Hummers: Yes, they do come in winter! • Stephanie Hudak, gardening columnist
As a dedicated bird watcher it was with incredible delight that I accepted the invitation of Rena Holt (of the Sunflower Farm) to come to her home to see a Rufous Hummingbird that was visiting her feeders and watch it being banded. For those of us who do feed our regular visitors, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird, we send them off in September, take down our feeders, and wait for their return in early summer. I’ve been advised to keep up the feeders for those stragglers that might come by, but it seemed like too much trouble. Well, Rena proved me wrong. What a beautiful sight to see this 2-year-old male (the bander told me this) flashing his bright, copper-colored feathers in the sunlight. And then to have an up close and touchable moment with this little beauty was a birder’s dream. To impress you a bit more, note that the Rufous Hummingbird’s migration and breeding grounds are on the west coast – to have him visit us here is a rare treat.
So why am I writing about a bird in a gardening column? To tell you all that just a little bit of effort on your part might bring you incredible joy one day. Yes, the Rufous Hummingbird is the exception and in the cold months of winter; a sugar feeder is his/her only source of food. But there are so many plants that you can add to your yard that will invite regular hummers and other birds to your yard… and let me tell you about them. First of all, any plant with a deep throat will make a hummer happy. Some of their favorites are Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans), the Redbud Tree (Cercis Canadensis), Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), and Fire Pink (Silene virginica). They love bright-colored, vining plants. And if you are looking for a place to find unusual ones, I’ve got the place for you. Check out Brushwood Gardens (www.gardenvines.com). Dan Long has a wonderful selection of vines that would delight any hummer that passed by. I personally bought Campsis ‘Morning Calm’ (is that not a beautiful name for a plant?) at a garden conference I just attended – giant orange blooms that scream out to passing hummers to stop and take a drink. And while I wait for the hummers to get there, I have the pleasure of the plant’s graceful beauty draping over my fence.
As many of you may know, it is with great sadness that I tell you that my husband of 46 years passed away this past week. So I ask all of you to take every moment to enjoy life’s pleasures. Get up early and watch the sun come up, listen to the birds singing in the trees, plant something and watch it grow. We are not promised tomorrow, but we do have today. Make sure you tell people that you love them every day, give them a hug… it matters. Then go outside and plant something!
Printed in the February 14, 2013 edition