Tag Archives: hummingbird

I Planted Milkweed…

And the monarchs came!

Last fall at our WI cabin, I scattered milkweed seeds from native milkweed that had sparsely grown in what I call the “loop” in the center of the circular driveway.  It’s a native area anchored by three Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) trees.

There’s lots of advice on how to collect milkweed seeds from the pods on the internet, but I took the simple route of waiting until late in the fall when the pods were starting to open up on their own, and then pulled out the seeds. While still attached to the sticky silk, I just floated the seeds around the loop garden and around the edges of the woods. It was a fun afternoon project even without young kids to help!

By spreading the seeds in the fall, I didn’t need to worry about artificial seed stratification, the process of simulating the cold winter and warm, wet spring, that you need to go through to get milkweed seeds to germinate efficiently. Then I waited to see what would come up, and where, since the downside of my method was the wind blowing things in unexpected directions.

I was happy to see this spring that the number of milkweed had really multiplied all over the loop and the edges of the driveway and forest. Then this past weekend I found them! Two big, fat healthy monarch caterpillars munching away.

I can’t remember the last time I saw big monarch caterpillars like these. I’m hoping when we’re there next time, I’ll find monarch chrysalis. But they can be tricky to find since they will attach to almost any hard surface in the area, not necessarily near the milkweed.

What else is enjoying my milkweed?  The bees of course.

Hummingbirds will also enjoy milkweed occasionally, but mine tend to prefer my feeder by far.

As a hummingbird bonus, I recently added a little window feeder and they love it! This day a female came to visit. The male is a little more camera shy.

Need help making hummingbird nectar? See my previous post on an easy how-to.

 

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Hummingbird Nectar

Perky Pet hummingbird feeder

 

Once you’ve filled your yard with pollinator friendly plants and a hummingbird feeder, you need to make some nectar to put in the feeder.  It couldn’t be easier!

 

 

 

 

Recipe:
hummingbird nectar
1 part granulated sugar
4 parts water

Bring to a boil and boil for 2 min (longer can make it too concentrated).
Cool before filling feeder.

 

I've had this spoon forever, seems appropriate when making hummingbird nectar :)

I’ve had this spoon forever, seems appropriate when making hummingbird nectar 🙂

So for example, you want to make just enough to fill the feeder, use 1/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water.

To make enough to store for a week or so, use 1 cup sugar and 4 cups of water. Store leftover in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

Things to remember:

Change the food every 2-3 days, sooner if it appears cloudy.

Boiled and cooled nectar can be stored 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.  If it begins to appear cloudy, or develops brown spots on the container, toss it.  It’s either fermenting or growing mold and will be harmful to the hummingbirds.

No need to add red dye.  Red on the feeder is enough to attract them and the dye may be harmful.

Never use honey, brown sugar or artificial sweeteners. Honey and brown sugar are not able to be digested properly and honey can be toxic. Hummingbirds are never on a diet, so they need the energy provided by real sugar.

Keep the feeder clean. Buy a bottle bush and scrub it out each time you refill the feeder.

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It may take a little while for these fun little friends to find your feeder, but when they do, they will be back as long as you provide them fresh food.  Seeing that they feed every 10-15 minutes to keep up with their calorie needs, they’ll be back a lot!

August, Oops, September Garden Update

A while back I thought I was getting caught up, but then sending twins off to college this fall proved to be quite a time consuming effort!  So the garden has been a bit on auto pilot for a little while now.  Thank goodness it got off to such a good start this spring.  Here’s some tidbits on what I would have written about, if I had had the time 🙂

There was a family of chickadees that must have nested and fledged near my feeders.  For weeks, I was so entertained by the hilarious antics of the 3 young chickadees that truly behaved like little kids.

baby chickadee

baby chickadee

I got a lot more green peppers and Mariachi hot peppers as the summer went on.  Unfortunately, Daisy was not at all dissuaded by munching on the hot peppers and continued to eat almost all this year’s pepper harvest (Little White Pepper Thief).

green pepper

Surveying the garden for her latest snack…

Westie

A couple of years ago this patch of creeping thyme was a disaster.  I wrote about it in my earlier post, Creeping Thyme Problems.  I was skeptical that the severe pruning was going to help, but it has.  It looks gorgeous and lush, and smells awesome when I walk on it to get to the garden hose.  So if in doubt, cut away, it’ll be better for it!

