Hummingbird Hill

My dad fills four large hummingbird feeders two times a day, regularly, no matter what. We have literally flocks of Anna's hummingbirds, and some Allen's and Rufous ones too - a lovely part of our life here. But I am a bit concerned about this growing, dependent population. The more they want, the more they get. My dad has a soft heart.

So I've been planting hummingbird plants on the slope between my dad's cottage and the driveway. So far - Lots of penstemons.

And for September blooms, California fuschia - our local indigenous ones that I've propagated.

I'll be filling in with other things as time goes by.

There is also Mexican sage - I'm not sure of the botanical name - a few things are known as Mexican sage. It's been here since before us, and survived years of neglect. At first I thought it was called Sylvia (rather than salvia) - so ignorant was I when I came here of all things garden.

This area has been neglected and has been a yearly weedfest. The ground tends to be hard when dry - sandy clay. You may recall that we had a good go at it earlier this year and put in some stone steps and a low retaining wall - actually just boulders piled two high at the base of the slope. But it's made all the difference. It's really starting to look like a garden. And Duncan approves of his steps!

Of course summer is NOT the best time to plant. Fall is. I will have to give them some water since I'm planting in summer, but I don't think they'll take too much before they are established - and these are all (Mimulus cardinalis excepted) pretty drought tolerant.

But you do what you can when you can - and when the plants are on sale. Yesterday I went to the Garden Faire in Scotts Valley near closing time - and Native Revival, a native plant nursery in Soquel, were selling their remaining gallon plants for $5 each!

So I got more of what I had bought last weekend, totaling roughly as follows:

2 Mimulus cardinalis (I put them elsewhere)
6 Penstemon Barbatus ‘Jingle Bells’
5 Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Catherine de la Mar’
2 Penstemon heterophyllus 'Margarita BOP'
3 Penstemon 'Red Riding Hood'
3 Penstemon Gloxinoides 'Midnight Blue'
5 Achillea millefolium ‘Salmon Beauty’
5 Achillea millefolium ‘Red Velvet’
4 Armeria

As the Native Revival salesperson advised me, Jingle Bells (and maybe some of the others) is not really a California native - it's a selection of a penstemon that's native to the west, though. This is an ornamental and wildlife-supporting garden, not part of my restoration efforts. So I'm OK with that. Non hybridizing and non invasive ornamental plants with wildlife value are OK with me around our home.
The Achillea - yarrow - is more of a butterfly plant. I just like it. And the armeria were cute.

I also poked the little bits of succulents I got for a dollar a pop at one of the gardens on the native plant tour on June 12 into crevices of the boulders. They are not native, just fun. I'm curious to see if they will thrive or not.

There's a variety of them. And one big aeonium flat thing. Cool!

Also from my spring planting, there is a grevillea - Australian native - that I hope will grow tall and provide a focal point - and hummingbird food - and some red hot poker, courtesy of Town Mouse -

And some matilija poppy. And some sticky monkey flower. There are also some little madia plants growing wild, and a coyote brush bush, and bunch grasses that just grew there, local natives all. And nestled among them, a spreading manzanita, planted a long time ago.

I moved one of the two chalk dudleyas I planted in containers over near the pretty blue hose container. I kept one dudleya in its pot - I want to see if anything munches the exposed one before risking the other one. And a couple little succulents I bought from Nicky of Gold Rush Nursery, who was selling at a garden on the native plant tour - Dudleya edulis - San Diego dudleya, or lady fingers, or string bean plant - lots of names!

And what's this - a startled fence lizard -

And a new hole - not there an hour ago I'm sure. Did it want to lay eggs in that hole? I'm not sure...

So - the sun went down, and I sprayed with liquid fence - and crossed my fingers. So far, so good. A few penstemons got nibbled from the planting I did a couple weeks ago.

Well, the plants I popped in here are a half-thought-through assortment. But I like it, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all goes. I think that things in a garden hit a critical point, then they turn the corner. I don't know how many years I have spent fruitlessly chasing weeds here and not really getting a grip. Until you get a significant number of plants going, it's just a depressing, losing battle. But now I feel optimistic!


Country Mouse said…
Had I had more time to spend on this post I'd have provided more info on what to provide in a hummingbird friendly garden. Maybe a follow up is in order. In general, tubular flowers are good. And it's good to provide plants that bloom at different times of the year.
Christine said…
It's funny, the plant selection seems very English gardeney with all the Penstemons and little Armerias popping up here and there. The space has changed so much in such a short amount of time! I've found that the hummingbirds like Malacothamnus, although it quickly becomes a gigantic shrub.
Country Mouse said…
Funny you should mention Malacothamnus - I did get one, and then read that it can be a thug in the garden. So it's sitting in its pot still... maybe in a large container? - might look nice semi buried into the hill at one end... And could shade the cottage which gets overly hot. Hmmm.... Funny you should say it's Englishy - I had not thought of that - I guess it's hard to lose one's cultural roots indeed! I like the idea though, of an Englishy California nativey garden!
Sue Langley said…
It's nice to see how your garden is growing! Our garden club had some hummingbird experts come and they said if you have TWO feeders being emptied in TWO days then you have 250 himmingbirds feeding. I'm not good at math but your Dad has beaucoup hummers visiting!

Love penstamons as much as i like plant sales,..I like the Las Pilitas Nursery site because they say you can plant in any season and give instructions for summer planting.

Your grevillia looks like my poker plant. Pretty!
Country Mouse said…
Sue - that makes 600 hummers, and I believe it. 24 'seats' and mostly all filled with birds waiting!

BTW, Sue- that IS the poker - the grevillea is a baby right now, and I didn't get a shot of it.

Town Mouse says she may do a follow up on hummingbird plants :-)
Sue Langley said…
I would like to cut down on how much I feed the hummingbirds...someone referred to it as providing them with crack and I can't get that image out of my mind. Poor birds!
If I plant hummingbird plants in the view of our windows where we have watched them come to the feeders we'd see just as many, maybe. I'd love to read more of what you write about them!
James said…
The slope looks like a perfect location--nicely sloped--for your dudleyas. I've lost two I put in a flat spot. It'll be an interesting test to see whether hummers raised on crackwater will pay attention to flowers that must be more work that what they get straight from a feeder. My neighbors have a feeder that pulls them in by the dozens, but my garden gets regular visits from at least some of the neighbor's birds. Good to know that some of them are interested in eating organic.