Sunday, May 28, 2006

hummingbird feeder : In bird world, they're humdingers

The hummingbirds have arrived, flitting from plant to plant, feeder to feeder, nourishing their tiny bodies and those of their offspring.

Their arrival in my yard coincides with the blooming of two of their favorite plants: 'Goldflame' honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrottii) and our native columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).
The first Spaniards to visit the New World called hummers joyas voladoras or flying jewels. That name applies to the ruby-throated hummingbird, the only one we have east of the Mississippi.
Hummingbirds love red, trumpet shaped flowers, those especially adapted for their long tongues. They also visit many plants with flowers that are not red. Although we think of hummers as nectar-loving birds, they also gobble up mosquitoes and many other insects.
Water is a key element in attracting any bird to your yard. Also, reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides ensures there are plenty of insects to feed the birds and pollinate plants, which makes more flowers.
Here's a brief sampler of easy-to-grow plants they can't resist:
'Black and Blue' salvia (Salvia guaranitica), one of the best hummingbird magnets in the garden. It is sometimes called hummingbird sage. Grown here as a summer annual, it has gorgeous cobalt blue flowers. It gets about 24 inches tall and wide and does best in full sun, although it tolerates light shade. Perfect as the centerpiece of a large container or in the ground. Also can be cut for indoor arrangements.
Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) has brilliant red flowers and is another plant we grow as a summer annual. A spectacular new one, 'Golden Delicious,' has yellow foliage. Does best in full sun; tolerates light shade and can be used as a cut flower. Gets about 24 inches tall and wide.
Salvia splendens, a common garden bedding annual with red, white, purple and pink flowers. Does best in full sun to light shade. Ranges in height from 10 to 18 inches.
Geraniums (Pelargonium), especially the red ones that are favorites for window boxes, pots or in the ground planting. Geraniums do best in full sun. Most geraniums are about 15 to 18 inches tall. Great for cutting, too.
Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana), especially the night-blooming types. Hummers will likely be seen on these plants at dawn and dusk. Flowering tobacco does best in full sun to part shade. Ranges in height from 8 to 30 inches.
For more information about attracting hummingbirds to your yard, visit these Web sites:, www.humming
The Hummingbird Society,
Wild Birds Unlimited,
The Hummingbird Web site,
Capture the jewels

Duncraft, which markets birdfeeders, birdbaths, seed and other related merchandise, has invited people to send in their best photographs of hummingbirds.
Digital photos will be accepted through Wednesday. The winning entry will receive a Horizons Hummingbird Feeder. E-mail photos to

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, an Advanced Master Gardener, is a regional director of Garden Writers Association, co-author of "The Indiana Gardener's Guide Revised Edition" and a regular contributor to "Too Many Cooks!" at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays on WICR-FM (88.7). Her column, which emphasizes natural gardening methods, appears each Saturday in Home & Garden. Contact her at Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, P.O. Box 20310, Indianapolis, IN 46220-0310; fax, (317) 251-8545, or e-mail,

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