Hummingbirds are an entertaining way to enjoy nature. We all adore them and want them in our gardens, but sometimes a feeder alone does not attract our humming friends. Here are three tips to get them to come to your yard and recognize your feeder as a place to return to often.
1. Plant nectar producing flowers in your garden that attract hummers. My favorites include Salvia, Nepeta, Bee Balm, Delphinium, Hollyhock, Canna, Morning Glory, Trumpet Vine, and Lantana. In the photo to the right you see the perennial Nepeta Six Hills Giant.
2. Use bright colors to tempt them in – especially red. In the top photo you can see the red Antique Bottle Hummingbird Feeder from Perky-Pet I have set up in my early spring garden. Set a red or brightly colored feeder out as soon as you are able in the spring in order to let the early hummingbird scouts know where their feeding locations are.
3. Keep the feeder clean. Hummingbirds love fresh nectar and do not like a dirty hummingbird feeder, so be sure to keep your feeder clean and change your nectar at least twice per week. Feeding hummingbirds is super easy. Mix 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Boil the water solution for two minutes, let cool, then fill the feeder.
While not all feeders need to be placed in shade, I have found that a shady spot seems to be a great spot for the hummers as it keeps them cooler in the hot summer heat and prevents nectar spoilage. They love water too. Here you see an adorable hummingbird that landed on a hosta in my garden and is washing his wings in my sprinkler.
Hummingbirds are amazing to watch and a grand part of the summer garden. Lure these delightful birds in with plants and feeders then invite your friends over to watch the fun.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received a product in this post at no cost in exchange for reviewing it.
The Tropical Plant Industry Expo is the place to go to see what’s hot in indoor gardening. The fact that it’s held in southern Florida in mid-January, is another incentive to attend! Trends that I saw this year include a resurgence in the popularity of terrariums and dish gardens. But these aren’t simply a return to mass-produced fad gardens from the 1970s. Modern mini-landscapes have more style and individuality. Often they’re displayed in unique containers or feature sculptural plants. The emphasis is on tough, easy-care plants such as succulents and bromeliads. Here are some examples that I saw at this year’s Expo.
The ribbed glass on this terrarium adds a unique perspective, resembling a pumpkin. It makes a great centerpiece.
The ceramic base on this terrarium hides the soil and root zone while displaying the foliage clearly.
Put that cupcake holder to use displaying begonias, ferns, peperomias, nerve plants, and miniature palms.
Spikes of maroon Dracaena marginata explode from a bed of heavily patterned peacock plant (Maranta) in this combo.
These earth stars (Cryptanthus), a type of bromeliad, look other-worldly when displayed on a pedestal.
Echeverias, kalanchoe, and peperomia team to create amazing texture and color in this succulent dish garden.
Just in time for holiday gift giving, four new gardening books have been released by Better Homes and Gardens. And even though the season for digging in the dirt may be months away, you (and your gardening friends) won’t have time to read once the weather breaks, so now is the ideal time to study up on gardening techniques and dream about plants to add to your collection next year. (By means of full disclosure, I have a vested interest in these books. I managed the editorial teams that put these titles together.) All are available through John Wiley & Sons, Publishers. Just follow the individual book links below to see more details or place an order.
Gardening Made Simple is a new cornerstone book, designed to help anyone get started in gardening. Rather than fretting that it might be too difficult, follow the step-by-step instructions and photographs to success in your garden, whether you’re growing edibles or ornamentals. No more excuses about not having a green thumb! This book includes more than 1,200 photographs and hundreds of Test Garden Tips and answers to common questions from the Better Homes and Gardens Garden Doctor. Its 400 pages include plant profiles of the easiest and most popular plants to grow. $24.99.
Better Homes and Gardens Herb Gardening will demystify the art of growing herbs. Learn how to add zing to your diet with healthful herbs. The book includes recipes from the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen for herbal teas, spreads, sauces, dressings, and seasonings. The encyclopedia section describes 145 herbs and includes dozens of how-to growing tips. $19.99.
Better Homes and Gardens Orchid Gardening simplifies growing techniques for this gorgeous group of flowers. Choose your favorites from a gallery containing more than 200 varieties of easy-to-grow beauties. This 192-page book includes lots of step-by-step instructions to ensure success with orchids. $19.99.
Better Homes and Gardens Water Gardening shows you how you can create a restful water garden retreat in your own landscape. Whether you have space only for a container water garden or a large water feature with cascades and pools, this book will guide you through the process. Seasonal care charts serve as reminders of what to do when with your water garden. It even includes 15 plant-by-number water garden plans. $19.99.
