So the time has come for that long overdue talk about the birds and the bees. No, I am not going to discuss sex education issues although the sex life of plants might be an interesting topic sometime.
I am going to talk about bees and hummingbirds as they pertain to the selection and growing of woody perennials.
While flowers and foliage of woody perennials can be attractive in their own right, I also like to provide a haven for various insects and birds if at all possible. As you know, the European honeybee has been having a tough time the last several years with a multitude of health issues. Some of these are our fault (indiscriminate pesticide use comes to mind) but many causes are not our doing.
We can help honeybees and other insect pollinators by providing a safe environment complete with good sources of nectar and pollen. After all, without our little pollinator friends, we would be in a world of hurt for food.
Good choices for providing food sources for bees are purple cone flowers, lavender, goldenrod, the cat mints, Caryopteris (dark night spirea) and Russian sage. There are many others, but these appear to be the most common ones planted. What is important is to provide later nectar and pollen sources so that these bees can prepare their colonies for the winter.
Being an avid hummingbird gardener, my garden includes plants that provide "natural nectar." While hanging up sugar-water feeders will attract hummingbirds to your yard, the best way to meet the needs of these tiny birds is with nectar-producing plants (I do both). And the best flowers for hummers all have tubular flowers, like honeysuckle, salvias, bee balm, Agastache (hummingbird mint), trumpet vine, many of the Penstemons (beardtongue), Zauschneria (hummingbird trumpet vine), red yucca (really an aloe) and desert willow for those at the lower elevations.
Many hummingbirds travel long distances on their migratory journeys in spring and fall and benefit greatly when we plant to provide them with nectar. But most importantly we must provide a food source in the late summer to early fall when these little jewels are getting ready for their long distance flights to the south.
I find that Agastache (hummingbird mint) is a favorite later bloomer around my yard and it provides abundant nectar for hummers stocking up for their fall migrations. Besides, these plants are beautiful, are deer proof, and some smell just like Double Bubble gum.
An added bonus has been the appearance of the white-lined sphinx, a hawk moth that hovers like a hummer and has a very long tongue to extract nectar from long-throated flowers. I've had as many as eight of these moths at any given time, feeding on my 10 Agastache plants.
I've spread out my hummer-attracting plants over a wider area so that all the hummingbirds can fan out across the garden to feed and the feisty rufous can't keep chasing the broad-tail hummers from the garden. Earlier in the year I have black-chinned hummingbirds, but later arriving rufous seem to chase these away.
Next time I'll discuss how to kill a tree. No, I will not be promoting tree murder but rather providing ways people commonly cause the demise of their trees. Maybe by being forewarned you can provide good tree care. Until then, happy gardening.
Jim Leser retired to Cedaredge after a career with Texas A&M University Extension in entomology. He is a member of the Cedaredge Tree Board and a master gardener.blog comments powered by Disqus