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Hummingbird Gardening in the Upper Midwest

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https://www.hummingbirdgardening.net



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer 2017 Update


“Like the hummingbird sipping nectar from every flower, I fly joyfully through my days, seeing beauty in everything.” Amethyst Wyldfyre

Hi Everyone,

The spring and summer have just flown by and now mid-summer is upon us!  The reason we are so late in getting this update out to you is because of a very heavy travel schedule (we were in Oklahoma, Arizona, Spain, and New York City!) this spring and early summer and my father’s illness.  Getting our garden planted and established is always a top priority as the hummingbirds start to arrive in our garden.  We have been very busy planting and obtaining the best plants for our hummingbird guests from mail order nurseries far and wide and from local nurseries (many had some outstanding offerings this spring and we even gave an informal program about Hummingbird Gardening at Klein’s Floral for the first time in May.)

We know that all of you are seeing hummingbirds at your feeders and flowers by now---our first hummingbird was seen on May 9, which is very similar to 2016.  Interestingly, for the first time our hummingbirds and Screech Owls overlapped a little this season, with the Screech Owls leaving our yard around the same time that hummingbirds started to arrive.  Typically, we don’t see Screech Owls in our nest box past March, but we put up two more boxes this spring and this encouraged them to stay longer and we even had several days with two owls in the boxes on one day---very exciting stuff!!

Anyhow, now it’s all about hummingbirds and we’ve also expanded a little to also attract more butterflies to our garden.  We were very inspired by a program about the declining Monarch Butterfly population presented at the recent WPT Garden Expo and decided to plant Swamp Milkweed and a few other butterfly favorites along with our hummingbird flowers.  Despite the milder winter, all but one of our Butterfly Bushes died and we are trying to get new ones established now for late season butterflies and hummingbirds.  After a nice spring migration, hummingbird sightings were a little bit slow in July, but they are picking up nicely as the young begin to leave the nest.  We are also seeing a few butterflies as well.  Of course, Scarlet Bee Balm is a favorite flower of both hummingbirds and butterflies right now, but salvias are becoming more popular.

All of the rain this spring has really created some nice opportunities and also some challenges in our garden.  Of course, some plants such as Monarda, Canna, Cuphea, Hosta, Salvia guaranitica, and Jewelweed are loving all of this moisture and other plants are not enjoying it as much.  If you came to visit our garden now, you would be amazed by the sheer height of Jewelweed, Hosta, and Policeman’s Helmet plants.  That is the challenge of gardening in the Upper Midwest, you never know what nature has in store and you have accept whatever she decides to deliver.  We only hope that some of our tender heat loving plants will bloom this season given the lack of sun and warmth (not to speak of the constant expansion of shade in our area because of city and neighbors’ trees---hostas are beginning to be our new friends---ah, a plant that blooms in the shade and attracts hummingbirds!)  Now we are in more of a dry period in terms of rain---it’s either feast or famine in Wisconsin with precipitation it seems!

This update will contain important information about our upcoming Hummingbird Garden Tours in September, reminders and information about maintaining hummingbird feeders, and some other interesting explorations of hummingbird attracting and gardening. 

We sincerely hope that all of you will enjoy your summer and early fall experiences with hummingbirds and gardening and fun summer times with family and friends.  If you have questions about anything, please e-mail or call us at any time and we hope to see you at one of our upcoming Hummingbird Garden Tours in September!

Best Wishes,

Kathi & Michael

UPCOMING HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN TOURS

Our 2017 Hummingbird Garden Tours at our home will occur on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 10 from 1-5:30 p.m. (door prize drawing at 3 p.m.) and WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 from 3-7 p.m. (door prize drawing at 5 p.m.)  Another notice with more information will be sent out later in August and information will always be available on our website, hummingbirdgardening.net.  We hope that you will be able to join us for one or both of the tours.  If you cannot attend either tour and want to see our garden, please contact us to arrange a very informal tour at another time.

HUMMINGBIRD FEEDER UPDATE

Properly maintained hummingbird feeders are an integral part of your efforts to bring hummingbirds to your property.  So often, people ask us if they can just plant a few perennials and attract lots of hummingbirds.  The answer to that question for most of us is an emphatic “No.”  In our northern climate, it would be almost impossible to find enough perennials that really attract hummingbirds to cover the entire season, early May through mid-October.  Also, feeders fill in on the days when nectar in the flowers is unavailable, spring before hummingbird plants begin blooming, a very cold day, a very hot day, a rainy day, or in fall after the first frost.  Hummingbird feeders are always available, no matter what the weather or time of the year (unless they are frozen in winter!).  Also, hummingbird feeders with their red coloring (the nectar should be clear though) serve as an identification of your property as hummingbird-friendly---you might be interested to know that hummingbirds can see red for up to a mile away, have excellent memories, and probably return to the place where they hatched each year (there are many fun stories of hummingbirds “knocking” on the window with their bills to let their human hosts know that they are back and hungry!)

