Archive for plants to attract birds

Colorful Cape Fuchsia Makes Beautiful Summer Memories

Cracker Jack on Barnes Road roof garden

My cat loved to watch hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds love Cape Fuchsia for the nectar.  I love to use it in designs because it adds so much color, is easy to grow and the new varieties work well with modern and cottage garden styles.  This plant is a crowd pleaser and I use it frequently.

I planted my first Cape Fuchsia, Phygelius x rectus ‘Salmon Leap’  on my roof garden in Portland’s West Hills.  It was at 900 feet and we had snow every year even though I was 5 minutes away from downtown Portland.   The house was designed so that the third floor master suite had easy access to and a view of my roof garden.  It had a hot tub that was 20 feet from my bed, a big overstuffed outdoor sofa with an overhead cover and plenty of Cape Fuchsia!  In spite of the colder winters, the Cape Fuchsia (native to South Africa) never flagged or failed in the 12 years I lived there.  I loved my roof garden and the only family members who loved it more were the 4 leggeds, Barley,  Cee Cee and Cracker Jack.  One particular day everyone was curled up on the big overstuffed sofa.  I was reading and pets were napping.  All was peaceful.  I heard a strange whirring noise.  At first I didn’t see anything unusual.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw my pets’ heads were going up and then down and then up and then down, I looked up to see a small blur. What did I see?  What was happening?

Portland roof garden

My roof garden 2006.

We were witnessing a hummingbird mating ritual.  The male made a 90 foot oval flight pattern to within an inch of his intended.  She was steadfastly ignoring him and drinking nectar from my Cape Fuchsia.  There wasn’t even a flicker in his direction.  The buzzing sound was made by his high speed downward trajectory.  It abated on the way up.   It was mesmerizing.  It was one of those wonderful garden memories that I treasure.    Just us mammals all watching the entertainment together.

If you would like to have some close encounters with hummingbirds or you just love colorful plants, the Cape Fuchsia is the perfect addition to your garden.  The best hummingbird attractors are the older varieties because they flower in the most intense coral red shades.  My favorites are ‘Devils Tears’, ‘Salmon Leap’ and ‘African Queen’, but they are too big and a bit too rowdy for a small yard.

The new varieties are more compact and a little tidier in habit.  The flower colors are available in more traditional shades.  When these new colors first came on the market I was annoyed.  I felt like they had dumbed down a great plant by removing the coral shades…….but then I saw it wasn’t an either or.  I now had more choices and that is always a good thing for a garden designer.

If you love modern landscape design style but don’t want to give up color, these new Cape Fuchsia are perfect for you.

Here are 2 new varieties from Skagit Gardens:

Croftway purple prince cape fuchsia

Skagit Gardens’ Croftway Purple Prince is an intense magenta.

Phygelius Aequalis ‘Croftway Purple Prince’ has that intense magenta color.  I think it looks really good with Black Mondo Grass………Morticia Adams where are you now?  It glows in the evening light.  ‘Croftway Purple Prince’ is cold hardy for the Pacific Northwest and listed as zone 6 Yah!

Phygelius Aequalis ‘Croftway Yellow Sovereign’ is 18 to 24 inches tall by 24 inches wide.  Many soft yellow flowers burn in full sun but ‘Yellow Sovereign’ can take the heat.

Full sun easy care yellow sovereighn cape fuchsia

Skagit Gardens’ Yellow Sovereign does not scorch in full sun.

Barbara Ashmun, Portland garden writer has a great article about Cape Fuchsia’s.

I don’t tend to use the older varieties of Cape Fuchsia in front yards as the winter appearance is a little ragged.  If you love this plant like I do, simply cut it to the ground in mid December for a tidy look.

Hummingbirds Favorite Summer Flower

Portland Garden Designer Loves Colorful Cape Fuchsia

Phygelius with Phormium from ANLD tour

Phygelius planted along side Phormium. Picture from ANLD garden tour.

Cape Fuchsia, Phygelius, is a colorful, low maintenance long blooming summer flower for the Pacific Northwest.  I use it in landscape designs for clients who love color and watching hummingbirds.  It’s a personal favorite of mine.

