The Hummingbird Takes the Stage
Ok, so you have worked very hard to get your vegetable garden planted. Soon you will be harvesting the fruits of your labor. But until then let’s have some fun in the garden by creating a theatre in your garden.
We recently purchased a small lake cabin in Alabama. The people before us were not gardeners obviously from the lack of any plants on the grounds. While a lake cabin brings enjoyment just sitting and watching the people go by in their boats fishing, being a gardener I needed something more. So I started researching different types of gardens I could plant for enjoyment. Why not plant a hummingbird garden? I placed my hummingbird store bought feeder on the shoreline but have only had one visitor to the feeder. Not much of a show. It’s time to get serious. So I started doing some research on these little birds and they are absolutely amazing. It will take some work to invite them to our property but I am thinking it will be so worth it. Getting a garden started always takes work and this property is no exception considering it took us all day to plant 6 crepe myrtle trees and we even had an augur to drill the holes. Little did we know about the enormous amount of rocks we would run upon. The property is full of rocks with mica in them. It looks like fairy land which is somewhat appropriate for me since I have written a fairy book. The rocks while being somewhat of a nuisance, sparkle like fairy dust from the mica.
After doing some research I have discovered a wealth of children’s books as well as adult informational books about the hummingbird. So once again there are many opportunities for you to read to your children while developing your hummingbird theatre garden. I call it a theatre because hummingbirds will provide hours of entertainment. While I love to listen to the tunes of songbirds when it comes to performers, hummingbirds are delightful.
The hummingbird is like a one man stunt show. They can fly forward or backward, hover, and even fly upside-down, and they do all of this so fast we can’t hardly see it—beating their wings between 70 and 200 times per second. Using their agility allows them to reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour while flying and 60 miles per hour while diving. They buzz. They dart. They dazzle. Together, it makes for a hard act to follow. With all this activity they are heavy feeders having to eat about every 10 to 15 minutes between flight. It’s believed that they generally eat two to three times their own body weight in bugs and nectar every day.
To keep your stars of the theatre happy you and your child can do a few activities. Help your children select an attractive feeder for your home garden. Teach your children how to make the hummingbird mix ... it involves sugar, and water, and is fun!
Introduce the hummingbird species to your children via an easy to hold and read book, "Beginner's Guide to Hummingbirds". It is small, only 4" x 7" and has great pictures of common hummingbirds. It is a good starter book for young children with an interest in nature, yet contains enough identification tips and other information as they grow into teens, and young adults! Another informative book is "About Hummingbirds: A Guide for Children". This would also be a great time to add a chapter to your garden journal with pictures of the hummingbirds that frequent your garden.
Plant easy-to-grow hummingbird plants like zinnias and marigolds from seeds, watch them sprout, and watch the hummingbirds love them!
Narrow gardens are better. (It is easier for them to access the garden from either side.)
Create curving flower beds. (The hummingbirds are usually fighting for territory. It is much better for them to be able to zip down into the garden quickly before the competitor gets a chance to take over.)
Create clusters of colorful blooms. (Hummingbirds have excellent eyesight but planting flowers in clusters will make it easier for the hummingbird to see numerous blooms instead of just one flower.)
Plant your tallest plants in back or in the center if it is accessible around the circumference of the garden. An example plant for this is Phlox
Plant middle size plants in the middle. An example plant for this is Bee Balm
Use Salvia Sage as a small plant for the front.
Choose flowers that bloom at different times (giving the birds a source of nectar throughout the season). Perennials are an excellent type of plant. It is said the hummingbirds have great memories and will return to your garden for years.
Make sure you provide yourself with a chair for the best seat in the house. So let’s get started.
Hummingbirds, just like all other animals, need food, water, and shelter. Their diet consists of nectar from flowers (red is the favorite color), and small insects such as aphids and spiders. Eating many small meals a day Hummingbirds consume small invertebrates and up to twelve times their own body weight in nectar each day. Hummingbirds act as pollinators for many plant species. Designing a garden with hummingbirds in mind also pays extra dividends. Pollinators such as bees and other beneficial insects will join the show. So pull up a chair and let the show begin!
Plant of the month:
Bee Balm is a perennial in zones 4 to 9 and can take partial shade. The leaves smell of orange and spice, and attract bees and hummingbirds.
Plant Size: 3 to 4 feet tall, 18 to 36 inches wide
Light: Partial shade
Soil: Rich, moist
Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart
Perennials such as bee balms, columbines, daylilies, and lupines; biennials such as foxgloves and hollyhocks; and many annuals, including cleomes, impatiens, and petunias are brightly –colored tubular flowers that hold the most nectar and are loved by hummingbirds.