Back to Back Issues Page
Hummingbird Flowers Part II
May 24, 2010


Do I dare say it looks and feels like late spring has finally arrived and for good?

Well, I have been busy planting and moving stuff no matter.

We do need rain once again, however.

I so enjoy going to garden centers and places that grow and sell.

Acres and acres under glass and plastic.

It is like a huge toy or candy store for gardeners isn't it?

We did just that, this past Wednesday.

The eyes are always bigger than the gardens and or the budget.

To the right you will see a few pictures taken over a several day period.

I found a new rabbit nest one evening, but it was empty.

The following evening it had five babies, but it was cool and rainy so I left the babies alone.

(Rabbits wont dessert a nest because of human scent.)

The first picture is a three day old bunny, blind, deaf and slick dark hair.

The following images are day 5, day 8 and day 12.

By day 13 all of them had left the nest.

Cottontails typically fledge between 12 and 14 days.

I really wanted to get a picture of the new born's for you, however I felt it wasn't wise with the cool wet day.

Take notice to how quick they grow and change.

28 days from fertilized egg to birth.

12 days from birth to leaving the nest as miniature versions of Peter Cottontail (only cute).

From helpless to on your own in 12 days.

That is fledging quicker then most birds and most birds still have parental help for a at least a couple of weeks.

Now, once the bunnies have fledged, they are independent.

If you recall me saying a few weeks ago,

Mother rabbit is probably pregnant and ready to deliver again in a couple more weeks.

Yes. it is possible for rabbits to have two litters within a single month's time.

Rabbits may seem stupid, but in some ways they have their act together.

By nesting in the open like this, it minimizes a snooping predator from bumping into it.

Rabbits feed babies twice a day.

Once in the evening and once in early morning to minimize detection.

Two, five minute feedings of rich milk is all the babies get.


Hummingbirds have finally found my yard and feeders.

Ironically, I am seeing females first this year.

Many of you as well as friends have commented on the lack of hummers early on.

I will say one thing.

Weather does not play a major roll in hummingbird or other bird migration, it is the length of day that plays the primary roll.

Hormones and all.

Now, that being said........

Weather, bad or good can hasten or delay migration by a day or two, but it isn't why birds migrate.

Good weather and favorable winds may get them here a bit quicker.

Unfavorable weather conditions will ground our planes, don't expect to many birds to fly in nasty conditions.

The happy White-crowned sparrows have moved on.

Their breeding grounds are northern Canada.

Still, three weeks of their happy song is a joy and I could get used to that year round.

The little bird with the big song has arrived.

Yes, House Wrens are now in Michigan.

Life continues to explode as earth continue to green up and wildlife is every where.

May is my time of year for sure.

Last week I touched on three different salvias or sages for your hummingbird gardens.

I find them to to the backbone of my hummer gardens, but there are several other plants out there if salvias aren't for you.

Today I will mention four natives and one non native that might have found its way into your gardens.

Note: Memorial Day is observed next week Monday (May 31).

Many of you may be out of town or busy, so next week's letter will go out Tuesday instead of Monday.

This Holiday is for a reason...............

Remember to Honor all of our Heros.

Living and Fallen Heroes.


Here is a pretty good List of hummingbird flowers

Sue B. of Montgomery, Michigan

A few years ago, I had two nice hummer feeders, both on the north side of the house. I had a lot of hummers visit both of them. But I had one very aggressive male hummer that would run everyone else away from both of the feeders. Well, I thought I would solve that little problem. I put one feeder on the north side of the house and one feeder on the south side. Surely he wouldn't bother w/ the one on the south side would he? He was well established on the north side of the house and always came from the small woods north of us.

It really didn't take Mr. Hummer long at all to find the feeder on the south side of the house. And to make covering both feeders possible, he simply sat on the roof where he had a view of both feeders and continued to be a small, but attractive bully. Hummers, ya gotta love 'em.

Thanks Sue.

Next time some one calls you a bird brain, thank them for the compliment as you see, our little friends are pretty clever,

Agastache (Hyssop)

(Pronounced Ag-ah-stak-ee)

I really enjoy these plants, once they start to bloom, they continue until cold weather stops growth.