If you are a person who wants a very tidy landscape that looks perfect all year long, this is not your plant.  I consider this plant to be low maintenance.  The winter appearance is not tidy but clients who love the color and the show simply cut it to the ground in December.  It can spread some.  In the spring if the plant is taking more territory than you want, simply pull on the stem that is straying.  Pull it out of the ground and cut the root off near the mother plant.  It is very easy, I promise.  Give it lots of sun, decent soil and water the first year.  It will need less water the following year.  Some clients water it about once every two weeks.

By the way, there is nothing wrong with needing a calm and low maintenance landscape.  We are all unique and a plant that makes one person feel delight can make another person feel claustrophobic.  I notice clients who grew up in climates where plants tend to be sparser can feel uncomfortable with the full flush of plantings possible here.

Morris after back yard

Mass planting of strong plant colors and a path help to break up the lines of the pool.

The first time I used this plant was for Art and Linda in SW Portland.  They had a 1960’s swimming pool in the backyard that dominated.  It visually ate the backyard.  They wanted a cottage garden style with lots of color.  My design solution successfully put the pool in a subordinate position to the landscape.  I created some great paths and shapes for the planting beds that broke up the lines of the pool visually.  We needed masses of strong plant color in the backyard to offset the powerful aqua rectangle.   I’m not a big color wheel garden designer but colors like coral and salmon are opposite the wheel from aqua. The Cape Fuchsia flowers are perfect for this situation because they flower in these colors and they flower all summer, hitting their stride during hot weather.  My clients enjoy hanging out by the pool and are entertained by the antics of hummingbirds.  Hummingbirds are strongly attracted to the hot coral red tones of the Cape Fuchsia.

Morris before back yard

Art and Linda’s back yard needed some color to offset the aqua of the pool water.

My favorite planting combination for this design was Panicum Virgatum, American Switch Grass ‘Heavy Metal’ with the Phygelius x recta ‘Devils Tears’.   They are a perfect contrast combination! The Switch Grass blade is a fine silvery blue texture.  It contrasts with the Cape Fuchsia’s dark green leaf and hot colored tubular flowers.  The inside of the tube is a mellow lemon yellow but mostly the hummingbirds are the ones who see this.

Phygelius picture from Joy Creek

Phygelius ‘Salmon Leap’.   Janet Loughrey photo from Joy Creek Nursery

If you research this plant on the internet, you may think Cape Fuchsia are not cold hardy here since they are native to South Africa.  Many plant authorities also say these plants need a lot of water.  I don’t agree.  I have grown them at 900 feet on a roof garden and only watered them every two weeks.  They were successful for 12 years and were still there when I moved.

I’m always advocating for low water use so planting Cape Fuchsia with American Switch Grass results in a very low water landscape pairing.

While I love the old fashioned varieties, the new varieties  are shorter and flower in softer more traditional colors.  This has made the Cape Fuchsia a more versatile plant that works well for small properties and containers.  The only drawback to the new varieties  is the softer colors.   When you select a softer color you lose some of the hummingbird magnet effect but you still get a great plant.  Check out other great hummingbird plants.

 

New Shrubs Expand Designer’s Palette

Ceanothus G. 'Hearts Desire' Picture from Xera

California Lilac Ceanothus Griseus ‘Hearts Desire’   Picture from Xera Plants

I’m excited about these new plants for Portland gardens.

Many of us are familiar with California Lilac and its blue flowers.  Beloved by bees, including our endangered native bumble bees, it’s  also a host plant for Swallow Tail butterflies.  However, it has its problems in a home landscape.  Many varieties are short lived because they receive summer irrigation along with your other plantings.  They need infrequent or no summer water to be a long term plant.  Most of all keeping them a manageable size is difficult for many gardeners. Ceanothus Griseus ‘Hearts Desire’ is different.  It can handle some summer irrigation and unlike all the other varieties of ground cover type California Lilac, it grows to only 4 inches tall and grows slowly to 24 inches wide.  It is easy to tip prune so can be confined.  These new habits make it a very useful plant for smaller landscapes.  It can take a lot of dry so we can plant it in the xeriscape dry tolerant gardens that have no irrigation or it can receive some summer irrigation.   I see this  plant as a major improvement over old varieties like ‘Anchor Bay’ or ‘Points Rey’.  Xera Plants is growing ‘Hearts Desire’ but expect other growers to jump on the plant wagon soon.  I’d use ‘Hearts Desire’ under limbed up fir trees, on SW facing banks or in “hellstrips”.  I will be trialing this new variety of California Lilac in my xeriscape garden.

