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Gardening with Ellen Pell



Did I ever tell you how much I love hummingbirds? They are as much a part of my summer garden as any of my flowers.


I've been attracting hummingbirds to my feeders for years. Although Ruby-throated hummingbirds are most common (would anyone ever call a hummingbird common?) 11 of the 16 species have been spotted in our area.


Hummingbird Rule #1. Don’t buy hummingbird “food.” Just boil sugar and water (in a 1:4 ratio, e.g., 1/2 cup of white sugar to 2 cups of water) for 2 minutes. Presto! Hummingbird food. Refrigerate any unused portion. NEVER add red food color. Change the “nectar” every 3 days or it will ferment. Keep the feeder scrupulously clean. (Old toothbrushes are great for the job.) Hummingbirds are attracted to red flowers, so tie a red ribbon to the feeder post to get their attention. Plant bright red flowers: (e.g., salvia, cardinal flower, etc.) nearby to make it even more attractive.

Impress your friends with the word “gorget” (from the French gorge, meaning throat.) Gorget is the term used to describe the broad patch of metallic-looking iridescent feathers on the throats of many male hummingbirds. The feathers flash bright colors when sunlight is reflected at certain angles. Males display their gorgets as part of courtship rituals, territorial defense or aggression.


Hummingbirds Facts: They do perch. They have very weak feet. They fly forward, backward, shift sideways and stop in midair. They can beat their wings up to 200 times per second. They lap nectar with their tongues. They can fly up to 60 MPH. They can live 5-6 years. They consume, on average, half their weight in sugar each day.


Do not be discouraged if hummingbirds seem to be avoiding your feeder. During nesting season (now) the females are quite busy. Baby hummingbirds are fed a mixture of bugs and nectar every20 minutes.


Be patient. Hummingbirds are way more interesting than TV!


Ellen Pell, Master Gardener







June/July 2013 Impatiens
August 2013 Butchart Gardens
May 2014 I Hate my Lawn
July 2014 Hummingbirds

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