By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Lisa and I were sitting in our front courtyard this week watching the antics of “our” hummingbirds. They were enjoying water from the fountains and sipping nectar from the 30+ pots of flowers. Yes, all the flower color, sparkling water, and fresh air were compiled for a romantic get away in our own front yard, but there is one amazing, unexpected benefit we both enjoy: the birds are equally happy sharing the landscape with us!
Hummingbirds are the easiest to attract into the yard. We don’t put up feeders, as we never want our birds to become an obnoxious burden, but we do have a lot of flowers that bring in the birds. We have noticed that some flowers attract the hummers better than others do. These same flowers also attract butterflies. If you enjoy birds and butterflies in the yard, try planting some of our local favorites.
Monarch Promise Milkweed – Milkweed is butterflies’ choice of place to lay their eggs ; it’s also a source of nectar for fueling their migrations. The contrast between the tiny blossoms of orange and red against the spiky variegated leaves make this plant uniquely stunning. Partial shade encourages lusher leaves and blooms all summer! Looks great in containers. 11.99
Santa Barbara Salvia – A superior plant for hot dry slopes. Rugged enough for rock gardens, with similar requirements as western natives, it is suitable for xeriscape or wild gardens in the driest climate. Stellar in large artistic pots, particularly beautiful in earth- toned containers. Javalinas, deer, and rabbits leave this plant alone. 11.99
Kelos Magenta Celosia – There are few flowers as showy as celosia. Whether you plant the plumed type, which produces striking upright spires, or the crested type, which has a fascinating twisted form, you’ll love using celosia in bouquets. Striking as center pieces of any container gardens, and pollinators love them. The flowers are beautiful fresh, but are easily dried for bouquets. $9.99
Archangel Angelonia (Summer Snap Dragon) – Large, vibrant flowers on a plant that thrives in the heat. Blooms continuously, providing an extended season of color in garden borders or patio containers. Hummingbird friendly, yet deer and rabbit resistant. $9.99
Summer Splash Nierembergia – Flowers are profuse and almost look like they’re made of paper. Reseeds easily and great for hot locations. Very easy to grow and are perfect for patio pots and baskets. $4.99
Buzz Magenta Butterfly Bush – Full size graceful, tapering flowers cover the compact, hip-high plant from summer through fall. Much easier to care for than the towering varieties our grandparents grew. Of course, they attract butterflies like nobody’s business! $39.99
Pink Sparkle Spirea – Beautiful pink flowers emerge in early summer and then re-bloom again in fall. As an added bonus fall flowers appear down the stem, giving the appearance of an even fuller shrub. The leaves turn a beautiful burgundy in autumn; a perfectly rounded shape requires little pruning. Minimal maintenance, re-blooming flowers, and multi-season pink color is sure to make Pink Sparkler a favorite in my butterfly garden. $27.99
Fuchsia – There are a wide variety of fuchsias at the garden center right now. They have one of the brightest flowers for a shade-lovin’ plant. Blooms usually are pink, orange, and yellow, and have a drooping habit at the end of the stems. $5.99
Impatiens – A popular cottage garden plant because of its long-lasting bloom in the shade. It flowers from spring, all the way through to first frost. Impatiens have simple, five-petal flowers that bloom in a variety of colors from blue-purple, orange, pink, purple, white, and red. Impatiens will set seed readily in the home garden and it’s fun to wait until the seed pods swell to full size and then flick them with your fingers to see them burst open and spill their seed out onto the ground. $4.99
Petunias are a staple at the Lain casa for containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes because of their long-lasting blooms and wide variety of colors. The trumpet shaped flowers are a dead giveaway for their ability to attract hummingbirds. The wide variety of colors makes them easy to add into any garden space.
Water – Don’t forget to provide water, especially for the hummingbirds. Our garden has a simple fountain that attracts the smaller birds to a bubbling waterfall. Larger birds seem to prefer the good-sized pond in the backyard. Birds need a reliable water source, and are satisfied with a simple birdbath or a saucer filled with an inch or so of water. I find that birds don’t bathe as often as we who love to watch the show would like, but they love to rest on and sip at the edge of a water source.