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Sun, May 26

Food, flowers attract hummingbirds

Spend any time in the garden these days and you are bound to spot one of my favorite garden creatures, the hummingbird. Hanging a feeder from an eave will attract these little bundles of near-perpetual motion to your yard; however, a feeder that is strategically surrounded by certain summer plants guarantees many repeat visitors. Hummingbirds are attracted to a safe place to hang out, talk to each other, flirt, bathe and eat. So, if you want to draw a large population to your yard, your landscape should include plants, trees, shrubs and colorful vines that these little birds especially like.

Tiny insects provide the protein and flowering plants provide the nectar that busy hummingbirds need to keep going. Because hummingbirds ingest half their weight in food every day, they visit a large array of plants and especially enjoy plants with brightly colored tubular flowers. Let me give you a few suggestions that are looking especially good at garden centers right now.

Any hummingbird's favorite vine is the Trumpet vine, Campsis radican. This lush tropical-looking vine grows exceptionally well at high altitudes, and its bright summer blooms definitely attract hummingbirds. The flowers of this vine remind me of a super-sized honeysuckle. The flowers are gathered in a dramatic cluster of red flowers, each individual blossom two inches across in size, their deep throats full of the most delicious nectar hummingbirds can't resist.

Expect whole families of humming visitors to be attracted to a single flowering vine. Hummingbirds love this plant's nectar, and its dense green foliage, which provides protection from predators and safe nesting sites for adults. This is the perfect plant for these tiny hovering gems of the garden.

These very showy plants are fun to grow. Trumpet vines like structures to climb, so they're perfect to grow on a trellis, arbor or fence. I have grown this deciduous vine on a fence and encouraged it to cover a six-foot by ten-foot section for a spectacular show that attracted not only hummingbirds, but fellow gardeners as well! The best selection of vines is available at garden centers now as they begin their summer bloom.

Another perennial bloomer that hummingbirds really enjoy is Autumn Sage, or salvia greggii. Numerous varieties of this sage have been blooming in my gardens since the first part of June, attracting continuous numbers of hummers into our landscape.

The long bloom cycles, intense colors, and easy care required for these knee high plants makes them one of my favorite summer blooming shrubs. And my hummingbirds thank me with their frequent visits.

Different varieties of Autumn Sage sport different flower colors and hummers are attracted to all of them. Abundant blooming is a sure thing when these perennial bloomers are watered just once a week on the hottest summer days. The more sun each bush is given the better the flowers look, whether their blooms are red, hot pinks, white, or purple.

Less than three feet tall, this blooming shrub is very comfortable in the middle of a perennial garden, courtyard and border garden. I frequently suggest Autumn Sage for landscape hot spots where other plants have struggled to survive. If your garden thumbs are mostly brown with only hints of green, this is a sure winner for your landscape.

The best companion plant with Autumn Sage is gaura, especially for attracting hummingbirds. Gaura is shorter than the sage family of plants, but requires the same amount of sun, soil and water which makes these two perfect as companion plantings.

Gaura and Autumn Sage flowers have a similar shape and size but there's a distinctive difference between their plant shapes. The gaura foliage grows close to the ground, its long flower stems moving in the wind high above the plant. You'll find that garden centers frequently display Autumn Sage and gaura together because their shapes complement each other so well. Great in containers, next to sidewalks, in raised beds, or as accent plants they thrive in full sun for the best flowers.

For more personal garden information, contact me via e-mail through 'The Personal Gardener Newsletter" found on my website at www.wattersonline.com.

If you prefer to call me with your questions, you can reach me at 928-541-1016 every Saturday from 7 to 8 a.m. on 'Gardening in Granite' at KYCA 1490AM. It's my radio show with local gardening news and the best gardening how-to unique to the mountain gardens of Arizona.

Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.

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