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Inviting Hummingbirds to the Landscape

Your eyes may not be deceiving you. While we are planning our summer trips south, the ruby-throated hummingbirds are making their way to Ohio. Preparing accommodations for our summer guests is not a complicated affair, and making your yard hospitable to them is very rewarding. It’s rather amazing to see these tiny birds dart about the garden then hover in the air as they feed. And when the males stake out their territory, their mid-air battles for ownership of your stand of Monarda is amazing. Don’t be surprised to have them buzz past your head, oblivious to our imposing figure in the garden. They couldn’t care less. They have the fearlessness of a massive bird of prey packed in a bejeweled colored, sleek, aerodynamic body.  You will not want to miss out on seeing hummingbirds in your garden this year. So, what can you do to welcome them to your landscapes?

Perches. There’s a metal tree (a little piece of garden art) in our back garden that the hummingbirds like to alight on before they visit the Cuphea and Spigelia.  A short distance away, native Monardas offer them nectar as does our generous stand of Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’.  Perches offer the hummingbirds a place to rest and scout out their next plant. Bare branches are ideal, so don’t be too quick to prune out old branches from trees and shrubs.

What I don’t use is feeders. Our gardens are such that we have ample food sources for the hummingbirds. Secondly, I know that I will not remember to keep the feeder clean. A feeder that attracts ants, develops mold, or is dirty does more harm than good.  I’d rather spend my time and attention adding more plants to feed the birds than mixing water and sugar and cleaning feeders.

Water. Hummingbirds, like other birds, enjoy a good bath. They are also drawn to a fine mist of water. It’s not uncommon to have them fly through the water from my garden hose while I’m spot watering plants or tending to the garden pond.

Nesting Sites. Their nests are tiny, as one would expect, so you may not see one, but they’re there.  Larger shrubs and understory trees will do just fine for nesting sites. Another good reason to incorporate such plants into your pollinator garden.

Red Meat.   Hummingbirds eat insects so eliminating the use of chemicals is crucial in creating an environment that is conducive to hummingbirds, and all wildlife for that matter.

Observation Site. And for you, a place to sit and observe the birds is in order. Be it a bench, a chair, picture window or, as in my case, a wider area of the garden path with the metal tree perch on one side and popular hummingbird plants on the other, you will want a place to sit and observe the hummingbirds. They are rather calm and comfortable around people, so the opportunity for close observation and impressive photographs is very real.

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