Ornamental and edible gardening adventures.

Keep Hummingbirds Coming Back With Variety of Blossoms

A female ruby-throated hummingbird visits "Raspberry Wine" monarda in this file photo.

EAST HAMPTON, Conn. - The trick to luring hummingbirds to your garden is to offer a variety of plants with a continuous bloom cycle.

"You can stagger the bloom time so you can offer food all season," said Lynn Saitta, manager of the Paul's & Sandy's, too, Inc., a garden center in East Hampton, Conn. "Mix it up a little bit with annuals and perennials."

The majority of plants that attract hummingbirds grow in full sun.

Lantana in hanging baskets.
A best-selling annual at Paul's & Sandy's is lantana. Once it is established, it will take on hot sunny locations with ease. Lantana produces many multi-colored flowers, grows well in containers and also attracts butterflies. It's one of the easiest summer annuals to grow and to keep it blooming, deadhead regularly. Another annual that takes full sun (to part shade) is lophospermum, which has large, trumpet-shaped blossoms. The plants, native to Mexico and Guatemala, are heat-tolerant and do well in hanging baskets.

If you have a sturdy structure or trellis, Saitta said trumpet vine (campsis radicans) will absolutely attract hummingbirds. "It's a big crazy vine," she cautioned. The orange/red flowers are one of the birds' all-time favorites. "It needs a really big place to go. It takes a few years to get established and it is very similar to wisteria [in growth] but not quite as aggressive. Be sure to plan ahead and be patient - it takes a few years to get going and it won't bloom for a while." It can grow as high as 33 feet. "It is best grown on a sturdy structure to support the weight of the plant," she said. It blooms in mid-summer.

Honeysuckle vine is another option if trumpet vine sounds like too much of a commitment. It comes in a variety of colors, from pale yellow to bright red. With the right conditions they can grow 6 to 20 feet tall, depending on the variety. They are fragrant and the blossoms can be used as water infusers - if the hummingbirds let you share, that is. They like moist, well-draining soil.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Black-Eyed Susan vine is an annual vine with yellow or orange flowers and a black throat. (There are paler shades of the plant also available.) It is commonly grown in hanging baskets and will bloom spring through fall. If you choose to grow it in the garden on a fence, be prepared for it to take off once the hot weather sets in. It can also overtake other plants, so be sure to give it some distance. (Or you can let morning glories interweave with them for a multicolored show.) They will need regular fertilizing to keep the flowers coming.

For a tropical flair in the garden or on the patio, try mandevilla, which comes with red, pink or white blossoms and attracts hummingbirds. This vine does best in well-draining soil with a little shade. (They can burn with too much sun.) Fertilize it regularly to keep it flowering and make sure it has some support. (A local restaurant likes to grow mandevillas along the fencing of their outdoor dining area and then trains them vertically to connect to holiday lights that twinkle in the summer. It's a magical effect.)

"Black and Blue" salvia is also popular with hummingbirds. "I had that on my porch with mandevilla and they love it," Saitta said. Treated as an annual in the northeast, this plant can get as tall as 2.5 to 3 feet. (Taller in zones 8-10, where it is a hardy perennial.) The flowers are a deep cobalt blue with black calyces and bright, chartreuse green leaves.

Another favorite is Cuphea (also known as the Cigar Plant). Only growing about 12 inches tall, this native plant to Central and South America attracts hummingbirds with it's small, red tubular blooms with white ends that can resemble ash-tipped cigars. It does well in containers and flowers continually all summer.

Perennial lobelia, also known as cardinal flower, attracts hummingbirds with its red flowers. Paul and Sandy's offers two varieties: Fan Scarlet (24 inches tall) and Vulcan Red (24-32 inches tall). "It's a huge one that they love that blooms in midsummer to early fall," she said. The plants can be found in full sun to part shade.

It's easy to keep listing plants that grow in full sun that hummingbirds love: crocosmia, monarda (bee balm), and any tubular penstemon. The flowers of these plants are typically red, with varying shades of pink to red for monarda and penstemon. Perennial salvia (purple flowers), columbine and dianthus are also options. Wigelia is a blooming shrub that attracts hummingbirds in the spring with its white, red or pink flowers.

Fuschias growing at Paul's & Sandy's, too, Inc.
Shady Gardens Can Also Attract Hummingbirds 
Too much shade in the garden? No problem. You don't need full sun to attract hummingbirds.

Saitta swears by fuschias to attract hummingbirds. "Customers say, 'My hummingbirds love them,'" she said. Fuschias are an annual shade plant that grows well in hanging baskets. Saitta said it doesn't matter which color fuschia a gardener can choose - and there are several ranging from deep purple, magenta pink to bright red - hummingbirds are attracted to all variations due to the shape of the flower.  Be prepared to fertilize this plant regularly to keep it blooming all summer long.

