Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
August, 2005
Regional Report

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You can enjoy these flying acrobats when you place a hummingbird feeder in your garden. (Photo courtesy of Tom Elliot, Wild Bird Centers)

Hummingbirds: Avian Acrobats

One of my favorite summer activities is to watch the antics of hummingbirds in flight and when they sip nectar from the flowers and the feeder. My family on the western slope of Colorado will often have 20 or more hummers at the feeder in the summer months through early fall. Of course their garden is chock full of flowering perennials that the hummingbirds love to visit. Hiking through the naturalized areas, we often find hummingbird nests in the native juniper trees.

Though we don't all have the space to provide an extensive habitat for hummingbirds like that of my family, you can attract these flying jewels to your garden if you've planted some inviting perennial and annual flowers, vines, and shrubs. Additionally, put out a hummingbird feeder for them to visit as they make their migration from the mountains to the plains.

Planting for Hummers
You still have time to plant perennials since many garden retailers are putting them on sale so they won't have to overwinter them in the nursery. Container-grown plants are easy to transplant and, in most cases, are ready to start blooming once they become acclimated.

Hummingbirds favor flowers with tubular blooms and the color red. Some of my favorites include the long-blooming hollyhocks, daylilies, tall garden phlox, bee balm, catnip, penstemon, and salvia.

Containers filled with annuals spilling over the edges also will invite hummingbirds into your garden space. Try hanging fuchsias, red or purple petunias, impatiens, lobelia, nicotiana, and verbena.

A trumpet vine growing on a pole with its showy orange trumpet blooms will surely attract these hovering and dive-bombing little marvels. Honeysuckle vines are also sure to lure them in.

An average hummingbird consumes half its weight in nectar each day. Since they don't have a sense of smell, they locate their food by sight, and red is their favorite color. If you haven't hung out a hummingbird feeder, now is the time to do so. The feeder should be in proximity of blooming flowers to start with, then gradually moved to a more desirable viewing area.

Make your own hummingbird nectar by using one part table sugar to four parts water. Boil the water and add the sugar, then let it cool. If you like you can make a large batch of nectar and then store the unused portion in the refrigerator. Do not use red food coloring as it is harmful to hummingbirds.

In the heat of summer, it's necessary to replace the feeder with fresh nectar every three days to prevent fermentation. Clean the feeder with hot water (no detergents) at each refill. Have fun watching these avian acrobats.

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