Tiny hummingbirds can be a big, sweet treat this summer
By Jessica Walliser
Published: Friday, May 31, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Summer in Pennsylvania brings many wonderful visitors to the garden, including friends and family, bees and butterflies, and, the most admired of all garden visitors, hummingbirds.
Because ruby-throated hummingbirds breed in our region, they are, by far, the most common species here. But gardeners also may be blessed with the occasional late-season sighting of the rufous hummingbird, a migrating Western species that sometimes veers off-course on its migration from its breeding grounds in the Pacific Northwest to its winter home in Mexico. We also may rarely see a calliope hummer or an Allen's hummer, but if you are spotting a handful of birds in your garden on a daily basis this time of year, you can rest assured that they are ruby-throated hummers.
These beautiful little birds are known to return to the same yard year after year. Sadly, I have yet to spot the mating pair that have called my backyard home for the past three summers. Backyard hummingbird feeders should be filled by mid-April to support nest-building efforts, and I was a few weeks late in putting mine out this year. Whether or not that played into the pair deciding not to return, I haven't a clue, but I miss them already and will continue to wash and refill the feeder every week in hopes of attracting new birds to my garden.
I also plant many hummingbird-friendly flowering plants in my garden. Hummers are highly attracted to the color red and to long, tubular flowers, so I am sure to include plenty of them in my landscape each season. They love the weigela I have planted on the side of my house, as well as the red buckeye tree we planted a few years ago. Other favorite shrubs include red or orange honeysuckle varieties and butterfly bushes.
In the perennial garden, you'll want to plant agastache, columbine, cardinal flower, penstemon, monarda, coral bells, red-hot pokers and foxglove. And if you can only grow annuals or if you garden in containers, turn to lantana, fuchsia, petunias, pineapple sage, tithonia and red salvia. In my garden, the hummers' favorite summer-blooming plant is the annual cypress vine (Ipomea quamoclit) I plant on my tee-pee trellis from seed each spring.
And, if you, too, have a hummingbird feeder, you don't have to invest in commercially made food mixtures. Simply make your own by boiling 1 cup of granulated sugar in 4 cups of water for two minutes. Let it cool and then fill the feeder. You can keep the excess in the fridge for a week or two, and be sure to empty and clean your feeder on a weekly basis.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Panthers free agent safety headed to Steelers
- Chamber event targets small business, health care
- Orpik rises to occasion as Penguins take down Capitals once again
- Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Pleasant set for rematch in PIAA playoffs
- Monessen cops charge city man in chase case
- N. Belle Vernon eyes cop pension change
- West Homestead discusses lock boxes
- Penguins notebook: Letang skating, but no return set
- Market high on buyback fever
- Monessen’s PIAA run ends, 69-65
- Figure skating coach dies in crash at Washington County Airport