“How many feeders should I hang?” is another common question.  The answer that everyone needs to hear first is only put up as many feeders as you can properly maintain (that means cleaning regularly as well as changing the nectar solution.)  And, place all feeders in places where you can easily view them from your home.  If you live in an urban area, MORE feeders will be needed to bring in hummingbirds on a daily basis---we have seven feeders up right now, and all get used and some more than others.  By mid-September, we will have as many as 20 hummingbird feeders up!  If we lived in a rural or wooded area, we absolutely would not need to work this hard!

If you have a very territorial, aggressive hummingbird, put feeders on the opposite side of your home  so the “bully” cannot see the other feeder and that way everyone has a chance to feed in peace (as much as hummingbirds can have peace!)

As more flowers begin blooming in late July and August, the feeders become less important, but please don’t take them down.  Many hummingbirds will still use them at any time of the year when they need a quick shot of reliable energy or the weather has taken a bad turn.  One late summer day, we saw an immature Ruby-throat rest on a feeder for almost 30 minutes at the end of the day.  With their fast metabolisms, hummingbirds face an energy crisis quite often, especially very young birds.  Feeders are a great fall back and safeguard for your hummingbird friends.

We reprint the following information about use and maintenance of hummingbird feeders from a past E-Update:

HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS 101---ALL THE "INS AND OUTS" OF HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS

The diet of hummingbirds consists of small insects and nectar. You faithful readers of the Nectar
News
are well aware of the different kinds of flowers that provide sweet nectar for the hummingbirds. But when the hummers return from their winter homes in April and May, there are no blooming flowers in Wisconsin that are attractive to hummingbirds. We may like to look at daffodils and crocus and tulips, but those are not hummingbird flowers. So, to maximize the number of hummingbirds in your yard throughout the season, one must have hummingbird feeders. Here is a quick primer on the
feeders that have worked well in our yard and the care of the feeders.

Feeder styles: There are two basic feeder styles: bottle feeders in which the nectar is above the feeder ports or saucer style feeders.

In the bottle feeder category: a workhouse feeder that has been in existence for many years is the Perky Pet Pinch Waste Feeder
(
http://www.birdfeeders.com/store/hummingbird-feeders/bhbpwf), also known as the Perky Pet 4 Fountains feeder. This feeder is widely available at retailers such as hardware stores, home improvement stores and birding stores. If you have this feeder in your yard, you are guaranteed to see hummingbirds use it. One drawback of this feeder isthat if it blows in the wind, the nectar will slosh out of the feeder
ports.

A feeder that we have used extensively with much success is the First Nature Hummingbird Feeder
(http://www.amazon.com/First-Nature-Hummingbird-Feeder-16Ounce/dp/B005XOZKC6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463470025&sr=8-1&keywords=first+nature+hummingbird+feeder). These feeders have 10 feeding ports with holes that are in a horizontal position, so when the wind blows, nectar does not slosh out of these feeders. We have found that the hummingbirds use this feeder to a high degree. One disadvantage of this feeder is that the feeding port holes are large oval shapes..... large enough for yellow jackets to fly into the nectar. First Nature has redesigned this feeder to have smaller round holes with yellow bee guards. You may see this licensed under the name Mainstays Hummingbird Feeder. It remains to be seen if this feeder is used as much as the original First Nature design. You can find this feeder at stores such as Walmart and Fleet Farm.

Another bottle style feeder is the Dr. JB's Clean Feeder (
http://www.drjbs.com/). This feeder is made of very durable plastic and a hardened glass bottle. The feeder ports on this feeder are oriented such
that the nectar does not slosh out in a strong wind. This feeder is widely available at retailers such as Wild Birds Unlimited and Mounds Pet Food Warehouse.

In the saucer style category, a company that makes many of these feeders is Aspects (
http://www.aspectsinc.com/2_HumFdrs.html). These feeders will not leak nectar in a strong wind. Although we have seen some use of these feeders in our yard, the saucer style feeders are not used as much as the Perky Pet 4 Fountains or the First Nature Hummingbird Feeders. These feeders are available at hardware stores and Wild Birds Unlimited.

There are dozens of styles of hummingbird feeders. We only mention the feeders above as these have been used in our yard and we can attest that they are good feeders. You will likely have success with almost any kind of feeder. However, we do not have any experience with the fancy
glass blown feeders that have a single spigot feeding port. In our discussions with other hummingbird enthusiasts, we have heard that hummers do not use these feeders very much and that they can be very difficult to clean.  The best hummingbird feeder one that attracts hummingbirds AND is easy to clean.

