Attracting and Caring for HummingbirdsWritten by Johann Erickson
The oldest historical mention of hummingbirds likely dates back to Taino Native Americans, who were reportedly first humans to greet Columbus when he landed in America. The Taino believe that hummingbirds are spreaders of life on Earth, and their warriors were known as Colibir, or Hummingbird warriors, because they are a peaceful bird that will defend their territory with heart of an eagle.
How long they have been in America is unknown, but they have delighted bird watchers for many years, with their quick dashes into garden, and shine of sun on brilliant feathers. While there actually are duller colored birds, ruby-throated hummingbird is most commonly recognized for its iridescent feathering, and dazzlig ruby-red throat. The color though, is not all it seems.
Hummingbirds get their unusual coloring from fact that not all feathers are pigmented, or colored. In duller colors, including Rufous Hummingbird, brown hue is actual pigment in feather structure. In ruby-throated variety, light refracting through feather segments, breaking it up much like a prism would. Only certain levels of color will be seen by human eye, and that color will change with every movement of feather, or angle of light striking it.
This is one of features that makes them so charming to watch as they flit around a garden or feeder. Hummingbirds are very fast, traveling at an average 25 miles per hour, with wingbeats of anywhere from 10-15 per second in Giant Hummingbird, up to 80 per minute by Amethyst Woodstar. The ruby-throated hummer falls into middle range, at about 53 beats per second.
To sustain such rapid and prolonged activity, hummingbird’s heart must beat accordingly. For birds that are hot, or sleepy, that can be as low as 50-180 beats per minute, but a heart rate of an amazing 1360 beat per minute has been recorded in a Blue-Throated Hummingbird.
All this activity requires a humming bird to eat almost continually, to fuel activity that will maintain its 105-109F body heat. That means dining as many as 15 times an hour, on high-energy food. In volume, they consume up to eight times their body weight a day. But reduce nectar to a solid by eliminating water, and it would amount to their own bodyweight.
A hummingbird can starve to death in as little as two hours, if still active. That makes rescue of birds trapped in garages or other enclosed areas, imperative within a short time. At night, their “thermal generators” shut down as they rest, and allow their body temperature to drop, so that less energy is used up while they sleep.
If you enjoy watching these delightful little birds, and are also an enthusiastic gardener, why not plant clumps of flowers or bushes, to bring them into your yard? Hummingbirds are creatures of habit, and will develop their own paths to food, checking them frequently and on a daily basis. Once they find out you have goodies, they’ll return over and over. Other hummers will follow, and you may then get to see hummingbird behavior at its worst, as they dive at each other to protect their food sources.
The Hosta – A Shade Loving Perennial Written by Bonnie P. Carrier
My first introductions to Hostas were four small green and white clumps edging a small section of my mother- in- laws driveway.
I was not terribly impressed, they looked more like scraggly lettuce plants with a few sticks growing out of middle plus their size never seemed to change from year to year.
Fast forward a few years, I now had my own home with visions of gorgeous gardens blooming in my head.
The property was surrounded by trees, which we loved not only for privacy but house was kept quite cool during hot summer months.
I soon discovered that all that shade may have been good for keeping our home and family cool it wasn’t great for growing certain perennials as most I’d looked at all said full sun.
During trips to local nurseries looking for shade loving plants I kept noticing Hostas, thinking “Oh, great spindly lettuce” I went ahead and purchased two plants, I was desperate to plant something along perimeter of those wonderful trees.
The two green plants with white stripes found a home next to a simple concrete birdbath, one on either side.
During summer I weeded around them, watered and feed them every two weeks but didn’t really hold much hope that they would turn into anything special.
The following Spring during winter clean up I noticed small green shoots popping up beside birdbath but again didn’t get to excited.
Well, by mid summer those two had tripled in size were very full and looked absolutely beautiful.
I began to rethink my first impression of Hostas and after doing some research discovered there are hundreds – actually more then 2600- of varieties available.
Leaf colors include green, blue, gold and white. The leaves can either be a solid color or variegated with a second color mixed in center or along edges.
Several plants in various shades can really dress up a shady corner. By mixing several of brighter hues along with darker shades can be quite dramatic.
Another way to use Hostas is by mixing them with other shade plants, which can include Perennials such as Astilbe, Bleeding Heart and Japanese Painted Ferns also, Shrubs like Azalea, Hydrangea or Sweet Pepperbush.
You’re not limited to using shade plants just within wooded areas or around trees.