Besides their scented foliage and beautiful flowers, there are additional reasons why Iím attracted to the plants of the genus Agastache

The plants are also known as either hyssop or hummingbird mints, depending on where you live.

They thrive in tough, dry conditions and arenít attractive to browsing deer or rabbits (or woodchucks).

Each cultivar and species has a scent all its own, it could be anise, licorice, a fruity smell or something else all together.

The aromatic foliage and flowers are appealing to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and gardeners alike.

Perhaps best of all, they offer color to the garden in mid to late summer and into the fall when many gardens are winding down and getting a bit dull.

They also provide late season flower action for migrating hummingbirds, even in the northern regions like Michigan.


A genus of about 22 species of aromatic perennials (and growing), 21 of which are native to North America.

Most are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9.

Indeed I have some in my gardens that offer late season color and food sources. They continue to bloom until the days grow to cool to do so.


These plants form clumps that grow from deep-rooted crowns. The flowering spikes, which vary in size according to species, are formed at the branch tips and are composed of closely spaced flowers.

Some species can grow to 5 feet.


Grow in a well-drained spot that has been slightly enriched with organic matter and is located in a full sun to partial shade area.

A well drained soil is essential for the life of plants during winter.

They prefer full sun, good air circulation, and lean, dry soil.

Prefer dry growing conditions


Winter mulching with organic matter can result in fungal and bacter≠ial growth. These plants are highly resistant to browsing animals.


Non Hybridized species like A. rupestris and A. rugosa are readily grown from seed.

Hybrid cultivars are propagated by rooting softwood cuttings in the spring or early summer before flowering.

When different Agastache species and hybrids are planted in the same garden, they will cross-pollinate readily.

Watch for volunteer seed≠lings, and weed out individual plants that donít demonstrate desirable habit and flower color.

Lonicera sempervirens (coral honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle)

A well behaved native vine.

Do not confuse this with the highly invasive introduced species L. japonica

Coral honeysuckle is a twining or trailing woody vine that is evergreen or tardily deciduous in mild climates.

The smooth leaves are 1-3 in (2.5-7.6 cm) long and arranged opposite each other along the stem.

The last two leaves at the ends of new growth are joined at their bases, cup-like around the stem and the showy flowers are in terminal clusters just beyond.

The flowers are tube shaped, about 2 in (5.1 cm) long, coral red or bright orange on the outside and yellow on the inside.

The fruits are orange red berries, about 0.25 in (0.6 cm) diameter.

Numerous cultivars are available commercially including one with bright yellow flowers.

Coral honeysuckle grows wild in open woodlands, roadsides, fence rows and the edges of clearings, from Connecticut to Nebraska, and south to Texas and Florida.

Prune coral honeysuckle back in the winter to increase flowering.

Don't over-fertilize.

An added bonus .......... songbirds relish the juicy fruits. This is a spectacular vine that the local wildlife will enjoy as much as you

Conditions: Prefers full sun, but tolerates partial sun.

Drought tolerant, but do best with medium water.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 4 - 10.

Pests: From time to time, I experience aphids on bud heads. Leave the aphids and the hummingbirds will find the protein packed insects.

Do not use insecticides.

Low maintenance.

Propagation: Usually by seed.

Coral honeysuckle thrives in containers or in the garden.

It is easy to grow, and its flashy flowers will attract hummingbirds and butterflies all summer long.

Let it clamber over a fence or give it a trellis of its own.

Unlike its weedy relative, Japanese honeysuckle (L. japonica), coral honeysuckle will not spread out of control, and its sparse vines won't strangle your prize shrubs.

Salvia elegans (Pineapple sage)

Yet another salvia for the hummingbird garden.

The bruised foliage of pineapple sage really does smell like fresh pineapple.

This is a semi-woody, mostly herbaceous, sub shrub, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) in height with an open-branched, airy habit, and a spread almost as wide.

Like most plants in the mint family, Pineapple sage has square stems and opposite leaves. The branches originate on opposite sides of the main stem, too.

Salvia elegans, is one of the last hummingbird plants to bloom in late summer and autumn.