Manzanita is a shrub or large tree known for its colorful bark and picturesque windswept shapes on the northern California coast. Here in Portland it’s too wet or too cold for most Manzanitas.  News flash!  Some of the California Manzanita species have been hybridized (designed by humans) into cold hardy evergreen ground covers and shrubs.  I love the leaves and the bark color and will be using these two specific varieties of Manzanita in my designs more frequently.   My favorite is ‘St. Helena’ which grows to 24 inches, and can take irrigation if it must.

Hummingbird sitting on manzanita plant

Hummingbird sitting on Manzanita plant

For success with Manzanita don’t feed the soil with compost or fertilizer at all, not even when doing initial soil preparation.  Work with the existing soil.  It needs to be watered through its first summer and then little to no irrigation is best.  This year (2015) my clients will be instructed to water it through its first winter as well since we are expecting a very dry winter but most years this would not be necessary.  Note: hummingbirds love Manzanita flowers.  Pacific Horticulture Society has an in depth article about Manzanita/Arctostaphlylos for the NW; by our revered plants man Paul Bonine.

Callistemon viridiflorus 'Xera Compact' Picture from Xera

Callistemon viridiflorus ‘Xera Compact’ Picture from Xera Plants

Callestemon or Bottle Brush is well known to Californians.  They have many varieties with hot red flowers and they  attract hummingbirds like crazy.  Their loose needles have a tropical feel to them and they can look wild or messy depending on your point of view!  While talking with Greg Shepard at Xera Plants, I got good news about the varieties of this plant that we can grow here in Portland.  A few of these make very attractive  tidy evergreen shrubs.  I’m always looking for soft textured evergreen shrubs with winter good looks that don’t get too big.  Hummingbirds are attracted to all of the Bottle Brush plants but deer are not.  Pretty great huh?

Here are 2 varieties I am most interested in for my clients:

1.  Callistemon Pityoides ‘Corvallis’.  Yes found in Corvallis, Oregon the original plant withstood 20 years of cold and everything an Oregon winter can throw at a plant.  It grows 5’ tall and 3’ wide in ten years.  It can take regular water or can be trained into drought tolerance easily.  It flowers twice in a season with soft yellow bottle brush flowers that remind people of baby ducks.  Deer usually leave it alone unless they are desperate.

2.  Callistemon viridiflorus ‘Xera Compact’ grows to 4 ½’ feet tall.  It is  VERY heavy blooming for 6 weeks.  The flowers are chartreuse and yellow brushes 3 inches long, the leaves are deep green in summer and take on hints of red in winter.

 

 

 

Unusual Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds

Unusual Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds

Today I want to share “Hummer” plants with hot colors for summer that are unique.  I will also list a few very colorful plants that  feed the overwintering hummingbirds in winter.

imagesHardy Fuchsia may be considered common for feeding hummingbirds 8 months out of the year.  Here are 3 varieties that are available locally (Portland, Oregon) that are a little different.  This type of fuchsia is a perennial and not anything like the fuchsia baskets that live in shady patios.  These fuchsias need sun and will come back year after year with simple care.

‘Golden Gate’ Hardy Fuchsia has hot gold leaves and shocking red pink flowers.  It is much smaller than the typically ‘Aurea’ and is an upright shrub instead of a wide vase shape.  It will fit into a smaller garden much better than ‘Aurea’ which can grow 4′ across easily.  We have a local source, a wholesale grower, Jockey Hill, who sells retail at Scappoose Saturday market.

Fuchsia Magellnica ‘Isis’ – this is great against a wall and while the leaf and flower are tiny, it can become a tall column (8′ – 10′) or it can be cut back hard every year and kept in the 4’ range.  Hundreds of flowers will interest many varieties of the larger bees as well as hummingbirds.

