Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.


Hummingbird Feeder in Shawna Coronado's front lawn

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. Hummingbird with Nepeta in Shawna Coronado's garden.

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.

Hummingbird splashing in sprinkler water

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.

Did you know that March 12 is Plant a Flower Day? I don’t need much of an excuse to plant flowers. I already have several dozen types of annual flowers started in the greenhouse, including the All-America Selections winners for this year (see below), and one from last year.

Salvia coccinea 'Summer Jewel Pink' is a 2012 All-America Selections Bedding Plant Award Winner that I think will look great in my pink border. Photo courtesy of All-America Selections.

Vinca 'Jams 'N Jellies Blackberry' is a 2012 All-America Selections Flower Award Winner. I can't wait for the seedlings that I've started in the greenhouse to start blooming. Photo courtesy of All-America Selections.

'Glamour Red' ornamental kale was a 2011 All-America Selections Cool Season Bedding Plant Award Winner. It looked great in my garden into December, so I'm growing it again this year. Photo courtesy of All-America Selections.

It may be a bit premature to plant perennials here in Des Moines, but I have some on order from High Country Gardens that will expand my collection of Midwest and High Plains native perennials. A few of them are pictured below. They’re scheduled for arrival in mid-April. By then, I’ll be able to plant them directly in the garden.

Which new flowers will you be growing in your yard this year?


Zauschneria garrettii is sometimes known as hardy fuschia as well as hummingbird trumpet. The bright orange tubular blooms draw hummingbirds to the garden.

Penstemon cobaea purpureus is a type of beardtongue with foxglove-like blooms on stalks several feet tall. It is a Midwest native.

Whether you call it redbirds in a tree or New Mexico figwort, Scrophularia macrantha is a cute perennial for dry sites with its panicles of rosy red blooms on compact plants.

While trimming back frosted foliage this past weekend, I noticed quite a few annuals and perennials that had survived the fall freezes. I had to admire their tenacity! Here are a dozen flowers that were still attractive in my yard earlier this week. I’ll soon see whether they bounce back after the 4 inches of snow that covered the garden last night!

'Walker's Low' catmint

'James Galway' rose

Verbena canadensis

Snow Princess sweet alyssumTwinny Peach snapdragon

Scabiosa 'Vivid Violet'

Salvia plumosa

'Pomegranate' yarrow

'Glamour Red' flowering kale

Chrysanthemum 'Cool Igloo'

Viola 'Endurio Sky Blue'


Lamium 'Anne Greenaway'

The following is a guest blog post from Chris Tidrick a gardener, writer and photographer.

Although we’re only a short way into the summer calendar, I have a good idea which plants are going to be the highlights in my gardens. Summer perennials are lush with foliage and starting to bloom, while the annuals planted in containers and garden beds no longer resemble those tiny plants I purchased in flats just a few weeks ago. There’s so much competing for attention in the summer landscape, it often takes the unique plant or combination of plants to truly grab our attention.

This year, a handful of new plants and a couple of garden veterans are stealing the show in my garden.

Solenostemon ‘Twist and Twirl’

I grow a lot of coleus (Solenostemon), but the one variety that stands out is ‘Twist and Twirl’. True to its name, its burgundy, yellow, and green, deeply lobed foliage appears to dance up the main stem. More upright and narrow than most coleus, ‘Twist and Twirl’ makes an excellent choice for a vertical element in containers. I have found that it combines best with other burgundy and green coleus, as the bright yellow isn’t the most complementary color with other hues.

Heuchera ‘Cherry Cola’

Heuchera has taken garden centers by storm in the past few years, but I have to admit that I still waver when asked my opinion on this diverse group of foliage perennials. Perhaps I haven’t given them the proper growing conditions, but most Heuchera I’ve planted seem to simply survive rather than flourish in my garden. I’d slowly been giving up on them, until planted H. ‘Cherry Cola’, a cultivar whose new growth emerges a deep cherry red and slowly fades to a darker brown-red as it ages. When backlit, the plant appears to have glowing embers under the foliage. The foliage color, combined with an above average vigor, definitely places ‘Cherry Cola’ on the short list of attention grabbers this summer.

Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’

From Rudbeckia to Leucanthemum and many genus in between, the choices for summer-flowering, daisy-type flowers seem endless. One plant that is often overlooked is Helenium, or Helen’s flower. A number of cultivars are available, ranging from yellow to orange to red. In my garden, ‘Mardi Gras’ is the cultivar of choice. Standing 30-36 inches tall, it is covered in yellow-orange blooms from June through September.

Salvia ‘Black and Blue’

I’ve also been enamored this summer by ‘Black and Blue’, an annual salvia (S. gauranitica). The true blue petals of ‘Black and Blue’, which resemble Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) in form if not color, emerge from a nearly black calyx attached to the stem. In full bloom, the flowers of ‘Black and Blue’ appear to be tiny pennants run up along a ship’s mast. The foliage is green and indistinct, but forms a solid base below these outstanding flowers.