Nectar
Now that you have your feeders, it is time to add nectar. Many of the pictures of feeders shown in the web sites listed above contain nectar with red dye. The dye is not necessary, as there is enough red on the feeder to attract the hummingbirds. So, you can either buy a commercial nectar mix, or make your own nectar. We do the latter by mixing a ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. The water can be boiled, or hot water out of the tap. (One could also use room temperature or cold water, but the sugar will take longer to dissolve compared to hot water.) Stir in the sugar until it is totally dissolved, and then place in your feeder. We do not fill our feeders to the top because we do not have enough hummingbirdsto drain our feeders. We only place enough nectar in the feeders to
last until the next nectar change, as often as every 2-3 days during hot, humid weather or at least every 4-5 days.   Changing the nectar isnecessary, as otherwise, the nectar will become cloudy, sour, and moldy.

The feeders also need to be cleaned. One can purchase different mops and brushes to clean the feeders. Alternatively, a 10 to 1 mixture of water and bleach can be used to soak the feeders for approximately 10 minutes. This is very effective at eliminating any mold.

Lastly, it is time to hang your feeders. We place our feeders at approximately eye level. Place the feeders where you can see them and enjoy watching nature's flying jewels in your yard. In our opinion, the more feeders that you have, the more hummingbirds will be attracted to your yard. This may not be exceedingly important if one lives in the country near ideal nesting habitat. For those of us living in the city, we think that a large number of feeders helps us to see hummingbirds during most days of the late spring, summer and early fall (as late as November 17 in 2010---without feeders we would have not seen these late hummingbirds as all of our flowers had died or ceased blooming due to cold weather and frost). At the height of the fall migration, we maintain over 20 feeders in our yard.

In June of this year we gave a program about Hummingbird Vision at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum.  To enhance our informational booth about hummingbirds, we developed some fact sheets about attracting hummingbirds.  We will share that information with you here to help you in your efforts this season.

THE BEST HUMMINGBIRD HABITAT

THE BEST HUMMINGBIRD HABITAT---

*      FEATURES MANY MATURE TREES

*      FEATURES THICK SHRUBBERY FOR PERCHING AND ESCAPE FROM PREDATORS

*      UTILILIZES WELL MAINTAINED HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS & THE BEST FLOWERS FOR HUMMINGBIRDS FROM LATE APRIL THROUGH EARLY OCTOBER

*      OFFERS BOTH NATIVE PLANTS & NON-INVASIVE EXOTICS

*      NO PESTICIDE USE---HUMMINGBIRDS DEPEND ON SMALL SOFT-BODIED INSECTS FOR SURVIVAL!!

*      OFFERS CLEAN, MOVING, SHALLOW WATER

*      SOMETHING GREAT FOR HUMMINGBIRDS IS ALWAYS IN BLOOM!!

*      FLOWERS AND FEEDERS ARE PLACED WHERE THE HOMEOWNER CAN SEE AND ENJOY THEM!!

THE BEST FLOWERS FOR HUMMINGBIRDS

THE BEST FLOWERS FOR HUMMINGBIRDS---

*      ARE TUBULAR IN SHAPE

*      BLOOM WHEN HUMMINGBIRDS ARE IN YOUR AREA

*      ARE RED OR ORANGE (SOMETIMES BLUE OR PURPLE)

*      CONTAIN NECTAR

*      WILL GROW WELL IN YOUR SOIL AND LIGHTING CONDITIONS

*      PLANTS OFFER MANY CONSTANTLY REGENERATING FLOWERS FOR ALL DAY FEEDING

PLANT SOME HUMMINGBIRD FAVORITES!

Below is a “short list” of hummingbird favorite plants for the Upper Midwest:

Perennials:

-Lonicera sempervirens (Trumpet Honeysuckle)

-Nepeta (tall varieties such as Audre D’Chadron and ‘Six Hills Giant’)

-Monarda ‘Jacob Kline’

-Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed)

-Lobelia cardinalis

-Agastache (could be perennial or annual)

-Silene regia (Royal Catchfly)

-Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)

Annuals:

-Cuphea ‘David Verity’ or ‘Vermillionaire’

-Salvia guaranitica

-Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’

-Canna (wild types such as ‘Indica’ or ‘Robert Kemp’)

-Nicotiana mutablis

-Salvia coccinea

Sunday, July 24, 2016

2016 EARLY SUMMER HUMMINGBIRD GARDENING UPDATE----THE HUMMINGBIRDS ARE HERE!!

With wings spun of silver and hearts of gold,
These tiny creatures our hearts behold.
With angelic features and colors so bright,
Make even the heaviest heart seem light.
The magical way they flit through the sky,
They appear, then vanish in the blink of an eye.
They're sending a message for us to retrieve,
Anything's possible for those who believe!

