Archive for May, 2010

One trip to the Sicily Island Hills and the visitor will notice a dense, closed canopy forest. Hummingbirds prefer open woodlands, and grassy areas. The natural environments for this within the Sicily Island Hills would be along the roads and streams of the area.

If you are a property owner here, you have the opportunity to arrange your landscape to suit your needs. Several of the properties for sale here have had some timber cut in past years thus opening up the forest. Imagine the possibilities.

Cigar Flower

The keys to a successful hummingbird garden in these hills or elsewhere are planning, planting and happenstance. Planning provides the framework for not only plants that attract hummingbirds, but also for visual appeal. Planting sets the table. Happenstance is having the correct plants in the right place at the perfect time.

In the South, there are many plants that occur naturally to provide food for the migration and breeding of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, the only breeding species in this vast area. Your hummingbird garden competes with the general habitat and nectar plants of your area.

As with our species, some of us prefer some scenery over others. This is the happenstance portion of the equation. Plan and plant well and if there are hummingbirds in the area you will probably have hummers. Hummingbirds fortunately will visit the same kind of places humans occupy such as housing developments with scattered trees, grassy spaces and flowers. Hummingbirds also need places to perch and places to nest such as in majestic oaks. The need to seek out water is innate and lawn sprinklers are a wonderful way to satisfy this craving.

Much has been written about hummingbirds and the red flowers that will attract them. From my own gardening efforts and personal observations I can tell you many color flowers will gain the attention of hummingbirds. A garden of multiple colors is also more visually appealing in my humble opinion. Also live a little and plant annuals and perennials in this garden. Perennials are popular because they provide flowers year after year. But annuals, even though they are a yearly expense, will reward you with more flowers over a longer period of time.

Lantana

In late March and early April the nearly white blossoms of Swedish Ivy hanging baskets drew into our greenhouse many hummingbirds. As a child a solid white form of Rose of Sharon outside my bedroom window provided me with a frequent view of hummingbirds feeding on the plentiful flowers of this beautiful tree. The Mimosa tree with its silky pink and white flowers is a great attractant for hummingbirds both for its nectar and as a great place to perch.

Hummingbird Plants I Have Grown and Loved

  • Bee Balm (Monarda)
  • Begonia many hybrids
  • Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus)
  • Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
  • Cigar Flower (Cuphea ignea)
  • Coral Honeysuckle ( Lonicera sempervirens)
  • Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata)
  • Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit)
  • Firebush (Hamelia patens)
  • Flowering Maple (Abutilon spp.)
  • Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana)
  • Hibiscus coccineus
  • Impatiens many hybrids
  • Jacobina carnea
  • Lantana camara (many varieties and colors)
  • Lions Ear (Leonotus leonurus)
  • Mimosa (Albizia julibrizzin)
  • Penstemon of many types including
    P.murrayanus (Scarlet Penstemon);
    P. barbatus Rondo; P. Elfin series
  • Pentas (Pentas lanceolata)
  • Petunia many hybrids
  • Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
  • Russelia equisetiformis
  • Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana)
  • Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus australis)
  • Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)
  • Turks Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus drummondii)

If you live in an apartment or area where container gardening is necessary, several plants lend themselves to attracting hummingbirds.  Begonias, Bottlebrush, Firebush, Flowering Maple, Flowering Tobacco, Hibiscus, Impatiens, Jacobina, Lantana, Pentas, shorter types of Penstemon, and Shrimp Plant are all great container plants. For hanging baskets, Lantana, Petunias,  Russelia equisetiformis and Swedish Ivy are ideal. For shady areas of your home Begonia and Impatiens work well.

Vines such as Coral Honeysuckle, Cross Vine, Cypress Vine, and Trumpet Vine will need support. Trellises, wire fences, and wooden posts work well in displaying these vines. Another possibility is to make a tee pee out of bamboo. This works best with annual vines such as Cypress Vine. Insert the bamboo stems into the ground forming a circle and tie them together at the top with vine ties. Experiment with different length canes as this will dictate the width and height of the tee pee. An 8 foot tee pee would be ideal. Cypress Vine is easy to grow from seed. Plant the vines at the base of the bamboo and you will be amazed at the hummingbirds that will congregate at your living feeder.

An outstanding and most unusual hummingbird flower is Lion’s Ear. A very tall (6ft.) re-seeding annual, Lion’s Ear is best grown supported by tall tomato cages. If the sight of tomato cages bothers you, spray paint the cages light green so they are not as noticeable. The orange tubular flowers are born from spiky structures reminiscent of the seed pods of a sweet gum tree.

Depending on the existing layout of your landscape you can create a raised flower bed to indulge hummingbird nectar safaris. Orient your plants in such a way that the shorter ones like Flowering Tobacco and Pentas are in the front, while taller plants such as the taller forms of Hibiscus and Penstemons are in the back of the bed.

Not sure how to place each plant? First decide the dimensions and shape of your flower bed. Draw this on a piece of paper or in word processing software. Make a list of all the plants you want to use studying the growth characteristics of each plant so you will know how wide they spread and how tall they grow. Please do not worry if you place them incorrectly. If you put a Dinner Plate Hibiscus too near or in front of a spreading Lantana and you made good notes you will know better next time. Your inexperience is an opportunity for personal growth.

Another way to visualize your hummingbird garden is to lay a water hose down in the shape and size of your design. Place objects such as used plastic shrub containers down in the spots where you would put each plant. Use larger pots for the larger plants and smaller pots for the smaller plants etc. It is possible in your enthusiasm that you may place too many plants in your hummingbird garden. If you do replant them elsewhere. Make a photograph of your garden after you plant it and another photograph later in the season after the plants reach maturity. Save your notes and the sheet with your design. Purchase a ring binder for your work. You will notice when you put a white flower such as a petunia next to a red flower such as flowering tobacco that the red color seems even more vivid.  If your colors clash or your plants fought for the same space you will have the information you need to make changes the following year.   Have fun and enjoy your hummingbird garden because that’s what it is all about.

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For painters, photographers, and poets the Sicily Island Hills of Catahoula Parish offer many opportunities for expression. The sights and sounds of running water, varied wildlife, and the wind coursing through the forest provide an irresistable emotional palette. The iconic images of slow-moving bayous and marshes are replaced in these hills with new awareness and broader perceptions. The beautiful orange-red loess soil is atypical and more reminiscent of the wide open spaces of a landscape out West. Add a forested ravine or rolling valley full of wildflowers and the allure is heightened.

The beauty and power of our desire and imagination burst forth as we venture into new territory.