It is a major attractant for late migrant Hummingbirds--and for other uncommon vagrant hummers that wander in from the western U.S. and Mexico.

The leaves are softly fuzzy, light green and 2-4 in (5-10 cm) long with serrated margins.

The flowers are ruby red, 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) long, and like other salvias, tubular with two lips: the upper lip hoodlike and the lower lip spreading.

The flowers are arranged in four-flowered whorls on 8 in (20 cm) terminal spikes.


Pineapple sage grows naturally in oak and pine scrub forests at elevations from 8,000-10,000 ft (2,438-3,048 m) in Mexico and Guatemala.

As you can see, this plant is a natural for all of our hummingbirds.


Grow pineapple sage in full sun.

Regular watering for best growth and flowering.

Pineapple sage will wilt and eventually lose leaves during droughts, but when watering resumes it usually comes back.

Flowering occurs through late summer and autumn when hummingbirds are heading towards their winter homes.

'Scarlet Pineapple', with more numerous and larger flowers than the wild species, is commonly available.


Pineapple sage is a semi-woody sub shrub in USDA zones 9-11, and an herbaceous perennial, dying to the ground in winter but re-sprouting in spring.

In zones 8-9. Gardeners in colder areas grow pineapple sage as an annual, or bring it indoors in the winter.

I have successfully wintered over pineapple sage in my Zone 5 Michigan gardens, buy cutting it down and placing a bag of leaves on top as a mulch.

Because Salvia elegans is a late bloomer, it is a gamble to have it bloom before a killing frost.

To have it bloom successfully, I plant it in a medium size pot and feed it sparingly. This forces it to bloom earlier for me.

Propagation: Pineapple sage is rarely grown from seed. Tip cuttings taken in spring are easy to start.


Use Pineapple sage in the center of beds and borders, where its open, airy structure will not hide other plantings.

It will grow to shrub size, about 4 ft (1.2 m) tall and 3 ft (0.9 m) wide, in a single season.

Pineapple sage is often grown as an annual and often grown in containers.

Northern gardeners can cut pineapple sage back and dig it up in autumn to overwinter indoors.

Returned outside in spring, overwintered pineapple sage will start blooming much earlier than plants started from new cuttings.

Another trick is to root tip cuttings in autumn and maintain them indoors until spring.


There are more than 700 species of Salvia, and many gardeners have become Salvia collectors.

The "salvias" are also referred to as "sages", most are tough and easy to grow and many attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

The fresh leaves of pineapple sage are used in fruit salads and drinks.

Crush a few fragrant leaves into hot or iced tea for a flavorful treat. The delicious flowers add color and flavor to salads and deserts.

As with plants in the mint family, it is criiter resistant.

I will finish with a couple of natives plants that may not be as well known to many of you, but have good hummer appeal.

Spigelia marilandica (Indian pink)

Native of the Southeast, from Maryland and the Southern Great Lakes states south and west to Texas.

Although called Indian Pink, this plant actually has tubular flowers that are bright crimson with a bright yellow lining.

It is under-used by hummingbird gardeners but is an excellent plant for a yard with tall established trees that cast light shade beneath them.

Indian Pink comes up quite late in the spring, so mark the planting spot to avoid accidentally over-planting it.

It is a low-growing plant the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds find easily as they scout the landscape for food sources.

Perennial, clump-forming Blooms late spring to early summer Rich, moist soil

Full sun or light shade; a good edge plant

Zones 5-9, perhaps 4

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Indian pink is a clump-forming, a native perennial which occurs in moist woods and stream banks.

Features one-sided cymes of upward facing, trumpet-shaped, red flowers (to 2" long) atop stiff stems growing to 18" tall.

Each flower is yellow inside and flares at the top to form five pointed lobes (a yellow star).

Flowers bloom in June and July

Foliage is glossy green, ovate to lance-shaped leaves (to 4" long).


No serious insect or disease problems.

General Culture:

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in part shade to full shade. Prefers moist, organically rich soils.


Used by the Cherokee and other American Indians tribes as a ritual and ceremonial herb to induce visions and foretell the future.