Creeping Thyme

Creeping Thyme

I didn’t get many sunflowers this year thanks to the bunnies.  But I did get this one, beautiful Evening Sun Sunflower.  Made me smile.

Evening Sun sunflower

Thankfully Daisy doesn’t seem have found the tomatoes or basil. I don’t ever seem to tire of fresh tomato salads.

tomato basil salad

The raspberries I planted in the spring flourished over the summer.  I even got a few tasty raspberries in the late summer.  Looking forward to having the plants mature and getting lots of berries.   What did I plant?  See my previous post “My Raspberries and Strawberry Plants Are Here!”

raspberries

Two of my clematis plants got a terrible case of Clematis Stem Wilt earlier this spring (What’s Wrong With the Clematis and Clematis Stem Wilt).  I was hopeful that the plants would survive and I think they did.  Both plants put up a couple of new, healthy looking stems that looked good until the last few days when something has decided to munch on the leaves.  We’ll see in the spring how they look.  At least there’s hope.

clematis

The petunias were home to lots of pollinators.  This bumblebee was fun to watch as he dove deep into each flower.  He seemed to really prefer the dark pink over light pink.  While I have no decent pictures, I had hummingbirds also visit my yard late this summer.  I don’t always get them, so it has been a treat the last few weeks to have them visit.

petunia

How was your garden this year?

(BTW Go Hokies! Go Blue!)

August Garden Surprises

I took a walk around the yard today just checking everything out. It must have been a while I’d done that, since I had quite a few, luckily mostly pleasant, surprises.

This Rose Of Sharon has always grown in the shadow of surrounding trees which are no longer there.  I never understood why it was planted there and remained quite a runt and hardly flowered.  We left it since it was back in a corner and not hurting anything.   Not this year!  With all the new sun and space, it has flourished and has been blooming like gangbusters.

Rose of Sharon

 

Rose of Sharon

 

Double Bloom Rose of Sharon

Next to the big Rose of Sharon is a small one I bought on clearance.  It was in even more shade and really never grew much.  It was pretty much overrun by hosts and ferns.  All of a sudden this year, it started blooming.  It’s flowers are the more traditional hibiscus looking type.

Rose of Sharon

Then there’s this white Rose of Sharon that just appeared from nowhere.  I thought it was a weed growing up next to the fence.  Kept cutting it back, but it was quite persistent.  After apparently not weeding for while, it unexpectedly flowered!!  My persistent weed was a very pretty white Rose of Sharon.  It actually picked a pretty spot to grow, so this one is staying put.   I also finally know what all those persistent weeds/baby trees in less desirable locations around the yard are.  I am a bit puzzled though where this one came from.   It must be a traveller from a neighbor’s yard since all the Rose of Sharons in my yard are purple.

Rose of Sharon

I apparently really haven’t weeded very much lately and this huge thistle has grown about 6 ft tall behind the white David phlox.  I would have pulled it out, except that it is was being visited by some lovely bumblebees and goldfinches.  I think it’ll stay for the summer.

Thistle

Last fall, I had moved some plants around so this spring, when things were coming up, I wasn’t entirely sure what and where things were.  Early on,  I saw these little grass like leaves that I couldn’t decide if they were weeds or flowers.  I let them be since they weren’t too obnoxious.  Just this week, they finally put out a single daylily bloom.  Seems that some Happy Returns day lilies had found a new home.  Reminds me that, “When in doubt, don’t pull it out!”.

