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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 creating one in 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 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 (Salvia) located in the center with mid-sized purple coneflower  next to it with ‘Wave’ petunias spilling over the outside.
 

COLOR:

A 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.

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I spoke about small space gardening at the Hummingbird Festival 2015, and it was an unforgettable experience, filled with educational talks, beautiful gardens and observing hummingbirds up close – I even got to hold one!  To read more about my adventures with hummingbirds, click here.

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.

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As summer begins to wane, my thoughts start to turn toward fall planting and upcoming holidays.


But, before I put summer “to bed”, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of our summer adventures.



The highlight of our summer was spending a week in Williams, AZ.

Every year we head up to this small Route 66 town, which is the known as “The Gateway to the Grand Canyon”.

We travel up to this special place along with my mother, siblings and their families.  A collection of small, rustic cabins house us for the week.

This small mound of dirt is called “Danny’s Mountain” by the boys (Danny is my little 4-year old nephew to the right).

It’s a place where smartphones and video games give way to playing outdoors with cousins finding new places to explore.




My niece Sofie and my daughter, Ruthie.



Teenage girls discover the delights of pushing each other on a tree swing.

Little army men toys replace video games as battle strategies are discussed and put in play.
5-month old Eric having fun with his grandpa.
As a grandparent, it is also a special time for my husband and I to spend with our two grandchildren.
Lily
My granddaughter, Lily, was busy picking flowers for her ‘collection’.  She loves flowers and keeps them in her jewelry box.  
Dare I hope that she follows in her grandma’s footsteps and becomes a horticulturist?


Of course, what’s summer vacation without delicious food!
Before, you ask…no, I didn’t eat all these pies myself – I shared with them with 15 other family members 😉
Fourth of July found us in the pool, waiting for fireworks to begin.
My daughter Rachele, who is in the Navy, was able to come visit with our newest family addition, Eric.  This was his first time swimming and he loved it!
Ruthie, Sofie and Gracie
At the beginning of our summer season, we had a special visitor.
My daughter, Ruthie, was adopted from China when she was 9 years old.  Her cousin, Sofie, came from the same orphanage and so did their friend, Gracie.
These girls spent their early childhood together, creating special, sisterly bonds with each other in the absence of having parents.
Now that they are all adopted and living in the U.S., they have kept in touch.  Gracie flew in to spend a few days with her ‘orphanage sisters’ and we had so much fun with her.  
Pillow fights, baking sweets, enjoying good Chinese food and playing board games filled much of their time together.
Walking along State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, CA
A quick trip to Southern California was taken in the beginning of June to visit Rachele.  We were able to stay in her townhouse on the Navy base.  
Whenever we visit her, we take time to travel up to picturesque Santa Barbara, CA, which is where my husband and I met almost 30 years ago.
Ruthie learned how squirmy little babies are when you try to get them dressed…
This summer, we went through a truly wonderful experience together.
We traveled to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.  Both adults and kids were looking forward to seeing planets in our solar system.
While I did expect to see some great things through the telescopes, what I didn’t expect was the beautiful flowering perennials growing throughout the grounds of the observatory.
My brother, kept teasing me as I kept stopping to take pictures of the flowers.
My son, Kai, looking at Venus
Outdoor telescopes focused on Jupiter and Venus.  
I don’t know who was more excited, the kids or the adults.  It was almost incomprehensible that we could view these faraway planets.
My nephew, Dean, loves flowers and kept asking me what the names of them were.
I must admit that I enjoyed the flowers almost as much as I did the planets.
My mother, helping my daughter as she looks at Saturn.
Believe it or not, we were able to see Saturn and its rings!
We had a wonderful time at the observatory and learned so much.  I highly recommend visiting this or any observatory near you.  It was an unforgettable experience!
The last part of our summer fun occurred at the Hummingbird Festival, where I was asked to be a presenter.
I have two separate talks on small space hummingbird gardening and had a great time meeting new people.
One of my favorite parts of the festival was touring many beautiful gardens in Sedona where the festival was held.
I came home from the festival inspired to create a garden space dedicated to plants that attract hummingbirds.  I can hardly wait to get started this fall, which is the best time to add new plants to the garden.
In the meantime, we have increased the amount of hummingbird feeders in our backyard and have seen three hummingbirds at a single feeder 🙂
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Well, that was our summer fun in a nutshell.  The kids are now in school and my eyes are focused on  the fall including the upcoming Garden Writer’s Conference in Pasadena, CA in September.
 **What did your ‘summer in review’ look like?  Did you travel to any new places, see old friends or have any new experiences?**