Saitta suggested combining fuschias with perennials heuchera and hostas in a shade garden. The flowers of heuchera (coral bells), bloom for a portion of the summer. "It's what they love. They like to go to that," she said. Heucheras have exploded in popularity over the last few years due to the variety in colored foliage they offer, which will continue to add garden interest after the blooms have faded.

Hostas will typically bloom in mid-to-late August, but similar to heucheras, are grown mainly for their attractive foliage. Hummingbirds will visit the hosta blossoms when they bloom. "They will go to them, just not as much," she said. Ajuga (bugleweed), grow best in shade as a ground cover, with deep purplish black leaves and violet blue flower spikes.

Hummingbird Feeders Supplement Blooms
The most common hummingbird seen in Connecticut is the ruby-throated hummingbird. The male birds are known for their ruby-colored throat and emerald green feathers. The females are emerald green with a white breast, and are larger than the males. The bird overwinters in Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean Islands and will migrate throughout the eastern and mid-western portions of the United States. The males typically arrive first, followed by the females, according to hummingbirds.net, and will typically arrive in Connecticut in mid-to-late April.

The best time to hang feeders in Connecticut is the spring. "They are looking for something to eat," Saitta said. "We recommend putting a feeder up to bring them in. Then you can supplement with plants and back off with the feeder. Be diligent about putting it out early in the spring." Hummingbirds will often return to a location that offered a feeder the year before. "Some years they come earlier. If they know you're there, they will come."

They are typically attracted to the color red, which is why feeders are often colored in this way. For feeders, a 4:1 ratio water to sugar is used. Combine the water with the sugar and bring to a boil. This will help keep mold from growing in the feeder.

A hummingbird at a feeder.
Saitta stressed the importance of not adding red food dye to the solution. "Do not ever add food coloring to it. It's not good for them." (Saitta said precolored mix sold in stores is safe.)

The sugar solution needs to be replaced every couple of days, sometimes once a day in very hot weather or direct sun.

For gardeners who want to skip the feeder, Saitta said it's important to choose plants with different bloom times. However, she recommended supplementing blooming plants with a feeder in the fall due to migration season. "If you grow annuals, put them out to keep them around," she said.


Floral Friday: A Dry Spring Doesn't Keep the Flowers From Blooming

Last week's gap of spring color was apparently a momentary blip; this week, wisteria, peonies and several irises blossomed.

But before I share this week's updates from my garden, I want to introduce you to other gardeners participating in More Than Oregano's Growing Now 2015 Garden Tour blog hop (#GrowNow2015 for those following on twitter). Last week my participation showcased the unfortunate, ugly things that can happen in the garden: hail damage on plants. So this week, I figured it was a good time to return to featuring the flowers that survived the storm.

Feel free to click on the photos to view them larger. And welcome to all the new readers who found this blog through Beth's blog hop!

My neighbor's irises hug our property line.


"Amethyst Falls" Wisteria



White Anemone

"Alaska" Shasta Daisy

"Amethyst Falls" Wisteria

Irises and "Black Barlow" Columbine together in the front garden.

Baptista which survived the move last fall.

New petunias with Lamb's Ear.

What's growing in your garden this week? Check out what is happening in these gardens below!


Floral Friday: As May Ends, the Irises Bloom

This week was a little more difficult to document than previous weeks due to less plants blooming in the garden. The great thing about Floral Friday updates is that you can see where the "holes" appear in the garden's bloom cycle. (This year is thrown off by the weather slightly, so I'm not sure if these are truly accurate bloom times or not, but are at least a jumping off point.)

Normally my poppies are getting ready to bloom, but not this year. When I went to investigate, I found out why: an animal (probably the neighborhood groundhog) has been eating the leaves clear off. I am going to be applying the Repellex systematic to see if that helps curb his appetite, but for now I think I've lost this year's blooms.

Poppy damage.

But here's what is blooming (and not being eaten) in the garden:

Fogbound Iris

Black Barlow columbine

Holy garlic! This is going to be a great year!


So many annuals to plant. I splurged a bit at the store.


Shiro plums forming on the tree.

What's blooming in your garden this week?

Hailstorm Victims

Last night a strong thunderstorm rolled through our neighborhood, accompanied by lots of lightning, heavy rain ... and hail.

Earlier in the day it rained for the first time in almost three weeks. The rain was much needed, with some of my flower beds having dried out so much that the dirt was dusty when I tried to weed. 

It seems cruel that the first major storm of the spring growing season would assault the plants as well. 

The hostas were the worst-hit, with many shredded leaves. (Bad timing for a hosta concrete birdbath and stepping stones project I was hoping to do this weekend.)

