June 15, 2011

The Best Hummingbird Feeder

With lightning speed and buzzing whoosh, the hummingbirds battle and dive bomb around the bright red hummingbird feeder. Territorial and jockeying for the best position at the feeder, one smart hummingbird sits back on a willow tree branch while three others whiz up into the air to do battle. The little one gets to sip first.

Round and round the garden they go; where they stop—do you want to know?

Monarda 'Jacob Cline' in full bloom with
wide leaves of crocosmia 'Lucifer' not yet blooming.
As I write, I watch three hummingbirds buzz by the window on their way to lay claim to two large patches of the red bee balm, monarda 'Jacob Cline' (sometimes listed as 'Jacob Kline').

Jacob is a tall, strong bee balm, easily growing taller than 3 feet if receiving ample moisture before the blooms. This is the third year for this variety. The 2010 summer heat and drought were especially tough for this bee balm, but it bounced back, tripling in width this spring!

The hardy perennial is suitable for zones 3-8, making it a wonderful choice for many of you who want to garden for the hummingbirds.

Planted with the bee balm is another hummingbird favorite, crocosmia 'Lucifer'. Although the red of Lucifer is a bit orange for the red of Jacob, I put the two together for the hummingbirds—sometimes garden style is for the birds, not me!

I sowed seeds of white shasta daisy 'Alaska' up the slope behind the red/orange group. Now in the second year, the daisies are blooming for the first time. I want the white daisies to provide a contrast for the red blooms of the bee balm and crocosmia.

To really thrill the hummingbirds, I divided my salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue' and also added it with the shasta daisies. Hopefully, there will be a thick swatch of white daisies and blue salvia behind the red Jacob Cline monarda for summer 2012.

By the way, I allow the tall, purple verbena bonariensis to sow and grow just about everywhere in this area of my garden as that plant is the favorite feeder of Goldfinch. There are more than just hummingbirds in the garden, after all!

There are other colors/varieties of bee balm in my garden, too. 'Raspberry Wine' and 'Blue Stocking' are also hummingbird feeders—Jacob Cline blooms first; then Raspberry Wine; immediately followed by the Blue Stocking. All three colors overlap and extend the bloom season for monarda.

Monarda is an economical plant to grow since it spreads rapidly with rich, moist soil. That said, I find that 'Raspberry Wine' tolerates drier soil than the other varieties and I grow it in more locations for that reason. Deer have never done more damage than sample a bloom or two. Rabbits tend to avoid monarda altogether. I've not had trouble with mildew, but I watch the lower leaves. If I see any droopy leaves in the morning, I know they need to be watered (at the base of the plant).

Once our temperatures are over 90°F, I worry that the sugar water in our manufactured hummingbird feeders gets too hot, so I take those down and let the flower garden provide fresh nectar for our buzzing friends. It seems to be working well!

Monarda 'Jacob Cline' (Hummingbird feeder) is backed by
purple verbena bonariensis (Goldfinch feeder).

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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