Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hummingbirds Love...Weigela

Pink Poppet Weigela

Perennial Gardening Month: Buy 5 Get 1 Perennial Free COUPON

"If there were nothing else to trouble us,

the fate of the flowers would make us sad."

- John Lancaster Spalding,
Aphorisms and Reflections
Oso Easy Cherry Pie
Landscape Rose

"What a desolate place would be a world

without a flower!

It would be a face without a smile,

a feast without a welcome.

Are not flowers the stars of the earth,

and are not our stars the flowers of the heaven?"

- A.J. Balfour

Intrigue - amazingly fragrant

Hummingbirds love...variety

Hummingbirds love variety. It is is the spice of life. Fill your garden with a variety of great flowers that hummingbirds really enjoy. Since most flowers bloom for just a short time, adding many varieties ensures a constant buffet for our tiny feathered friends. Not just red flowers, either. Hummingbirds visit nectar-rich flowers of all colors. Choose diverse flowering plants to add interest to your landscaping.

Hummingbird friendlly flowers are available as annuals, perennials, vines, shrubs, trees, bedding plants and hanging plants.

Early-blooming perennials like Lupine and Columbine (Aquilegia) is another deep-throated flower that awaits the return of hummingbirds in the spring.
Shrubs with appealing flowers include Butterfly Bush, Rose of Sharon and some Rhododendrons. Pink Poppet Weigela is a lovely, repeat blooming shrub (3-4').
Butterfly Bush at Woodbridge Greenhouses 2011
Pink Poppet Weigela

Tall perennials like Hollyhock, Delphinium, and Foxglove (Digitalis), with their tubular flowers, are excellent for hummingbirds, and ideal for the back of the garden since they reach 3 to 5 feet tall.

Other perennials visited by our hummingbirds include: Four O'Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa ), Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco) is a nicely scented addition to the garden. Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), Verbena bonariensis receives frequent visits from hummingbirds. Sunset Hyssop (Agastache rupestris) is a large perennial loved by hummingbirds.

Biennials (bloom every other year) such as Foxglove (Digitalis) and Evening Primrose (Oenothera 'Lemon Sunset'). Evening Primrose is more likely to receive morning visits from hummingbirds before the blooms close for the day.

Vines like Honeysickle and Morning Glory (Ipomoea) which often receives morning visits from hummingbirds are wonderful for hummingbirds. Trumpet Vines, with their tubular red flowers, are natural hummingbird magnet.
Morning Glory

Annuals like Salvia and Zinnias are common blooms that are sure to be enjoyed by your hummingbirds. Lobelia cardinalis is a red version of the popular blue annual. Salvia (Sage) attract hummingbirds and do well in containers and as border plants. Asclepias Curassavica is also known as Mexican Butterfly bush and comes in yellow and orange (the orange petals contrast nicely with the yellow stamens).

Asclepias curassavica Yellow
Asclepias curassavica Orange
Long-blooming perennials are nice additions to the garden and quite appealing to hummingbirds. Bee Balm (Monarda) grows in front of our dining room window. Quite often we watch a hummingbird or two stop by our magenta and red bee balm for a quick snack.

Hanging plants are another great way to incorporate hummingbird-friendly plants and flowers on your property. Consider including Lantana, petunias and salvia, in addition to fuscia.

Self-seeding plants like Cleome (serrulata and spinosa) appear in our yard have been visited by hummingbirds.

Sugar water in feeders is a great supplement for hummingbirds to get a quick dose of calories while hunting for protein-rich insects. Feeders are a convenient way for us to observe them up close, too.

Compiled by Renee C. Brannigan and Debbie Luchka

A Drumlin Woodchuck

by Robert Frost
One thing has a shelving bank,
Another a rotting plank,
To give it cozier skies
And make up for its lack of size.

My own strategic retreat
Is where two rocks almost meet,
And still more secure and snug,
A two-door burrow I dug.

With those in mind at my back
I can sit forth exposed to attack
As one who shrewdly pretends
That he and the world are friends.

All we who prefer to live
Have a little whistle we give,
And flash, at the least alram
We dive down under the farm.

We allow some time for guile
And don't come out for a while
Either to eat or drink.
We take occasion to think.

And if after the hunt goes past
And the double-barreled blast
(Like war and pestilence
And the loss of common sense),

If I can with confidence say
That still for another day,
Or even another year,
I will be there for you, my dear,

It will be because, though small
As measured against the All,
I have been so instinctively thorough
About my crevice and burrow.

"The Drumlin Woodchuck"
 Published in A Further Range, in 1936.

Woodchuck or Groundhog...I call 'em trouble

aka Woodchuck
aka Marmot
Before I realized how much of my garden that “cute” little groundhog would eat, the children and I enjoyed watching one in our garden one morning. We watched quietly through the window. Perched on his hind legs, munching on leaves, with his little black nose wiggling, he was adorable. In a few days, though, he had decimated our beans, carrots, and peas. I hear they really like brocolli, too.

