Little Birds with Big-Time Bling

A splash of color and a dose of nature

by Charlie Thigpen Photography by Chuck St. John

pretty for us and yummy for the birdies

A few summers ago, I would walk through our kitchen garden almost every morning.  Like clockwork, a tiny winged friend that would nervously dance above a planting of dew-covered red salvia would join me. I had planted the salvia to attract the bees, which would help pollinate my veggies, but the little hummingbird ruled the airway in early morning. After tending the flowers for several minutes at a time, the feisty bird would perch and momentarily relax on top of a tomato cage and clean its long, sword-like beak on the metal wire.

To this day I can see the little bird’s jewel-like ruby throat and glistening green feathers shimmer in the morning sun. I saw it happen several times a week throughout the summer but never took it for granted. These hummers are amazing creatures that can become as prominent in the garden as the flowers they hover over.

Make Your Own Memory

Attract these tiny, acrobatic birds to your landscape using feeding stations, colorful flowers or both. They’re so fun to watch, and you’ll be surprised how vocal the bitsy birds can be.  Place the feeders or nectar-producing plants where you can easily view them. In our busy, hectic world, we can be mesmerized and briefly forget about everything by watching one of God’s most amazing creations.

Fill-Up Feeders

Hummingbirds are attracted to color, so choose a colorful feeder or two to place around your garden. Make sure they’re positioned where they can be reached easily for filling and cleaning. Try to position them several feet from windows so the birds won’t fly into the glass.

You can buy solutions to mix and fill the feeders or make your own. To make sugar water, mix one cup of sugar with four cups of water. Then boil the solution for 30 seconds to reduce fermentation and mold. After filling the feeders, store the sugar water in the refrigerator for no longer than two weeks. Clean the feeders periodically to keep your feathered friends happy and healthy.

Plants for the Birds

Hummingbirds prefer tubular flowers. They seem to be drawn to most salvias. “Black and Blue” salvia is an easy-to-grow perennial that really attracts hummingbirds. It will produce beautiful blue blooms in sun or part shade.  “Lady in Red” salvia is a sun-loving annual that blooms summer through fall and will usually reseed in the garden. For shady areas, plant impatiens, hostas or cardinal flower. Red honeysuckle is a wonderful climbing vine that draws the birds in like a magnet.

Put up feeders and plant colorful flowers and watch your garden come to life. The little birds will dive, dart and maneuver around your yard at high speed. They’ll make you happy, capture your imagination and add interest to your landscape. These humming beauties have an excellent memory, and once they find a food source, they’ll return to your garden throughout the summer. •

Charlie Thigpen is a horticulturalist and the owner of Garden Gallery in Pepper Place.

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