miss for hummingbirds and even butterflies.

In Northern locations you can look for Texas sage in fine garden centers.

Also pest resistant as is the case with most plants in the mint family.

One last plant for you to look at today.

Autumn sage (Salvia greggii) is a soft, mounding shrub normally 2-3 ft. tall, with small, minty aromatic green leaves that are evergreen in warmer climates.

The species name ďgreggiiĒ is in honor of Josiah Gregg, (1806-1850).

The flowers are borne on racemes from spring to frost and can be red, pink, purple, orange, or white. Its natural range is from south-central and west Texas south in to Mexico, mostly on rocky slopes.

A popular landscape plant in the Southwest and beyond, Autumn sage is delightful to use as a small, ornamental, flowering shrub in a perennial bed or as a low hedge (grow as an annual in northern climates).

Its aromatic foliage quickens the senses and its flowers are sure to draw hummingbirds.

(No wonder Texas has so many hummers.)

The color of its blossoms in the wild is usually red but varies from area to area.

The color range has been further enhanced by breeding, resulting in many cultivars over the years.

It is disease and insect free and drought tolerant, and once established, should not be fertilized.

A small woody shrub in the south, Autumn sage puts on quite a display throughout the growing season, including my Michigan gardens where these plants thrive and bloom constantly from spring purchase to late fall.

I think they enjoy the more temperate weather up here and with some extra water, their is no let down for this drought tolerant plant.

I have tried to winter this plant over with heavy mulch in my Z5 gardens, but will little success. I think it doesn't like to be cut back for mulching purposes.

Still, it is a must have for me, even if it didn't attact hummers, it is that pretty of a plant.

Zone hardy to Z7/8, but some newer cultivars claim Z6.

This plant can also be found in many fine garden centers in northern regions.

A hummingbird garden must have.

One thing I like about the three plants I mentioned today is this...........

They continue to bloom until the weather gets to cold for them.

With a little attention and added care, you will have flowers in bloom long after the hummers have gone.

There you have it.

Three very attractive plants, not just for hummingbirds, but for you and our gardens as well.

All are tried and true and do very well in northern gardens as well.

Before I go, I must reiterate this......................

Just because you have feeders and some red flowers, doesn't always mean lots of hummingbirds.

Species like the Ruby-throated hummingbird are very territorial during mating season and will chase off would be interlopers or land grabbers.

Hummingbirds also require habitat.

It is up to you to understand your species of hummingbirds and offer habitats the need and prefer.

They need places to perch and rest, do your birds prefer pine and spruce trees?

A woodland setting?

What about thickets or scrub?

A mister will attract hummers in to bathe as well.

Remember, they are wild creatures and will generally prefer natural offerings first.

Well, it is time o fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

Learning is the greatest joy. To learn something is fantastic because every time you learn something you become something new.

Leo F. Buscaglia 1924-1998

Stop and think about that for a minute

How exciting it is to learn and to realize you are someone new.

You aren't the same person you were just a minute ago.

You are now a new and improved individual.

Now that is something worth smiling about don't you think?

A new and improved you.

That is worth a smile very time.

Are you smiling?


Now share your smiles and the new you with others.

Share your new found knowledge and what you have learned

By doing so, you will help turn them into someone new.

That is exciting.

God wants it that way.

Don't you think?

Once again I tip my hat to this late and great gentleman.

If you have never read any of his work, I encourage you to do so.

Leo Buscaglia was a man you wish you knew personally.

So full of love and life and always willing to share and teach others.

Until tell next time.

God Bless.

Matthew 25:40

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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