But, Mom, it's so cute...
Not long after admiring the latest visitor to our garden, we stared through the window again after supper, but this time at stubs where our green beans were growing, empty butternut squash vines (one of the few plant parts they didn't devour) and a clearing where our greens had been growing so lushly. Woodchucks average eight pounds, but have been known to reach twelve pounds. My little friend was bigger than a house cat, maybe around 10 pounds.

Woodchucks are also known as ground hogs, perhaps because they “hog” all the ground in vegetable gardens. I haven't seen them touch (or chuck) any wood, but they can chomp right through it.

I'll admit that it is pretty interesting to watch wild animals browse on the landscape...especially if you're not a gardener. Last weekend our guests went for a late afternoon walk and stood back to watch as momma woodchuck helped one of her FIVE little ones who didn't want to follow her across the road.  To our guests it was a wonder of nature to watch the little ones with their momma. To the gardener in residence, all I could think was "Cute?  Oh no. Now she has five  hungry mouths to feed."

Know your Nemesis
Whether you call it a woodchuck (Marmota Monax) or a groundhog, they are the same creature and also known as a marmot. They can carry rabies, but it is seldom transferred to people. While they can live six years, they are pretty low on the food chain, and seldom reach four years of age.
Groundhogs hibernate in winter, staying in their burrows, deep underground in a wooded or brushy area. Their winter burrow is where they mate at the end of their hibernation, and raise their young. A woodchuck burrow will often have one main entrance and up to five other escape/entrance or spy-holes. Be cautious when walking near their dens. The entrances are steep enough to cause bodily injury.

Some groundhogs keep a summer burrow in the middle of a grassy area. Their summer home is where they sleep and hide from predators. Groundhogs are solitary animals who send their young packing by early July. They are also good climbers when they need to escape, they can climb a tree, or a fence.

Many a frustrated gardener has asked, “WHAT are they good for?” Actually, their diligent digging aerates the soil, provide dens for other wildlife, and in February, their cousin Phil down in Pennsylvania predicts when winter will end.

Batten Down the Hatches!

Friends, once you see any sign of a woodchuck, if you want to keep any portion of your garden, you'll need to take some action. Ignoring the tell-tale signs of groundhogs can be fatal for your garden.

It's a good idea to start by locating their burrow. Ours has a large one under our front porch, and another in the undergrowth near the end of our driveway (where there is less activity). Each burrow usually has an entrance and a spy hole, but can have additional exits.

Controlling the Situation:

There are many ways to try to control the situation. You will be wise to choose more than one:

  1. Keep it moving: Groundhogs are very timid. They don't like movement around them, so install pinwheels, or anything else that moves, all around the garden to frighten groundhogs away.
  2. Fido Patrol. A large active dog may be one of the best deterrents. Remember, though, that a woodchuck, with those rodent teeth, can fatally wound a small dog.
  3. Spray around the garden and burrow with natural Plantskyd. It has a potent smell that fades after a day or two, but the scent is powerful enough to discourage groundhogs, deer and other garden raiders for weeks, if not months.
  4. Trapping is not recommended unless you are ready to humanely euthanize the creature. Foothold traps, snares and poison are prohibited in Rhode Island.
    Relocating them to an area far-removed from your garden is illegal (due to the rabies concern), and not effective since most find their way back. If you're the type, groundhog meat is said to quite tasty.

    ~ Bait your trap with salad greens, whole kernel corn, carrot tops, carrots, apples, potato, beans, pea pods or cucumber. We were told they LOVED cantaloupe, but our little friend didn't take the bait. Placing logs on either side of the path to help funnel the groundhog into the trap. Camouflage the trap with canvas or vegetation.
  5. Funnel to catch a critter.
    Remove tall grasses, weeds and brush piles that allows them covert access to your garden.
  6. Make the food less tasty:
    ~ A sprinkling of Epsom salts on your garden plants. The Epsom salt is good for many garden plants. Repeat the application after rain.

    ~ Plant distasteful marigolds throughout your garden.
  7. Ammonia-soaked rags smell foul. Form a stinky barrier of them around the perimeter of your garden to repel groundhogs. Placed in the burrow, it may be repellent enough to evict the resident. Refresh the rags with more ammonia once the smell fades.
  8. For fencing to be effective, it must prevent them from climbing over and tunneling underground. The entrance shaft to their den is often a four foot deep vertical shaft.
    ~ Fencing should be at least 4' tall.
    ~ For best results, bend the bottom of the fencing at a 90-degree angle, and bury a portion at least 18” below the surface, with the bottom of the fence pointing away from the garden.
    ~ Supplement the fence with an electric hot-shot wire installed 4"-5" high and 4"-5" away from the fence, all along the outside
  9. If you are especially generous and considerate, you can plant your new groundhog friend a garden of her very own. Some crops that are woodchuck favorites include alfalfa and clover. They are perpetual diggers, so that will continue.
Remember, your groundhog will not leave your garden as long as it is easy pickings.
Good luck. We'll need it.

Renee C. Brannigan