The Hummers are Coming!

Broad-tailed Hummingbird_RedRocksRanch-Hwy115-CO_LAH_3795

The bee balm (Monarda) and mint hyssop (Agastache) won’t bloom until mid-summer, and the flowers on my California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) appear even later. Yet, despite the lack of these hummingbird favorites, the birds are on the move, heading north to nest. While I like to think that I’m aiding their survival, I know they will do fine without me. Still, I’m hustling to fill and hang my feeders. It isn’t that the birds need me—I need them!

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Choosing a Birdfeeder

Bird feeders and houses @Lowe's-CS_2008aug02_LAH_5113-1There are about a zillion bird feeders on the market. They come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. They’re made from anything from plastic to wood to gleaming copper. Some hang from supports or tree branches, others perch on posts, attach to deck railings, or are anchored at ground level. Some feeders are designed to attract squirrels and others claim to exclude them. There are feeders to match every kind of seed, from tiny nyjer to peanuts in the shell, plus specialized feeders for corn cobs, suet, meal worms, jelly, fruit halves, and sugar water. With so many to choose from, how can one possibly decide which is the perfect feeder to buy? Continue reading “Choosing a Birdfeeder”

An Invitation to Hummingbirds

Broadtail Hummingbird_COS_LAH 780My yard is full of hummingbirds! Last summer I faithfully put out feeders full of sugar water, but had no takers. Not a single one. The only hummer that visited was a Broad-tailed Hummingbird that stopped by to check out the lone flower on a honeysuckle vine that was sitting in its can, waiting to be planted. But this year! From mid-July to late August, I probably had over a dozen in the yard at any one time—Broad-tailed, Rufous, and even several Calliope Hummingbirds that hung around for over a week. It was all I could do to keep my two feeders filled.

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Hummingbirds have Superpowers

Broad-tailed Hummingbird_BlkForest-CO_LAH_6054On a trip to Washington this past February, it seemed strange to see (Anna’s) hummingbirds coming to the feeders. Here in Colorado, we aren’t so lucky. The species we enjoy here depart in the fall and don’t return until the end of April—or even later. Still, I’ll be brewing up some sugar water soon. I typically hang my feeders around April 25, just in case some early arrivals show up in the backyard. (When temperatures dip below freezing, I take the feeders in for the night, then warm them a bit for the birds’ breakfast.)

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But Where Are the Birds?

Steller's Jay_BlkForest_20100424_LAH_3670The birdfeeder had been up for weeks, but no birds came to dine. My friend was understandably frustrated. “Why won’t the birds come to my yard?” she asked. “I spent all this money on a feeder and birdseed, but they don’t seem to care!”

I thought about all the birds flocking around my assortment of feeders, and tried to see the differences. What was she doing—or not doing—that I was doing differently? We both lived in suburbia, amid rows of houses with lawns and trees and shrubs. In fact, we were only a few miles apart. So why did I have finches and doves and hummingbirds (and more), and she did not?

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Kintzley’s Ghost is Hauntingly Beautiful

Lonicera reticulata_Kintzley's Ghost Honeysuckle _DBG_LAH_1711You’ve put out the jack-o’-lantern, there are mysterious eyes blinking in the hedge, and spider webs festoon the front porch. It’s almost time to greet thus year’s trick-or-treaters. You think you’re ready, but there’s a good chance that you’re missing the pièce de résistance, the perfect, spooky vine to frame your doorway. You need to plant Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle!

This 2006 PlantSelect™ winner is the perfect plant for Colorado gardens, and not just because of its Halloween-evoking name. A cross between two Midwest natives, Lonicera reticulata (Grape Honeysuckle) and L. prolifera (Yellow Honeysuckle), this hybrid depends on weekly watering in more arid regions. Plants are hardy in USDA zone 4 through 8. Not fussy about soil, they thrive in full sun, but also tolerate afternoon shade. Another plus—the blue-green foliage is deer-resistant.

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Sweet, Sweet Honeysuckles

I sat me down to watch upon a bank
With ivy canopied and interwove
With flaunting honeysuckle. (John Milton)

Lonicera sempervirens_Honeysuckle_DBG_LAH_6903Mention honeysuckle, and we think of green hedgerows, sultry summer days, and childhoods spent picking the flowers and putting them in our mouths to suck out the sweet nectar. There are around 180 species in the genus Lonicera. Fast growing and tolerant of inhospitable conditions, honeysuckles have much to recommend them. Many are valuable landscape plants able to withstand Colorado’s challenging conditions while presenting us with beautiful flowers and berries adored by birds.

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