Did you know that a Hummingbird has to visit one- to two thousand flowers per day to get the nectar it needs for survival? Some sources put the number even higher at up to four thousand flowers. Now you see why there should be flowers everywhere.
Hummingbirds use their specialized beak and tongue to get to the nectar and they visit many different colored flowers but it is well known that Hummingbirds are especially attracted to a range of red, orange and pink, often tubular flowers. These flowers produce nectar in larger quantities. It has also been suggested that the reason for the focus on flowers in this narrow color spectrum could be that these Hummingbird-pollinated flowers are less attractive to most insects, the nectar is relatively weak and contains smaller amounts of glucose and fructose and higher proportions of sucrose.
Insects pollinated flowers produce a more concentrated nectar that is dominated by fructose and glucose so this renders these flowers also less susceptible to damage from insects (or birds, or mammals). Sometimes critters that do not possess the specialized adaptations needed for the tubular shaped flowers then ‘steal’ the nectar by biting or piercing a hole in the corolla, pollination is omitted in this process and is thus called ‘nectar robbing’.
If you want to attract Hummingbirds to your garden you have a choice of many different flower varieties to attract them. Myself being a cut flower grower I gravitate to these type of flower and there is no shortage of cut flower varieties that attract Hummingbirds as well. The pink Weigelia in my backyard has been the main attraction for the little birds these last few weeks but now that the Columbine is starting to bloom they are the favorite now.Soon Foxgloves and Lupines will play center stage for the Hummingbirds in the garden as well as in the bouquets created at Petal Passion. Later in the summer I look for Hummingbirds around the Penstemon, Kniphofia, Salvia’s, Crocosmia and Beebalm.
During an economic downturn such as we recently experienced, many more people are motivated to start a garden to provide for- or compliment the family meal. Much information and resources are readily available at garden stores, and community centers to help the home gardener grow fruits and vegetables to eat. Raised beds are build, laws are dug up and most people really get into it, growing bigger and better gardens each year. Others start of enthusiastically but eventually gravitate to keeping a bed of weeds after it becomes clear that just because you build a raised bed does not mean the weeds won’t find it. Flowering weeds can be appreciated though, however there is that nagging thought of how to not leet it take over so for that look that fills your senses pull out those commoners and plant yourself a Fairy Wand instead.
Flower gardening on the other hand seem to have taken a backseat for many, if not most gardeners these days. Sure we’ll see beds of Salvias or Candytuft and other landscaped flower beds. Big box stores and nurseries supply a steady stream of Pansies, Petunias and other perky looking, dwarf varieties of already blooming flower starts but compared to the popularities of vegetable gardening, flower gardening has taken an hiatus of late.
When we forget to leave some space for the flowers one thing we are neglecting to do is to grow the foods for our souls, which is blazingly apparent when we look at the amount of uppers and downers it takes to keep this nation happy but that is a blog all on it’s own for another time. This blog laments the missing flowers that are needed to keep our pollinators alive and thriving. The plight of the Bees has been the topic of many articles and programs whose knowledge far surpasses mine, but the message is clear; we have to safe the Bees! The occurrence of colony collapse disorder has increased manyfold since 2006, the reason most likely is a combination of issues facing the Bees. One of these issues however is the disappearance of of the multi-culture habitats that include patches of nectar producing flowers on which the Bees depend. So get a cracking and plant legion, hordes, myriads of flowers, there can never be enough.
But back to the hummingbirds; If one Hummingbird needs to visit two-thousand flowers and day, her life literally depending on a cluster of fresh flower every ten minutes or so, we can not keep those flowers gardeners sitting on the back burner waiting for the Master Gardeners to come up with a course on flower growing. They do not seem to be too interested in setting a trend but rather cater to demand. So let’s start planting those flowers now, next to the beans or next to the bushes, dig up some lawn or leave out that zucchini (your friends will give you some anyways) and head out to that flower-seed stand today. Or let Petal Passion send you some seeds! Nothing will fill your senses as a stand of bright blooming flowers can.
Waiting any longer to indulge our senses and Hummingbird’s bellies will just burn our gardening buts.