by Dandy Lion
I’ve spent the last week or so in the Hummingbird Garden and have enjoyed my time here very much. Of course, the purpose of this garden located behind the education wing is to showcase plants that will attract hummingbirds to your garden. For me, it has been a good place to hide. Everyone is looking for flying birds and not weeds when they get here.
It is no surprise this garden has a lot of red, tubular plants full of nectar. There is firecracker plant which is sometimes called cigar flower. This plant with dark slender leaves features long narrow orange-red tubes begging for a hummingbird’s attention. A long pistil protruding from the end gives the impression that this flower is sticking its tongue out at the hummingbird, daring the bird to approach. They always do. Uruguayan firecracker has a similar tubular flower, although presented differently in clusters exploding over gray-green foliage. Along the trellis are several trumpet creepers with pale red-orange trumpets that call out to any passing hummingbird. Later in the season, a bottle-brush shaped inflorescence of fire spike will bristle with darker red tubes, providing some late season nourishment for lingering hummingbirds.
There are other red-toned plants. The Red Prince weigelia shrub provides some nice flowers as well as perches for the little hummers to rest on. The Brazilian petunia flares open nicely with brilliant red flowers, acting as small light signaling to hummingbirds to stop – for a sweet treat. The one plant that the aerial acrobats seem to love the most is the pink porterweed. This tropical plant is a tender perennial that is treated as an annual in this garden. It can grow to 2-3 feet tall in a season and produces long green spikes. During the season, flowers will bloom in a succession starting from the bottom of the spike working their way up. In this manner, it always provides a small cluster of really juicy flowers that hummingbirds can’t get enough of.
The garden also features plenty of non-red plants. Blues and purples are well represented with Mexican petunia, chaste-tree, blue anise sage and other salvias. Yellow shrimp plant, canna, torch lily and ginger lilies provide a nice palette of colors and textures that makes the garden pleasing to the human eye. Some of the plants serve a different purpose beyond a food source. A small fringe tree, flame willow, chaste-tree and ‘Purple Robe’ black locust are trees and shrubs that provide valuable perches so that the hummingbirds can rest between feedings.
While designed with hummingbirds in mind, this garden also attracts a variety of other interesting critters. Dragonflies, bees and butterflies are frequently seen here foraging sweet treats as well. Talking dandelions are even known to hide here from time to time. So come out to the garden, looking for hummingbirds and other treasures. But if you spot me, just don’t tell the gardeners I’m here.