Written by: Christopher Griffiths     
 
Hi Everybody,
Spring and now summer are once again here with all of its possibility and promise (and beauty, if the weather cooperates!).
We are very happy to report that we saw our first hummingbird at 2:19 p.m. on May 7 (about 7 days earlier than last spring---our earliest hummingbird sighting in 17 years was April 30.)  Additionally, a birding friend was riding his bicycle past our home on May 3 and saw a hummingbird at our feeder, so we actually missed that earlier sighting (and a neighbor and friend who doesn’t even put feeders up saw a hummingbird in her garden on May 6).  That week we saw an adult male Ruby-throat at our feeders mostly at dusk and the ladies joined us about a week later.  Michael was lucky enough to even see a male hummingbird perform a mating display (U-shaped dive) in front of a perched female.  This has been our best spring of hummingbird activity ever with numerous males and females every day (we have some sightings during the day, but most sightings occur at dusk.)  Hummingbirds are now feeding from some flowers such as Honeysuckle, our new Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Bloom’ (great plant---find it at Klein’s or The Bruce Company), and some overwintered salvias---we have had a few. sightings at Catmint , but now as summer begins Monarda ‘Jacob Kline’ is very popular!!
 
With summer now upon us, just about every day is a great day to get out and garden. The garden is mostly in, but more still needs to be done.  The weeds are a never ending challenge and hopefully this will improve as desirable plants grow larger and shade them out.  I was reminded by a recent Bruce Company e-newsletter that weeds growing in garden areas are not only unsightly, but are taking valuable moisture and nutrients away from desirable plants, so pull them out as they emerge (as tedious as this activity might be!).
 
So, the time is now to get your feeders up and ready and to think about great flowers for your hummingbirds.  We have had many plant orders arrive and two more are coming this week.  Check out several articles in the newsletter about those topics.  The busiest time for hummingbirds in our garden is always late August and early September and we are working very hard to “lay out the red carpet” for our hummingbird guests!!
 
It’s time to get out and enjoy the bright and warm golden days of summer and embrace the miracle of nature that is offered to us, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  Enjoy your families, your gardens and your hummingbirds this summer.
 
Best Wishes,
Kathi and Michael
 
In This Issue:
-Upcoming Events
-Hummingbird Feeder Update
-Hummingbird Feeders 101
-Best Plants for Hummingbirds/Nursery News
-Hummingbird Migration Map, Friend or Foe?
-2015 Hummingbird Garden Tour Review
-Join A Tour to Costa Rica Led By Hummingbird Expert Mickey O’Connor
 
UPCOMING EVENTS
-Hummingbird Program at Governor Dodge State Park in DodgevilleSunday, July 3, 8:30 p.m. at the Park Amphitheater.  This program will be an open air presentation under the stars. http://www.friendsofgovdodge.org/node/149
 
-Hummingbird Garden Tours at our Home:  Sunday, September 11, 1-5:30 p.m. (program & door prize drawing at 3 p.m.) and/or Wednesday, September 14, 3-7 p.m. (program & door prize drawing at 5 p.m.), 5118 Buffalo Trail, Madison, WI   53705, (608) 233-7397 (registration not required.)
 
HUMMINGBIRD FEEDER UPDATE
Properly maintained hummingbird feeders are an integral part of your efforts to bring hummingbirds to your property.  So often, people ask us if they can just plant a few perennials and attract lots of hummingbirds.  The answer to that question for most of us is an emphatic “No.”  In our northern climate, it would be almost impossible to find enough perennials that really attract hummingbirds to cover the entire season, early May through mid-October.  Also, feeders fill in on the days when nectar in the flowers is unavailable, spring before hummingbird plants begin blooming, a very cold day, a very hot day, a rainy day, or in fall after the first frost.  Hummingbird feeders are always available, no matter what the weather or time of the year (unless they are frozen in winter!).  Also, hummingbird feeders with their red coloring (the nectar should be clear though) serve as an identification of your property as hummingbird-friendly---you might be interested to know that hummingbirds can see red for up to a mile away, have excellent memories, and probably return to the place of their birth each year (there are many fun stories of hummingbirds “knocking” on the window with their bills to let their human hosts know that they are back and hungry!)
 
“How many feeders should I hang?” is another common question.  The answer that everyone needs to hear first is only put up as many feeders as you can properly maintain (that means cleaning regularly as well as changing the nectar solution.)  And, place all feeders in places where you can easily view them from your home.  If you live in an urban area, MORE feeders will be needed to bring in hummingbirds on a daily basis---we have seven feeders up right now, and all get used and some more than others.  By mid-September, we will have as many as 20 hummingbird feeders up!  If we lived in a rural or wooded area, we absolutely would not need to work this hard!
 
If you have a very territorial, aggressive hummingbird, put feeders on the opposite side of your home  so the “bully” cannot see the other feeder and that way everyone has a chance to feed in peace (as much as hummingbirds can have peace!)
 