My favorite tool for fall garden clean up is apparently no longer made by Fiskars. It’s a long-handled power lever swivel shears. They do make a long-handled swivel-head grass shears, but it doesn’t have the same leverage or cutting power as this tool. They also manufacture power lever hedge shears that make cuts just as easily as my favorite, but you have to bend down to ground level to cut off old stems with it.
I recently made short work of cutting back amsonia, miscanthus, catmint, ornamental oregano, and just about any other non-woody perennial that needed it by using the power lever swivel trimmer. It’s a good thing that Fiskar tools are well made. I’m hoping that this tool lasts a lifetime, because I may not be able to get a replacement.
This trimmer made quick work of cutting back thick amsonia stems this fall.
October glory red maple colors later than most varieties of the species. This one in my yard is surrounded by Limelight hydrangea.
The fall color display in central Iowa has been spectacular this year. Just the right combination of warm, sunny days and cool, but above-freezing temperatures at night, along with a little stress from the driest September and October in six decades led to glorious golds, outstanding oranges, and rich reds. Yesterday’s rain and wind brought down quite a few leaves, but some trees will hold their color for a few more days, or even weeks in the case of many oaks and callery pears.
These ginkgo trees outside my office are at peak color. They'll all drop their leaves within a few days.
Before long, the brilliant foliage colors will be gone. Then I’ll have to be content with the memories and photos of the autumnal fireworks show. Fortunately, Timber Press
sent me a new tool that will help. It’s the latest book from woody plant guru, Michael Dirr. Long regarded as the nation’s foremost expert on trees and shrubs, Dr. Dirr has published a new book that, like his previous Manual of Woody Landscape Plants
, draws on his encyclopedic knowledge and years of personal experience with trees and shrubs. However, the new book, Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs,
adds thousands of photos to the mix, too.
The cover of Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs
It’s odd to say that the new 950-page tome is downsized from the previous book, which is nearly 1,200 pages in length. It certainly doesn’t feel less hefty! With the inclusion of so many photos, Dirr had to leave out some of the nerdy horticultural details found in his previous work. For example, the number of red maples and hybrids discussed in the new book is 17 compared to 58 in the previous book. Similarly ginkgo dropped from 40 to 5 varieties, and dawn redwood decreased from 9 to 6 varieties. However, the book is still replete with Dirr’s personal anecdotes and observations. He has updated the book with more recent introductions and dropped some of the more obscure ones. The pictorial displays more than make up for the abbreviated text. And most gardeners will appreciate not having to sift through obscure varieties that they’re not likely to find at the local nursery anyway.
The size of the book makes it impractical to carry around as a field guide, but it will no doubt be a go-to reference for years to come. With a list price of $79.95, the book won’t be an impulse purchase for most. However, the timing of its release is perfect to place it on your Holiday gift wish list.
The dawn redwood in my yard has taken on russet orange hues this fall.
Late summer to early fall may not be the showiest time for dandelions, but it’s the best time to eliminate them from your lawn. I usually avoid using toxic lawn chemicals, so I was curious to try the new Ortho Elementals Lawn Weed Killer sample that I received at the recent Garden Writers Association Symposium in Indianapolis. This broadleaf weed killer is made with naturally occurring iron. The active ingredient is iron HEDTA–or hydroxyethylenediaminetriacetic acid, for those of you studying organic chemistry!
The product works by creating iron toxicity at the cellular level. Because the mechanism of iron uptake is different in broadleaf plants such as dandelion from that in monocots such as lawn grass, the weeds die while the grass is unaffected. This naturally occurring chemical is reported to be safe for humans and other animals. Sprayed areas are safe to reenter as soon as the product dries. And further background research shows that iron HEDTA is not persistent, so it is quite friendly to the environment. Additionally, rather than spraying the entire yard, you’re supposed to spray only the dandelions (or other broadleaf weeds you want to eliminate), so much less chemical is used than with conventional weed killers.
The initial results are impressive. I spot sprayed dandelions in my yard this last weekend. In just 72 hours, they looked like the dandelion in the “after” photo below. The true test will be how much regrowth happens. The label indicates that for best results, two applications three to four weeks apart may be necessary. So I expect that the dandelions will regrow from the roots and need another shot of weed killer to wipe them out entirely.
Dandelion before treatment
Dandelion three days after spraying with Ortho Elementals Lawn Weed Killer