Urban Hummingbird Gardens

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.

20130718-113031.jpg 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.

20130718-113602.jpg Hummingbirds love the nectar of Asclepias incarnata, which is also a larval host plant for the Monarch butterfly, so this lovely pink flower wears a lot of ecological hats.

20130718-114538.jpg 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.

20130718-120352.jpg I’m not convinced any wildlife garden design anywhere is complete unless there is some Eupatorium maculata (Spotted Joe Pye Weed) somewhere on the property.

20130718-120549.jpg This urban hummingbird garden is built around the entire backyard perimeter with fenced in lawn for the dog.

20130718-120858.jpg 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.

© 2013, Jesse Elwert. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    I find it interesting that your hummingbirds will go to mexico in the winter, like the monarchs do. Whereas, out in So Cal, they enjoy good temps right here & don’t have to leave.

    That said, I’ll repeat a comment I made previously: If you build it, they will come.. certainly fits the urban wildlife. Nowhere are native plants more needed than in the cities! It is painful to think how far birds & pollinators have to travel to find food & nesting. You look & look to find even a tiny haven for wildlife sometimes in the big City. So if you live in an urban environment, don’t think your efforts at native gardening are wasted. They are more important than ever!
    Kathy Vilim recently posted..Return of the Hummingbirds

  2. kelvin boyle says

    Enjoyed your comments. We’re in Northern Illinois and the Hummingbirds use the feeder in Spring. But when they have little ones, they certainly ignore the feeder and search for the protein. Now, as the fledgings are leaving the nests, we are seeing more Hummers at the feeders.

  3. says

    Jesse, What a beautiful garden, for those lucky homeowners and for the hummingbirds! I love the image of the hummingbird disco. I didn’t realize Asclepias was so attractive to hummingbirds, I’m going to have to watch mine more closely from now on.
    Debbie recently posted..Wordless Wednesday ~ Prehistoric

  4. says

    I always prefer to watch the hummingbirds at the patches of bee balm, jewelweed, and joe pye in my garden over the feeders – the trumpet vine is blooming now, too – the image of the disco is fun! There is just something more magical in witnessing a hummingbird in its natural element. The same applies to all birds in my garden – finches and chickadees on the seed heads of flowers, catbirds and robins plucking dogwood berries. I love that you stress the importance of urban garden sanctuaries, too. This is certainly a beautiful garden sanctuary.

  5. says

    Jesse you included all my favs and the hummers favs here…I plant these plants close to the house so they just hang out with us….they do not come to the feeder but I am placing it in a different spot right now.
    Donna Donabella recently posted..Backyard Foraging

  6. says

    Beautiful garden and I love to see how people incorporate areas for their pets and still maintaining a wildlife garden. That garden certainly is top notch for hummingbirds and every other pollinator in the area. I have been sharing with my sisters, although we all know how beautiful Glens Falls is, you certainly highlight the extra special places there.
    Loret recently posted..Cotton Stainer (Dysdercus suturellus)

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