There is a battle raging under our kitchen window. A small group of hummingbirds seem to be waging a war to have dibs on the feeder. I have read that hummingbirds are a bit territorial and can be aggressive with each other when it comes to sharing the feeder. For many years for that very reason we had multiple hummingbird feeders. This year we did not; therefore, each day we watch the world’s tiniest birds jockey to be first in line. The yard, of course, is full of other feeding stops for this marvelous little creature; porter weed, ginger lily, penta, and butterfly bush are some favorites. To encourage visits to the garden there are just a few things to remember. Hummingbirds are especially attracted to flowers with tubular blossoms. Although they may be partial to red or orange, they are not particular and will visit just about any flower. Be careful with chemicals in the garden and use them very sparingly if at all. Place a hummingbird feeder in your yard. Keep it filled with a solution of four parts water to one part sugar. Simply mix white sugar (not honey or brown sugar) and water; bring the mixture to a boil (but don’t boil it until it becomes a syrup)and store in the refrigerator. Keep the feeder clean and change it every couple of days in summer’s heat. My husband washes ours each time we change the liquid, every couple of days. Our feeder is outside the front kitchen window so we can watch the birds closely–what a treat while you are washing the dishes. I don’t use any red food dye to color the water, although I see products sold in the stores that turn red when you mix the syrup. A red mixture does not necessarily attract the hummingbird. I have actually read that red food dye is not good for the hummingbirds. If ants invade the feeder try coating the stake which holds the feeder with Vaseline. A feeder with a small moat filled with water (to keep the ants from climbing into the holes where the hummingbirds drink the sugar/water mixture) can be helpful in the efforts to keep the ants out. We put our feeder out around the end of April and leave it out until almost Thanksgiving so that hummingbirds making the trip South can stop for a little nourishment.
Our hummingbirds have become so used to me in the garden that they come right past me to eat. Attracting hummingbirds to your garden is very simple; the rewards are great.
“Getting to Know the Talladega National Forest”
Karen McKenzie, District Ranger
Sept 26th –
Hayes Jackson, ACES
Dates/speakers subject to change. Calhoun Co. Extension
Asclepsis tuberosa or butterfly weed is a wonderful addition to the summer garden. Its bright orange flowers are irresistible to butterflies, especially the monarch. Although the flowers lure the monarch butterfly, the monarch caterpillar eats nothing but the foliage of this particular plant. One morning I discovered that the caterpillar had eaten every single leaf. Normally I would be heart sick to see a plant damaged but the presence of a monarch in the garden is a gift.
Despite being called a weed (milkweed more specifically), I do not consider it a weed. As a matter of fact, it is a well-behaved, easy - to - grow, beautiful perennial in the garden. After the blooms fade, green seedpods take their place. The seeds do eventually migrate through the air; this plant, however, seems only to have spread in my garden by forming larger clumps. Butterfly weed prefers full sun, although mine is doing very well in part sun. It is not a drought tolerant plant, but enjoys water during dry times.
Ascelpsis tuberosa provides a double gift for the gardener. It not only attracts flights of butterflies to the garden, but it also brightens any flower bed.
Although the name ‘Endless Summer’ (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’) could suggest the title of a cable tv show or a soap opera, it is actually the name of a wonderful mophead hydrangea. What makes this hydrangea with its brilliant blue flowers so special is that it reblooms. It blooms on old and new wood in the same season, often blooming in early summer and then in fall. Another positive about ‘Endless Summer’ is that if a late frost kills the early blooms there will be more to follow. This easy- to-grow hydrangea likes the same things that other mopheads do: ample water (at least an inch per week), morning sun, and afternoon shade. Give it a good home in rich organic soil. If your soil is heavy, consider making a planting bed instead of just a single hole. Planting a hydrangea high as you would an azalea also will improve drainage. Just because a plant likes shade, planting it right next to a large tree is not often a good idea as the plant has to compete with the trees roots for nutrition and moisture. High shade in a yard is a blessing. A nice layer of mulch is always a good idea as it will help to conserve moisture and keep the soil cooler in the summer.
Pruning techniques for ‘Endless Summer’ are not difficult. Prune mopheads immediately after flowering. Because ‘Endless Summer’ reblooms, pruning it should occur in late summer to early fall. However, flower buds for the next season may begin to form from August to October so if yours needs pruning, you may have to sacrifice a few late flowers to get this garden task accomplished at the right time. It is a good idea to prune out all the dead canes and even to cut about one third of the older stems to the ground every year. This will encourage your hydrangeas to grow stronger, have a nicer shape, and have more flowers.
My mature ‘Endless Summer’ is about 5 feet high and almost that wide. It is a joy in the garden as the flowers look like jewels. With so many gorgeous hydrangeas on the market it is often difficult to choose a new one, but those that rebloom are a necessity for the summer garden, guaranteeing you a summer full of endless flowers.