Cape May Garden Journal: Hummingbird Heaven
By Jane Kashlak
July 26, 2004 - The hummers are here. Been here for awhile. But it's not until the Ipomopsis blooms that the hummingbirds really take over our Cape May garden.
Ipomopsis is a gangly, ferny, not very attractive plant. If you saw it before it bloomed, you would be tempted to pull it right out and throw it into the compost pile.
But once the little red trumpet like blooms burst open in July, the hummingbirds are all over it. The normally skittish critters ignore everyone and everything just to get a sip of nectar from these wildflowers.
Our hummingbirds are incredibly picky eaters. We hear stories from other gardeners about hummingbirds nectaring on all sorts of fine flowers. Not ours. They pass by choice morsels of Phlox and lovely Lantana, turn their noses up at Red Hot Poker and Penstemon and Hollyhocks.
They want what they want.
And most times, that comes down to just a handful of blooms.
So we cave in and plant what we know they'll eat.
Cardinal flower is one of their favorites. It's much more refined looking than Ipomopsis - but still has those bright red trumpet like blooms. We plant a patch of it in the front yard near the porch every year and watch the hummers gorge themselves.
Our hummingbirds also dine on Blue Lobelia - a close relative of Cardinal Flower. We often plant them together. They're supposed to be perennial but we never know whether they really will come back each year. We always plant new ones, just in case. They're one of the few plants our hummers eat - so we can't be without them..
Another of our hummingbirds' favorites is Scarlet Runner Bean...
It's an annual vine that we grow on a lattice near the back door. Hummers are rather territorial. If a fight breaks out over the Scarlet Runner Bean the loser flies around the house and consoles himself with the Cardinal Flowers up front. We try to keep the peace the best we can.
Not to be confused with Cardinal Flower is Cardinal Climber - yet another sure winner in our garden.
We never get around to starting the seeds early in the spring. We plant them right in the ground when the soil warms up. By late July in Cape May, the vines have started producing impressive amounts of red funnel shaped flowers. Our hummers go wild for them.
Beware - don't plant this vine near anything of a delicate nature - Cardinal Climber does indeed climb over everything in sight.
The Ipomopsis likewise has a will of its own. It reseeds itself every year. We never know where it will turn up.
But, because it is like red manna for our hummingbirds, we let it grow wherever it wants to.
Plant it and you can be sure the hummingbirds definitely will come.