As more flowers begin blooming in late July and August, the feeders become less important, but please don’t take them down.  Many hummingbirds will still use them at any time of the year when they need a quick shot of reliable energy or the weather has taken a bad turn.  One late summer day, we saw an immature Ruby-throat rest on a feeder for almost 30 minutes at the end of the day.  With their fast metabolisms, hummingbirds face an energy crisis quite often, especially very young birds.  Feeders are a great fall back and safeguard for your hummingbird friends.
 
We reprint the following information about use and maintenance of hummingbird feeders from a past E-Update:
 
HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS 101---ALL THE "INS AND OUTS" OF HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS
The diet of hummingbirds consists of small insects and nectar. You faithful readers of the Nectar
News
are well aware of the different kinds of flowers that provide sweet nectar for the hummingbirds. But when the hummers return from their winter homes in April and May, there are no blooming flowers in Wisconsin that are attractive to hummingbirds. We may like to look at daffodils and crocus and tulips, but those are not hummingbird flowers. So, to maximize the number of hummingbirds in your yard throughout the season, one must have hummingbird feeders. Here is a quick primer on the
feeders that have worked well in our yard and the care of the feeders.

Feeder styles: There are two basic feeder styles: bottle feeders in which the nectar is above the feeder ports or saucer style feeders.

In the bottle feeder category: a workhouse feeder that has been in existence for many years is the Perky Pet Pinch Waste Feeder
(
http://www.birdfeeders.com/store/hummingbird-feeders/bhbpwf), also known as the Perky Pet 4 Fountains feeder. This feeder is widely available at retailers such as hardware stores, home improvement stores and birding stores. If you have this feeder in your yard, you are guaranteed to see hummingbirds use it. One drawback of this feeder isthat if it blows in the wind, the nectar will slosh out of the feeder
ports.

A feeder that we have used extensively with much success is the First Nature Hummingbird Feeder
(http://www.amazon.com/First-Nature-Hummingbird-Feeder-16Ounce/dp/B005XOZKC6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463470025&sr=8-1&keywords=first+nature+hummingbird+feeder). These feeders have 10 feeding ports with holes that are in a horizontal position, so when the wind blows, nectar does not slosh out of these
feeders. We have found that the hummingbirds use this feeder to a high degree. One disadvantage of this feeder is that the feeding port holes are large oval shapes..... large enough for yellow jackets to fly
into the nectar. First Nature has redesigned this feeder to have smallerround holes with yellow bee guards. You may see this licensed under thename Mainstays Hummingbird Feeder. It remains to be seen if this feeder is used as much as the original First Nature design. You can find this feeder at stores such as Walmart and Fleet Farm.

Another bottle style feeder is the Dr. JB's Clean Feeder (
http://www.drjbs.com/). This feeder is made of very durable plastic and a hardened glass bottle. The feeder ports on this feeder are oriented such
that the nectar does not slosh out in a strong wind. This feeder is widely available at retailers such as Wild Birds Unlimited and Mounds Pet Food Warehouse.

In the saucer style category, a company that makes many of these feeders is Aspects (
http://www.aspectsinc.com/2_HumFdrs.html). These feeders will not leak nectar in a strong wind. Although we have seen some use ofthese feeders in our yard, the saucer style feeders are not used as
much as the Perky Pet 4 Fountains or the First Nature Hummingbird Feeders. These feeders are available at hardware stores and Wild Birds Unlimited.

There are dozens of styles of hummingbird feeders. We only mention the feeders above as these have been used in our yard and we can attest that they are good feeders. You will likely have success with almost any kind of feeder. However, we do not have any experience with the fancy
glass blown feeders that have a single spigot feeding port. In our discussions with other hummingbird enthusiasts, we have heard that hummers do not use these feeders very much and that they can be very difficult to clean.  The best hummingbird feeder one that attracts hummingbirds AND is easy to clean.

Nectar
Now that you have your feeders, it is time to add nectar. Many of the pictures of feeders shown in the web sites listed above contain nectar with red dye. The dye is not necessary, as there is enough red on the feeder to attract the hummingbirds. So, you can either buy a commercial nectar mix, or make your own nectar. We do the latter by mixing a ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. The water can be boiled, or hot water out of the tap. (One could also use room temperature or cold water, but
the sugar will take longer to dissolve compared to hot water.) Stir in the sugar until it is totally dissolved, and then place in your feeder. We do not fill our feeders to the top because we do not have enough hummingbirdsto drain our feeders. We only place enough nectar in the feeders to
last until the next nectar change, as often as every 2-3 days during hot, humid weather or at least every 4-5 days.   Changing the nectar isnecessary, as otherwise, the nectar will become cloudy, sour, and moldy.

The feeders also need to be cleaned. One can purchase different mops and brushes to clean the feeders. Alternatively, a 10 to 1 mixture of waterand bleach can be used to soak the feeders for approximately 10
minutes. This is very effective at eliminating any mold.