Annual flowers I had grown from seed that were spending some of their first few nights outdoors unprotected on the patio were also struck down. I'm not sure how many will bounce back. Trays of plants were flooded, with snapdragons released from their newspaper pots and swimming instead. 

As a gardener, it's important to keep an eye on the weather, a unfortunate reminder this morning when I realized I had not done that. While I couldn't have prevented most of the damage, I could have moved many potted plants indoors. 

Annual chrysanthemums were no match for the hail.

Sum and Substance hosta.

The worst victim of all: This hosta that's been in the family since 1996.

Rosa rugosa just sent out new shoots after it's spring pruning. (Sigh.)
Luckily, the new greenhouse remained intact and in the ground. It is anchored with many bricks and anchors inside. The trash cans I store bird food in are used as a support on one side, as well. At least inside the greenhouse, the imagery was nicer.

Tomatoes protected inside the greenhouse.

More tomatoes protected inside the greenhouse.

Dahlias waiting to be transferred outside.
How has weather wrecked havoc on your garden?

I am participating in the Garden Tour 2015 hosted by Beth at More Than Oregano. Click on the green text that says, "You are next" at the bottom of this page. Then follow the directions to link-up your post and share it with the rest of us.  If you would like to show the entries on your own blog, after you've linked up click "Get the code" and follow the directions.


Floral Friday: The Importance of Perennials

This week brings the last pops of color in the tulip beds. The lilacs and the irises will soon be in full bloom, with some varieties beginning to show this week.

It's so important to have perennials to rely on in the garden during spring. My annuals - which will be the major players in late summer - are either still being sown or growing at their own pace. I am still trying to achieve a constant color cycle in the garden, and for the most part, I do have it, but in pieces. Portions of the garden show color while the rest remains green. One of my longterm goals is to have continuous color throughout the front and back gardens.

What is blooming in your garden this week?

Bleeding hearts co-mingling with Virginia bluebells.

Lilacs to be enjoyed indoors. The trick is to smash the stems before putting in the vase.

Varieties of lilac for the house.


Black Barlow Columbine beginning to bloom.

The last of the tulips along the driveway.


Creeping phlox.

Included only to show how large this one bleeding heart plant has become!

Strawberry blossoms.


Tag Sale Hints at This Year's Tomato Trends

This past weekend, I held my first tag-sale. I originally signed up with the intent of selling some of my older photography pieces, partly for more room and because I feel my newer work is a lot better.

But then my neighbor Ginny - who always participates - told me there were many people in our town who like to garden and will come buy the plants she digs up in her garden. She sells mostly perennials such as hostas, Siberian irises and lilacs.

So I decided to include my extra perennials that I had dug up in the fall and overwintered. These included bearded irises, columbines and black raspberries.

As usual, I started too many seeds, so I also put out my snapdragons, violas (some of which I planted in little tea cups for Mother's Day), parsley and annual chrysanthemums. Most of all, I had several trays of extra tomato seedlings this year.

This year, I'm growing the following tomato varieties: Goldie, Blue Berries, Upstate Oxheart, New Yorker, Tim's Black Ruffle, Costoluto Genovese, Pineapple and Tiny Tim. Due to time constraints, Pineapple and Tiny Tim extras were not offered for sale because I didn't have time to divide them into individual pots. Of all the tomatoes I grew this year, I've only had experience with Upstate Oxheart and New Yorker in the past.

What I found surprising is how popular they were: I sold more tomatoes than anything else! And I noticed a trend in what people were choosing. Unique colored tomatoes were popular, so Goldie and Blue Berries left before the tag sale was over. (I only kept one of each for myself! I hope that wasn't a mistake!) New Yorker sold because it remains small, even though it bears fruit within a three to four week window. Tim's Black Ruffle grew interest because of it's similarity to a beefstake tomato. Upstate Oxheart didn't sell as well as I thought it would, perhaps because I cautioned others of its tendency to need a lot of staking, even though it produces mammoth fruit. I have never grown Costoluto Genovese before and I sold about half. Apparently it's good for sauces.

The best part is that I was able to meet more gardeners in my neighborhood. A few ladies commented that they always see me at work in my garden with my straw hat on. "So this is what you look like without the hat!," she said. One man asked if I also had zinnia and cosmos seedlings for sale, since I always grow them in my own garden, but I haven't even started them yet. There were many compliments about the front garden, and one woman referred to it as the "tree-hugging, banish the lawn garden." (That sounds about right.) Another woman said my garden reminded her of the cottage-style ones in England, which is fantastic because that is what I am trying to emulate in the garden.

So out of curiosity, which tomato varieties are you growing this year?

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