Friday, July 31, 2015

Create a Mini-Hummingbird Garden in a Container

Do you love hummingbirds?  

Maybe a better question would be, who doesn't?


Hummingbird feeding from an ocotillo flower.

Attracting hummingbirds to your garden isn't hard to do by simply adding flowering plants, rich in nectar, that they are attracted to.

Female Anna's hummingbird at my feeder.

But, what if your garden space is small or non-existent?  Is a hanging a hummingbird feeder your only option?


Well, I'm here to tell you that space needn't keep you from having your own hummingbird garden - all you have to do is to downsize it into a container.

If you have a small patio, stoop or even a balcony, you can create your own mini-hummingbird garden in a container.


For those of you who have think you have no space at all, look up!  


Hanging containers or window boxes are a great option for those short on garden space.

Whether you have small garden space or simply want to increase the amount of hummingbirds visiting your existing garden - creating a mini-hummingbird garden in a container is a great way to do it.

Let's get started.

Here are the elements of a hummingbird container garden:



LOCATION:


- Select a location that receives at least 6 hours of sun a day.  

- Group containers together for greater color impact, which increases the chances of hummingbird visits.

- Place containers in areas where you can view the visiting hummingbirds such as an entry, near a window or a back patio.

- Make sure that the containers are fairly visible and allow easy access for hummingbirds to fly in and out.

CONTAINERS:


- The type of container isn't important - but drainage is.  Make sure pots have holes for drainage.

- Select colorful pots for a welcome splash of color (optional).

- Larger pots will stay moister longer, therefore needing to be water less frequently.

SOIL:


- Use a planting mix (not potting soil), which is specially formulated for container plants since it holds onto just the right amount of moisture without becoming soggy like potting soil can.


- For large containers, save money on expensive planting mix (soil) by filling the bottom third of the container with recycled plastic water bottles and/or milk jugs.

WHAT PLANT WHERE?


While hummingbirds don't care how you arrange plants in your mini-hummingbird garden - you can certainly arrange plants.

- Place the tallest plant in the center, surrounded with medium-sized filler plants interspersed with trailing ground covers. 


This planter has the tallest plant (a Salvia) located in the center with medium-sized purple coneflower  next to it with 'Wave' petunias spilling over the outside.

COLOR:

Hummingbird's favorite color is red, although they will visit flowers of all colors as long as they are rich in nectar.

However, let's explore color in regards to creating a beautiful container and figuring out what color combos look best.



To this, we will need to visit our friend, the color wheel.



- To achieve a soft blending of colors, select plants with flower colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.



- For a striking contrast, pair flowers with colors that occur on opposite ends of the color wheel.

HUMMINGBIRD ATTRACTING PLANTS:


Salvia coccinea

- Hummingbirds are drawn to flowers that have a tubular shape.


Hummingbird feeding from the yellow flower of aloe vera.

- The color red is their favorite, but as stated earlier, they will visit flowers of all colors.


Young hummingbird feeding from a lantana flower.

- They tend to prefer flowers with little to no fragrance since their sense of smell is poor.




- Plants belonging to the Salvia genus are all very popular with hummingbirds and are a safe choice when creating a hummingbird container garden. 


Soap aloe flowers.

- Flowering succulents are also often visited by hummingbirds as well.


Rufous hummingbird feeding from the flower of a red hot poker plant.

- There are helpful online resources with lists of plants that attract hummingbirds.  Here are two helpful ones:

The Hummingbird Society's Favorite Hummingbird Flowers


Top 10 Hummingbird Flowers and Plants from Birds & Blooms Magazine


- Other helpful resources are your local botanical garden, master gardener or nursery professional.



Another bonus to planting hummingbird attracting plants is that many of the same flowers attract butterflies too.

CARE:



The key to maintaining healthy container plants lies in proper watering and fertilizing.

Let's look at watering first:

- Water containers when the top 2 inches of soil are barely moist.  You can stick your finger into the soil to determine how dry the soil is.  

- Water until the water flows out the bottom of the container.

- The frequency of watering will vary seasonally.

Fertilizing is important for container plants - even plants that don't normally require fertilizer when planted in the ground will need it if in a container.

- Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer, which lasts 3 months.

- Supplement, if desired, with a liquid fertilizer monthly.

- For succulents, use a liquid fertilizer at 1/2 strength every other month spring through early fall.

UNIQUE TWISTS FOR CREATING HUMMINGBIRD CONTAINERS:




Don't be afraid to look outside the box when it comes to what can be used as a container.



An old wheelbarrow makes a great container after a making a few holes in the bottom for drainage. *While marigolds don't attract hummingbirds, there are a few dianthus in this planter that do.



Hummingbirds love water!



Add a water feature in a container that will surely attract nearby hummingbirds.



Add places for hummingbirds to perch nearby or within the container itself.  

This little black-chinned hummingbird was perfectly at home perching on a lady's slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) stem that was growing in a container.

You can always add a small, dead tree branch within the container itself for a convenient perching spot.


As you can see, the amount (or lack of) garden space doesn't need to limit your ability to attract hummingbirds using beautiful, flowering plants.

****************************

I am up in Sedona, Arizona this weekend speaking on this very subject for the annual Hummingbird Festival.  