Lastly, it is time to hang your feeders. We place our feeders at approximately eye level. Place the feeders where you can see them and enjoy watching nature's flying jewels in your yard. In our opinion, the
more feeders that you have, the more hummingbirds will be attracted to your yard. This may not be exceedingly important if one lives in the country near ideal nesting habitat. For those of us living in the city, we think that a large number of feeders helps us to see hummingbirds during most days of the late spring, summer and early fall (as late as November 17 in 2010---without feeders we would have not seen these late hummingbirds as all of our flowers had died or ceased blooming due to cold weather and frost). At the height of the fall migration, we maintain over 20 feeders in our yard.
 
HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN---HOW TO CREATE ONE
Gardening is a truly creative endeavor and obviously no two gardens will ever be the same.  While I think those pre-planned gardens could be helpful to beginners or very busy people, they really don’t challenge the gardener to think about his or her own individual space and needs.  The most important thing to consider is the space you have and are willing to devote to a garden and how much time you have to spend designing it, ordering/purchasing plants, weeding, planting, watering, deadheading, etc.---the tasks are endless (and don’t forget about routine tasks such as lawn and tree/shrub maintenance and spring and fall clean up!).  It is always best to start too small rather than too large, even if you are gardening to attract hummingbirds.  This is a never-ending journey you are on and to try and do more than you can effectively manage is almost always disastrous.  Sometimes we all have other priorities to consider such as family, work, travel, pets or you may have health or mobility issues that will limit the amount of time you can realistically spend and what you are able to do. 
The financial investment, especially in an area of the country like the Upper Midwest where a large number of annuals must be replaced each year, can be huge.  It is not always practical, but if budget is a concern, growing some annuals from seed, overwintering selected annuals inside your home or garage,  taking cuttings from favorite annuals in the fall for the next season, searching for the best deals online, or waiting until July 4th or later to purchase plants locally (or even online) when everything is 50% off mightcould be somea few strategies to deal with that issue.
In summary, it is always better to have something small and wonderful and thriving than something large, unfinished, overgrown with weeds, and dying plants.  The most important thing is to identify and create a garden that reflects your personal taste and meets your needs for time, budget, and personal gardening goals.
 
It is most important though that the best hummingbird flowers and hummingbird feeders are placed in an area that is easily seen from your home.
We like to recommend a cottage garden, or naturalistic, design for hummingbird gardening (and this fits in well with native plantings, which many people like to use)---the birds seem to prefer this “messier” style of gardening.  However, if it’s not your style, you might consider confining it to one small area of your yard.  More formal or themed gardens could work for hummingbirds if the right plant choices are made and feeders are included in your garden design.
A good way to start small might be to continue your garden as you always have with the standard Upper Midwestern perennials (or even just shrubs and trees) and a few additional perennials that hummingbirds like and then to have 2 to 4 pots of top tier annuals for hummingbirds such as Salvia guaranitica or Cuphea ‘David Verity’ or Salvia greggii.  This way, you can evaluate how important hummingbird gardening is to you and if you might wish to expand your offerings for next season.  Some people increase their number of hummingbird annuals by adding containers throughout the garden (container gardening increases the flexibility of your garden!).  This works especially well if you are interested in having a garden comprised of native plants.  Salvia coccinea is a very useful hummingbird annual in that it can be very easily grown from seed (or even purchased as a plant at local nurseries)---you can find seed for this plant at www.wildseedfarms.com in many different quantities to meet your needs.
 
A very short list of the best annuals (A) and perennials (P) for hummingbirds include:
-Lonicera sempervirens (Trumpet Honeysuckle) ‘Major Wheeler’  P
-Nepeta (Catmint)  ‘Six Hills Giant’ or ‘Souvenir de Andre Chaudron’  P
-Monarda (Bee Balm) ‘Jacob Kline’  P
-Buddleia davidii (Butterfly Bush)  choose tall varieties with red or purple flowers   P
-Salvia guaranitica (Anise Sage or Salvia ‘Black and Blue/Bloom’)   A
-Salvia coccinea (Texas Sage)   A
-Cuphea ‘David Verity’ or ‘Vermillionaire’ (Cigar Plant)   A
-Salvia ‘Amistad’ (Friendship Sage)   A
-Salvia greggii (Autumn Sage)   A
-Salvia microphylla (Little Leaf Sage)  ‘Hot Lips’ is one example of this huge genus   A
-Nicotiana mutabilis   Reseeding A
To receive a listing of local and mail order nurseries by e-mail, please contact me at kathijr@yahoo.com.
 