Happy Returns Daylily

I have 2 Knock Out Roses that are a few years old.  They’ve struggled with Japanese Beetle attacks, and then this past winter really did a job on them. They looked pretty haggard, but I left them alone to see what would happen.  Finally, one is putting out a few blooms.  I’m going to trim off the dead stems and be extra vigilant about the Japanese Beetles.  Hopefully the plant will be strong enough to come back healthier next year.

Knock Out Rose

I”m not quite sure why my 1 year old Wine and Roses Weigela is blooming a second time this season.  In any case, it’s healthy and looking great in this spot.

Wine and Roses Weigela

While I don’t have any pictures, I am excited to have seen a few hummingbirds in the yard recently.  They haven’t come to the feeder, so either they don’t like my food selection or there’s enough natural food for them.

Hummingbird Feeder

Last, but not least in my opinion, are these French Favorite Marigolds from Botanical Interests  that I grew from seeds.  I have never had such beautiful marigolds grow in the spot (and for as long as we’ve lived here, this has been my marigold garden).

French Favorite Marigold

Have you had any pleasant garden surprises this year?

Gardening: All in the Family

For as long as I can remember my mom had vegetable and flower gardens, sometimes big, sometimes small.  So did my grandparents.  All this interest in growing things rubbed off on me and hopefully I’ll pass it on to my kids.  With that in mind, I had my mom and daughter take us on a tour of their June gardens.  First my mom, Peggy, in northern Michigan.

So lucky to have the space of all these raised beds (check out all the raspberries in the back!).

photos by peggy

 Petunia garden protected from the rabbits

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

Zinnias!

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

Hummingbirds are enjoying the flowers right now.  Soon they’ll be looking for some extra food.

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

A more natural garden.

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

 

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

A lovely visitor–Tiger Swallowtail

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

Salad in a bag!

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

 Succulents!  This is a creative work in progress. I can’t wait to see what she does with this.  I know she’s got some great ideas.

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

 

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

 

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

My daughter Emily lives in an apartment with some friends downtown.  When we were talking earlier in the spring, she was complaining about the price of tomatoes.  Soon after that, I happened to see a great looking potted patio tomato plant that would fit on her porch.

stephi gardens

She couldn’t have been more excited and has taken lovingly care of this plant.  It gets a hello and a glass of water from the mason jar every morning.  Recently I got a text that read “Mom!  2 of my tomatoes hatched!”  I hope they grow big, red and juicy for her.  I think she’ll be hooked then.

Do you have someone who inspired you, or have you inspired anyone else to garden? 

White Line Sphinx Moth

The other night I was outside helping grill around dusk. Right next to the grill, I have planters with geraniums, petunias and coleus.

image

Flitting around the petunias that night was this hummingbird-dragonfly-bug-like thing. Its wings were beating so fast, I really couldn’t get a handle on what it was. All I could really tell was that it was not a hummingbird, but was definitely getting nectar from the petunias, checking out the other flowers, distinctively patterned and very pretty. I meant to try to look it up, but I really didn’t know what I was looking for.

Then, oddly enough, the next morning my radio alarm comes on and there is an interview with a local garden specialists about the recent explosion of something called a White Line Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata). That was it, made my ID pretty easy. For some reason that I haven’t been able to figure out, they’ve been spotted in higher numbers lately in the Midwest, including Chicago.

White Line Sphinx Moths, also known as Hawk Moths, are fairly large moths and behave much like a hummingbird, flitting about, hovering above flowers and using its very long tongue (or proboscis) to reach into the flower and drink the nectar. The caterpillar phase of this moth is also unusually large (3 inches or more) and has a distinct hornlike appendage. They look similar to the very destructive tomato hornworm, but are not as much of a garden pest.

I hope they stick around a bit, it was fun to watch.

Photo Credit: Larry Lamsa (Creative Commons licensing)

Photo Credit: Larry Lamsa (Creative Commons licensing)