Recently I wrote about an urban wildlife garden design I constructed; today I revisited an urban hummingbird garden sanctuary designed in the summer of 2012 in downtown Glens Falls, NY. The concept of giving city dwelling wildlife a safe space to feed, drink, hide and reproduce in wildlife gardens is an exceptional one. Utilizing different design elements and specific plant choices we can easily taylor the space to create hummingbird gardening conditions. The hummingbird feeder in the photo has been in place for a couple years and one individual hummingbird had visited intermittenly. The Beebalm (Monarda sp.) shown was part of the new design and this summer multiple hummingbirds routinely visit the flowers, largely ignoring the feeder.
We included Echinacea tennesseensis (Tennessee Coneflower) in the gardens, along with Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower). The former is technically native to the state of Tennessee exclusively, where it is an endangered plant.
Planting the native species Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower) is another easy way to trick hummingbirds into being your friends. They love the plant’s nectar and easy to access tube shaped flowers. Cardinal Lobelia can tolerate a shady location and moist soil.
Hummingbirds have a voracious appetite for insects and often eat an equivalent volume of half their body weight in insect bulk per day. Therefore another savvy strategy for hummingbird gardens is to include lots of pollen rich native plants like this sunny Ox-Eye Heliopsis so the pollinators feel welcome.
Sometime next month this Trumpet Vine (Campsis sp.) will bloom and the urban hummingbird garden will be transformed into more of a hummingbird discoteque, a sunshine filled nightclub style hangout where hummingbirds can come and feel relaxed and meet new friends. When visitation patterns are established, it becomes possible to put a hose on the mister setting facing out in the yard where the regulars will zoom right through the water. Where these birds overwinter in Mexico there are copious waterfalls, so they are familiar with and love the sensation of the running water. For more information on this topic, Ellen Sousa’s book The Green Garden has a chapter loaded with wonderful hummingbird gardening information.
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