HUMMINGBIRD MIGRATION MAP, FRIEND OR FOE?Lanny Chambers, a master hummingbird bander in St. Louis does an amazing job of creating and maintaining a hummingbird migration map each spring.   You can find the 2016 map at:  http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html.   This incredible effort is a masterful blending of citizen observations and science and gives the northward migration of hummingbirds a lot of credibility.  However, many people who are passionate about attracting hummingbirds to their yard have many concerns about the dates on their map for their area.  Here is my response to a gentleman who wrote to me and asked about this map (this response was sent on April 26, 2016---we saw our first hummingbird on May 7):”

Our first hummingbird sighting here in Madison, Wisconsin never corresponds to anything that appears on The Hummingbird Migration Map at www.hummingbirds.net.  Our earliest sighting ever in our yard (a suburban/urban location in a small city with many mature trees, a large lake and golf course nearby and several parks and natural areas) has been April 30.  Last season, we had the unusually late first sighting of May 15---long after most members of The Hummingbird Forum.  It is obvious that dots on Lanny's Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Migration Map always occur much earlier than our dates by at least several weeks.  Since the information about the observers/reporters is kept strictly confidential and photos are never provided, while we trust Lanny's work (we have actually met him and he takes this project very seriously), we always wonder how these people (even in our city!) see these hummingbirds so much earlier than us, year after year (although we have a friend who lives nearby and she is a serious and knowledgeable birder who saw her first hummingbird on April 10 one year).

 
We've had feeders up for several weeks now and even with the early, warm spring, we still have not seen a first hummingbird and expect this year (which Lanny refers to as a very early migration year) to be the same for us, especially with the newly arrived cold front (temperatures during the day might get into the 50's, which is a bit chilly for hummingbirds and the insects they require for survival.)  I subscribe to The Wisconsin Birding List and Michael regularly checks E-Bird and there is no information within either of those resources about any 2016 hummingbird sightings in Wisconsin.  I did see some reports today on The Wisconsin Birding List about FOY Baltimore Oriole sightings and they often precede hummingbirds by a few days, so maybe we are getting closer.  No one we know personally in Wisconsin or even Illinois (or most other Upper Midwestern States) has seen a first hummingbird yet either for 2016.
 
Typically, we think that the spring Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration in the east occurs a bit earlier than we would see in the Upper Midwest and then they leave that area earlier in the fall (our fall sightings in Wisconsin can be extremely late---we even went into mid-November in 2010, but we typically have hummingbirds through mid-October!)
We tend to use the Migration Map at hummingbirds.net as a guide and it can be interesting to follow, especially before the hummingbirds reach Wisconsin, but we no longer view it as gospel or get too upset that once again the hummingbirds have passed us by.  I think the map and the accompanying website, www.hummingbirds.net, serve as a very useful public education tool for people who need basic information about hummingbirds, especially those individuals who are just learning and getting started.  If you look at the site in detail, the very basic and simple information about hummingbirds just cannot be beat in terms of being easy to read and very accessible (and people who are interested in hummingbirds are not usually traditional "birders" who would use other more traditional "birding" resources and sites for information about hummingbirds.)
 
We think it is most important to keep your own detailed records about hummingbird sightings on your own property and we have done that for almost 18 years now.  That is clearly the most useful information you will have to refer to from year to year.    There are a few other basics such as well maintained feeders throughout the entire season, having top-tier hummingbird plants in bloom at every point during the season, and offering a water feature which is appropriate for hummingbirds, and placing feeders and flowers in a place where you can easily see them, and most of all, consistently observing feeders and flowers every day during the season that you are in your home, especially at dusk when hummingbirds are most commonly seen.  It is easy to get discouraged, especially during late June and July, when sightings are extremely scarce (the birds are nesting), but last season we managed to document at least one hummingbird sighting on every day of the season and our fall migration numbers were really spectacular----for the first time we had four hummingbirds using one feeder for the first time in our history (we called dusk at our house, "the Hummingbird Happy Hour")!”
 
We hope that this information might be somewhat helpful and reassuring to our readers who have so many questions and concerns about when their hummingbirds should be arriving.
BIRDING TOUR TO COSTA RICA IN 2017
Our wonderful hummingbird bander, Mickey O’Connor is again leading a birding tour to Costa Rica during late January/Early February 2017 (what a wonderful time to get away from the Upper Midwest!)  She has had a few cancellations.  If you are interested in learning more or joining this fantastic tour (31 species of hummingbirds on the 2016 tour!), please contact Mickey at sharpbill@aol.com or at her workplace at the Milwaukee County Zoo:  414) 771-3040, X144, or (214) 980-3103.  I can also forward you some detailed information by e-mail as well (kathijr@yahoo.com.)
Hello Everyone,
Want to see our neotropical migrants in sunny Costa Rica this winter, as well as other amazing flora and fauna?  We still have a couple of openings for this wonderful trip.  Please contact me with any questions.

Cheers, Mickey O'Connor, Milwaukee County

*Wisconsin** Bird Conservation Initiative’s (WBCI)*

*Conservation Birding Trip*

*Southern Costa Rica and The Osa Peninsula*

January 24 – February 7, 2017


While this is a bird conservation trip, we will spend our time learning, exploring, and observing all we encounter while walking through the various habitats.  Nito (Dionisio Paniagua Castro) is our personal guide for this journey and his expertise as a naturalist always makes the trip superior.
 