Achillea ‘Strawberry Seduction’

I’ve never been that attracted to yarrow (Achillea), with its weedy foliage and tendency to fade in the summer heat and overwinter poorly during our Midwestern winters. But as I was browsing a clearance table at a garden center last fall, the name ‘Strawberry Seduction’ and a two dollar price tag convinced me to give it a try. So far, it’s been worth far more in my garden. Planted at the base of a large ‘Jackmanii’ clematis, my small clump of  ’Strawberry Seduction’ manages to catch my eye every time I walk through the garden.

Hemerocallis ‘Kwanso’

Any discussion of the attention grabbers in the early summer garden has to include Hemerocallis. I grow nearly 30 different varieties of daylilies in my garden. While my collection focuses heavily on red culivars, including  ’Angel Fire’, ‘Ivory Edges’, and ‘Christmas Carol’, there is one I wouldn’t do without: H. ‘Kwanso’. A close, yet cultivated, relative of the much disparaged “ditch lily” H. fulva, ‘Kwanso’ commands attention with its double-petaled orange flowers and vigorous (almost aggressive) growth habit. While many of my other Hemerocallis specimens may get overlooked at first glance, ‘Kwanso’ in full bloom is undeniably a starring member of my garden.

Clematis ‘Rouge Cardinal’

While I’d be remiss to ignore ‘Jackmanii’ clematis that forms the focal point of my front border,  ’Jackmanii’ is so well known that it seems redundant to give it more attention. Besides, another clematis in my garden may actually be outperforming ‘Jackmanii’ this year. ‘Rouge Cardinal’ is finally coming into its own after growing on the corner of my home for several years, is covered with dark red-purple, velvet-textured blooms from June through July. After the petals fade, the seed heads that remain are beautiful in their own right.

Calibrachoa Cabaret ‘Hot Pink and Pelargonium ‘Happy Thought’

Often plants form an attention-grabbing combination in the garden. In this container that grows near the end of our driveway, Calibrachoa Cabaret ‘Hot Pink’ and Pelargonium ‘Happy Thought’ (zonal geranium) combine to form a trailing base below a dark pink tropical Hibiscus. The yellow variegation in the Pelargonium foliage offsets the orange-red flowers and forms a clear transition between the solid green foliage of the Calibrachoa and Hibiscus.

Lobelia ‘Crystal Palace’ and Impatiens Tempo ‘Cancun Mix’

Sometimes breaking the rules of gardening can lead to a unique plant combination. While putting my containers together, I had three leftover plants: Lobelia ‘Crystal Palace’, Impatiens Tempo ‘Cancun’ and a small division of a variegated Hosta. While the light needs of these plants are on opposite ends of the spectrum, I decided to push the growing conditions for all the plants involved because I loved the combination of the blue and salmon, with a slight interruption of the yellow variegation in the Hosta.

Those are just a few of the attention grabbers growing in my garden. Please feel free to use the comment feature to share those plants and plant combinations that are starring in your summer garden. Please join me at my blog, From the Soil, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Summer ends in a whir of wings in my yard. While some gardens are winding down for the season, mine is revving up with late-season flowers that cater to the sweet appetites of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. Perennials such as hyssop (Agastache), butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii), and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), join the 24/7 dessert buffet provided by long-blooming annuals, including begonia, lantana, cardinal climber, Pentas, petunia, salvia, and zinnia.

Where have these thumb-size iridescent cuties been all summer? No doubt they’ve been noshing on native blooms and bugs in fields near my home. Just this week, though, I spotted a female hummer hovering in front of my kitchen window as if to say, “Hey, you! Didn’t you have a feeder hanging in this very spot last year?” It’s true: Hummingbirds have amazing memories. They return to the same nectar-rich gardens each year.

August and September bloomers are especially important to the Ruby-Throated (the only hummingbird species that resides east of the Rockies) because they fuel a marathon migration to Mexico and Central America that begins a few weeks from now. The males leave first, followed by the females and offspring. Hummers double their weight for the 2,000-mile trip, taking time to top their tanks in gardens that also serve sugar water, the avian equivalent of an energy drink.

After spotting my first dazzling diner, I wasted no time filling my collection of hummingbird feeders and hanging them within view of every room of my house. One of my favorites is a window-mounted model available at Wild Birds Unlimited. It adheres to glass with suction cups, awarding closeup views. You can purchase packaged instant nectar, but I prefer mixing up small homemade batches made from 4 parts water (boiled, then cooled) to 1 part sugar. Contrary to popular belief, the solution need not be tinted with red food coloring. I clean feeders every few days and refill with fresh sugar water.

By Labor Day, most Rubies will be gone. In the meantime, I’m going to relish these final days of summer, the sweetest season of all.

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