President’  Hardy Fuchsia.  It has a dark maroon leaf which is very unusual. This can be hard to find.  We have a local wholesale grower, Jockey Hill, who sells retail at Scappoose Saturday market.  It grows into a wider than tall shrub with purple and red flowers.

agastache-kudos-mandarinAgastache, also called Hummingbird Mint, are hot plants for long flowering summer color and for hummingbirds.  My old favorite variety is called ‘Apricot Sunrise’ and is an Agastache aurantica.  There are many new varieties of Agastache that I am very excited about.  ‘Summer Fiesta’,  ‘Summer Sunset’, ‘Kudos Manderin’, and ‘Kudos Coral’ are newer varieties that are more compact.  All of these Agastache are fragrant and smell strongly like mint or apple mint depending on the variety.

If you provide good drainage (think about planting on a low mound of soil), and don’t over water or fertilize …… it can live for years.  I often mulch around these plants with a cup of tiny crushed rock or pumice and I also tend to plant Hummingbird Mint in a raised planting.  Even 4” above the rest of the soil will improve drainage.

Agastache ‘Summer Glow’  did very well in a client’s gardenagastache-kudos-coral until a local rabbit ate them to the ground one too many times.  I love this exact variety, ‘Summer Glow’, because even after the glowing creamy yellow flowers are gone, the mulberry calyeces (under each tubular flower) stay on the plant until frost.  This color is soft but truly does glow especially in the evening.  This variety, like the hummingbird magnets above, results in 3 months of color in the garden.  It’s not red so isn’t as attractive to Hummers.

Here are three great hummingbird attractors for winter:

191 spring promise camellia

Camellia Sasanqua ‘Springs Promise’

 

 

 

Hybrid ‘Springs Promise’ is a new vivid rose red winter flowering Chinese Camellia.

 

 

Correa 'Dusky Rose'

Correa ‘Dusky Rose’

 

 

 

Correa ‘Dusky Rose’ Australian Fuchsia is available locally at Cistus Nursery on Sauvie Island.

 

 

 

Arhtu Meziezies Mahonia

‘Arthur Menzies’ Mahonia – photo from Forest Farm.

Mahonia x media ‘Arthur Menzies’   Think small tree so 15’ by 8’ wide.  The fragrance alone is amazing.  It is a coarse but attractive blue green leaf, the flower is a soft but strong yellow and is beloved by the Anna Hummingbirds.  At times you can find it at Portland Nursery, Cistus Design Nursery or Xera Plants, Inc.

You can also order a small plant from Forest Farms

 

 

 

For typical plants that attract hummingbirds go to my video for About.com. http://landscaping.about.com/video/Best-Flowers-to-Attract-Hummingbirds.htm

 

 

Hummingbirds in Your Winter Garden

During our recent cold spell I was reminded that our overwintering hummingbirds need support to survive.  It’s so much fun to see them feeding on the bright red flowers of Camellia Sasanqua ‘Yultide’.  I got an e-mail and photo from my client Lois showing me the numerous flowers and telling me how happy her hummingbirds were.

Hummingbird feeder in winter

Hummingbird feeder in winter

My client, Diane Nowicki, has had a hummingbird nest in her front yard, conveniently located a mere foot away from large windows.  The nest is in her native Madrone tree, a tree her first landscape designer campaigned for over 20 years ago.  I was thrilled to see this Madrone doing so well in an east exposure. Pacific Northwest Madrone, Arbutus Menziesii is one of my favorite trees.

Arbutus menziesii
Photo credit Watershed Nursery

It was very interesting to watch the daily doings of the mama hummer and her babies.  Diane and her husband Ed also got to watch the mama hummer spread her wings and clamp them down over the nest during a wind storm.  The nest was so small; it was bouncing up and down in the wind. The young hummers would have been bounced right out of the nest.

If you feed hummingbirds with sugar water, you have an obligation to continue in freezing weather as the birds become dependent on you.  They do eat insects under the bark and wherever they can find them but to keep the sugar water viable, consider using Christmas lights to warm the liquid.  Also, the chemical hand warmers can be tied to the tube and it is said this will keep the liquid from freezing for up to 7 hours.  This photo shows a home owner supplied pie tin and everything else was purchased at Backyard Bird Shop.