Also used as poison in some suicidal ceremonies.

Not the ideal plant around little kids.

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea )

Pronounced (kas-til-EE-ah COE-sin'ee-a or kok-SIN-ee-uh)

Native of the Prairies and westward, it grows to 1.5 feet tall and wide.

Best grown in medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun.

This species is primarily biennial: basal rosette the first year and flowering stalk the second year, with plant death occurring shortly after seed set and with new seed usually germinating in early fall.

Species is also semi-parasitic in that its roots will attach to and absorb some nutrients and water from the roots of certain other plants.

Evidence suggests that paintbrush will perform best in cultivation when grown in combination with one or more of the plants it commonly parasitizes in the wild (e.g., Schizachyrium, Penstemon and/or Sisyrinchium).

Difficult to grow from seed, although plants will reseed in optimum growing conditions, reseeding alone is often not enough to keep plants in the garden unless new plants and/or additional seeding are done each year until a colony is established.

Zone: 4 to 8

Native Range: Western United States

Bloom Time: April - July Bloom Data

Sun: Full sun

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Medium

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Indian Paintbrush flowers are set in clusters long, tube-like; pale green to red on the ends with partly hidden by brilliant red, hairy and toothed bracts.

Seed capsules with many seeds.

Indian paintbrush (also commonly called painted cup) is a biennial member of the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae) that typically grows on unbranched stems to 1-1.5' tall (less frequently to 2').

A native which occurs in prairies, rocky glades, moist and open woodlands, thickets and stream banks.

The large, fan-shaped, orange-red "flowers" are actually brightly-colored, three-lobed, leafy bracts which appear at the stem tops in dense spikes and which surround and hide the tiny greenish-yellow true flowers.

Blooms spring to early summer. Two types of medium green leaves: entire, lance-shaped leaves in a basal rosette and stem leaves divided into 3-5 deep, narrow lobes.

Common name of paintbrush refers to the supposed resemblance of the flowering plant to a brush dipped in paint.


No serious insect or disease problems.

Plant foliage disappears in early summer shortly after seed set.

Difficult to establish and keep in a garden, but not impossible.


Perhaps best reserved for naturalizing in native plant gardens, prairies or glades.

You are learning that plants, native and non native have different bloom times so nature provides nectar for hummers and other pollinators throughout the season.

The ideal hummingbird garden will offer nature's nectar throughout the seasons as well.

Many native plants can be purchased from garden catalogs and growers that specialize is native plants

To have a nice attractive hummingbird garden for the birds as well as for yourself, you will learn plan and plant a variety of nectar rich offerings.

Remember to keep your feeders clean and filled as well as offering sources of water and protection.

I'll end this short series on hummingbird plants.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

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

Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know why I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved.

Will Rogers

Humble, modest, and honest.

What else can you say about the quote and the man.

No make up

No hair dye or implants.

No face lifts or tummy tucks.

No surgery to remove a scar.

Let others see me the way I am.

Let others see me for who I am.

Can you imagine, wearing every wrinkle, gray hair, scar or other imperfection as a badge of honor?

Allowing everyone to see the real you and being proud of the roads traveled?

And if you aren't proud, you can teach others to travel a different road.

To put fewer miles and better miles on your body and soul.

We are teachers for coming generations and I want to teach well and share by mistakes and poor choices so you don't make the same ones.

We all have a story to tell and the roads we have traveled are part of that story.

Is your story truth or fiction?

I want it mine to be the truth.

Yep, I wear my wrinkles, receding hair line and other signs of age as signs of wisdom (hopefully).

We often have seconds chances.

In nature, that rarely happens.

I am now a teacher.

Will I teach well?

The wealth of information God has given us over time should be AWE inspiring.

That we are given the gift to teach and share should make you want to dance.

While you're dancing, remember to smile.

Be sure to wear and share your wonderful smile.

The wrinkles and happy lines that appear when I smile may be the miles on my odometer, but they also tell the world that my inner being (My spirit) is running healthy.

I like that.

Until next time.

God Bless.

Matthew 11:28-30

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

"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.

Back to Back Issues Page