I am busy putting the finishing touches on my presentation for an upcoming speaking engagement this Monday evening…


The women’s ministry at Cornerstone Church in Chandler, AZ asked me to speak about desert gardening.

Now, I love talking about how easy it is to have a beautiful and low-maintenance garden in the desert – yes, I said easy.

We are the ones that make our landscapes high-maintenance by making the following mistakes:

– Not allowing plants enough room to grow, which leads to over-pruning.
– Pruning plants more often then they need it.
– Selecting plants that aren’t well-adapted to our climate.
– Using fertilizer on plants that almost never need to be fertilized.


The event begins at 7:00 with the main speaker and afterward, attendees are given the choice of going to one of several ‘labs’ being offered at 8:00 pm.

I will be heading up the lab, “Creating a Beautiful, Fuss-Free Garden”.


The main speaker, is Lysa TerKeurst, who is fabulous.

And, did I mention that the entire event is FREE???  There is no need to register.  Just show up.  Here is a link for more information.

I’d love to those of you who live in the greater Phoenix area!

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On another note, I have been talking about attending plant sales and sharing with you about new varieties of some popular plants available along with a few of the newest plant introductions.

I had mentioned that I had come away with 3 new plants from the Desert Botanical Garden’s Spring Plant Sale.

So today, I thought that I would share with you the plants I chose and why…


1. The first plant I chose is one that I have never grown before – Red Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephla).  As indicated on the plant sign, it is new to the market.  

It is related to Red & Pink Fairy Duster shrubs, (which are great plants for the desert landscape, by the way).

I was entranced by the photo of large, puff-ball flowers.  I also liked that I could grow it as a small tree, if I wanted too.  

I like that is hardy to 20 degrees, which should make the occasional dips into the low 20’s in my garden no problem.

I planted it along the eastern side of my backyard, against a patio pillar.  It will receive morning sun and afternoon shade.  Growing to its right is a 15 ft. tall Mexican Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) that I’ve pruned into a tree form.  So, I think that they will look great next to each other.


The next plant I chose is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha).

Years ago, I planted this shrubby perennial in a parking lot of a golf course I worked at.  It did beautifully and attracted hummingbirds.  It would die back to the ground every winter, but quickly grew back in spring.

I have also seen Mexican Bush Sage grown in a variety of other areas during my travels, including Santa Barbara, CA and Miami, FL where it is grown as a perennial.

During a tour of the White House in Washington DC, I saw it grown there as well, where it is treated as an annual.

As much as I have liked this plant, I’ve never grown it in my own garden.

I planted it against the outside of one of my vegetable gardens where it will get morning and early afternoon sun.  Two other factors were important in choosing this area for my new Mexican Bush Sage – I didn’t have to add drip irrigation for it because it will get residual moisture from the vegetable garden AND it will also attract pollinators to my vegetable garden.


The last plant that I chose is one that many of you may be familiar with, just with a different flower-color.

Purple Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Purple’) was evidently a very popular plant at the sale because there was only one left, which went home with me.


It will grow much like the red variety, pictured above, enjoying filtered shade or afternoon shade.

Flowers will appear in fall, winter and spring in low-desert gardens.

Other varieties of Autumn Sage are available with different-colored flowers like white, pink and  salmon.

My new Purple Autumn Sage is also happy in its new home outside the vegetable garden where it will receive afternoon shade.

I will keep you updated on how well they grow in my garden.