“Neither the hummingbird or the flower wonders how beautiful it is.” 
 
Kathi and Michael Rock
Madison, Wisconsin
Zone 4/5
e-mail: kathijr@yahoo.com
website: www.hummingbirdgardening.net
telephone: (608) 233-7397

"Hummingbirds.....where is the person, I ask, who, on observing this glittering fragment of the rainbow, would not pause, admire, and turn his mind with reverence..."; (J. J. Audubon)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

“In all of nature there is something marvelous”  Aristotle
 
Hi Everyone,
As our coldest winter temperatures assault us, we wanted to remind you of a very nice upcoming “winter warm up”, The Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin, Friday, February 12-Sunday, February 14, 2016.  We are presenting our “Gardening for Hummingbirds” program this year after taking a hiatus in 2015.  We would love to have you come and join us and rev up your engines for gardening and hummingbirds in 2016.  Here is a link and the details about our program:
Michael and Kathi Rock:  “Gardening for Hummingbirds”
-Saturday, February 13, 2016, 12 noon-1 pm, Mendota 4
-Sunday, February 14, 2016, 11:45 am-12:45 pm, Mendota 3
There is something really magical about this event every year as we enter such an energy-filled space with green and flowering plants after a long winter inside!  We hope that you might consider joining us!!
 
Additionally, we will be speaking at the following events this spring and early summer:
 
-Chicago Flower & Garden Show, Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
Sunday, March 20, 2016, 3:30 p.m.
 
-Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, Wisconsin
Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (Advance Registration Required---Space is Limited)
 
-Wildbirds Unlimited, Madison, Wisconsin
Saturday, June 25, 2016, 10 am
 
Lastly, our 2016 Community Hummingbird Garden Tours at our home are scheduled for:
 
--Sunday, September 11, 2016, 1-5:30 p.m. (Short Program& Door Prize Drawing at 3 pm)
--Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 3-7 p.m. (Short Program& Door Prize Drawing at 5 pm)
 
We hope to see you at one or more of these events during 2016!
 
Preparing for Your 2016 Hummingbird Garden?
-Select Seeds & Antique Flowers Winter Special:  $10 off your order of $50 or more until February 29, 2016 (code is “SELECT10”).  Visit their website at www.selectseeds.com to order.  They offer many hummingbird attracting salvias and Cuphea ‘David Verity’.  They also carry many seeds.
-Flowers By The Sea:  Amazing array of hummingbird attracting salvias and other plants that attract hummingbirds.  Many varieties are rare and not offered anywhere else.  They have the best plants, shipping and customer service out there!!  We highly recommend.  Visit their website at:  www.fbts.com
-Klein’s Floral, Madison, Wisconsin
To see their listing of amazing annuals for 2016, visit the following link:
--The Bruce Company, Middleton, Wisconsin
-The Flower Factory, Stoughton, Wisconsin (opening April 16, 2016)
Their printed catalog is a wonderful resource and a horticulture lesson in itself!!
---Vincent Gardens:  Specialty online nursery offering flowering plants and shrubs for pollinators
Cost of plants and shipping is extremely reasonable and plants are huge!!
 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN TOUR UPDATE

Hi Everyone,

We hope to see many of you at our upcoming Hummingbird Garden Tours on Wednesday, September 9 from 3-7 p.m. (door prize drawing at 5 p.m.) and/or Sunday, September 13 from 1-5:30 p.m. (door prize drawing at 3 p.m.) at our home in Madison, WI, 5118 Buffalo Trail.

Just a few important updates:

-Hummingbird Banding will only occur at the Sunday, September 13 tour.  Because of circumstances beyond her control, Mickey O'Connor can only band for one of the tours.  Mickey and her crew will be here banding hummingbirds in the morning on Sunday (if you wish to come then, it's OK, but there is no official garden tour being offered until 1 p.m.) and afternoon during the tour.

-Please be aware and warned that our numbers of hummingbirds are way down this year despite our offering them all of the same food and habitat---we sadly cannot explain the reason for this unfortunate trend---we learned many years ago that humans cannot control nature or wildlife.  We cannot guarantee that the same numbers of hummingbirds will be in attendance at our tours. However, we can show you a beautiful, interesting and well-tended garden and the food, door prize drawings, and the camaraderie will all be here.  We will have a hummingbird DVD playing in our sun room and will offer printed information about attracting hummingbirds, etc.  We hope that you will still want to join us.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.

-The weather may be cool and perhaps even rainy for one or both of the tours.  This is typical for Wisconsin in September.  The tours will take place rain or shine.  Please dress for the weather and wear practical shoes, especially if it's raining.  If it is a cold day, we will offer hot cider, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate!!

Again, thank you for your wonderful support of us and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Best Wishes,

Kathi and Michael