I hope that you are inspired to create your own mini-hummingbird habitat in a container.

**Do you have a favorite plant that attracts lots of hummingbirds?  Please share them in the comments section.

Creating a Butterfly & Hummingbird Wildlife Habitat in a Container

Do you enjoy visits from butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden?

How about creating their own mini-wildlife habitat in a container where you can view them close up without using a lot of garden space?

It's not hard to do and the rewards are seeing your favorite flying visitors coming to visit your garden.

Learn how to create your own butterfly and/or hummingbird wildlife habitat in a container in my latest article for Houzz.


What plant in your garden is most visited by butterflies and hummingbirds?

*For an in depth tutorial on creating a mini-hummingbird garden in a container that I presented at the 2015 Hummingbird Festival, click here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Garden House Call: Sunburned Citrus

Have you ever gotten a sunburn?  Maybe a better question is, "Who hasn't?"

Well, did you know that many plants can get sunburned too?

I recently made a house call for a client who was worried about her newly planted citrus trees.


This particular client had a large courtyard where she had several new citrus trees planted in pots.

The citrus had been planted that spring and she began to notice the leaves on her orange tree turning yellow as the summer progressed.


Now yellowing leaves can indicated a number of different problems.  But in this case, the diagnosis was rather simple - this citrus tree was suffering from sunburn.

Here are some common signs of sunburned plants:

- The areas of the leaf that are yellow are in the center and NOT along the tips or edges.

- Often, the yellow areas begin to turn brown.

- Signs normally occur in the summer months.

- The sunburned leaves are generally located on the south and west-facing parts of the plant.

- This particular citrus tree was located in an area that received full, reflected, afternoon sun. 

So, what can you do to prevent sunburned citrus?

In this case, the solution was simple - moving the citrus tree to another part of the courtyard that received afternoon shade was all that was needed to prevent further sunburn damage.

Citrus do best when planted at least 10 - 15 ft. away from walls, which absorb the heat of the day and re-radiate it out toward your citrus.  

Avoid planting where they get the full force of afternoon sun.


If your citrus trees suffer sunburn every summer, you can provide temporary shade using shade cloth. 

Have you ever had sunburned plants?  What did you do to prevent furture sunburn?

This is the first of a new series called "Garden House Calls" where I share the answers to questions that I am often asked in my work as a horticulturist and landscape consultant.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Summer Vegetable Garden: Pumpkins!

Have you ever grown pumpkins?

The first pumpkin I ever grew.

Right now, pumpkins are of three things growing in my summer vegetable garden alongside peppers and basil.

In June, I planted 4 different types of pumpkins - Cinderella (an old fashioned looking pumpkin), Lumina (a white pumpkin), Rouge Vif d'Etampes (a French heirloom pumpkin) and some seeds from an unknown heirloom pumpkin I bought at the store last year.

Male pumpkin flower

The pumpkin vines are growing nicely and the male flowers have begun to appear.
Pumpkins have both male and female flowers - the male flowers appear about 2 weeks ahead of the female flowers.

Lumina pumpkin

I've had both successes and some failures growing pumpkins.  Last year, I planted a Lumina pumpkin, which was so beautiful.

This summer, I decided to dedicate my entire potager vegetable garden to growing pumpkins.

Why an entire vegetable garden you may ask?


My first attempt at growing pumpkins began in my smaller vegetable garden, located just off of my back patio.  

I remember being so excited when my pumpkin seedling grew its first pair of 'true' leaves.


But, what I had not prepared for was how wide it would grow - a lesson on why reading the label on the seed packet is important.

My young pumpkin seedling soon outgrew my little vegetable garden and in fact, most of its growth extended outside of the garden.  

I patiently (not)! waited for signs of a young pumpkin to form.


You can imagine how thrilled I was at finding this young pumpkin growing a couple of weeks later.


The only issue was that it was growing outside of my vegetable garden.


To be honest, I didn't really care - there was plenty of room for it and it seemed happy perched on top of my garden hose.


It grew fairly rapidly and soon its green color lightened to a beautiful orange.


As you can see, it wasn't a large pumpkin - smaller varieties are easier to grow in the home garden.

White 'Lumina' pumpkin hidden underneath the leafy vines.

My hope for this year's crop is that I will soon find young pumpkins growing underneath the huge leaves of my pumpkin vines.

How about you?  
Have you ever grown pumpkins?  
What types?  
Any helpful tips you'd like to share?

********************************

On a personal note, I've been knocked flat by a virus - neverending cough, sore throat, headache, aches, fever, etc.

I've always found it surprising to get a flu-like illness in the middle of summer and not during the cold winter months, which actually works better for me since I my work tends to slow down in summer.

After 7 days, I am slowly getting better and am  thankful for the timing of my illness.  Next week - July 31st - August 2nd, I'll be a presenter at the annual Hummingbird Festival and it would be almost impossible to give two separate 1-hour presentations with the current condition of my throat right now.

Sorry for complaining, I have a bad case of cabin fever, but my body isn't up for doing much of anything except for a 10 minute walk this morning through my gardens to see how they are doing - but that felt wonderful!

I hope you are staying healthy this summer!

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