2016 proved to be one of the mildest Springs across Western Canada and one of the soggiest summers I've seen. I do have to say it was one of the nicest Springs I'd ever encountered. It did, however, create a conflict between the hummingbirds and the early perennials. Many of them emerged at least one month early, and as nice as it is to have Spring arrive in late February, it created some issues. With our hummingbird garden situated in a cold zone 2 region, I have to be quite selective in which perennials to plant. I think many of you already know that Delphiniums are my number one "go to" perennial. The issue with last Spring was that my Delphiniums were emerging in March. They looked healthy as ever, however, those beautiful talk stalks of flowers were in full bloom one month before the first young hummingbirds left the nest. I highly depend on these flowers to keep the young hummingbirds around my garden until the time that they learn how to use a feeders. It was very unfortunate that about 80% of my Delphiniums were finished blooming by this time. You can tell in the image that these last few waterlogged Delphiniums were just about done, and the young hummingbirds still could not resist them. But with less blooming, the hummingbirds made far more visits to these already drained flowers.
This is a really good reason why we should choose "great" flowers for every time throughout the season, and plant heavy on each. I've got about 10 favorites that I plant heavily, and they range in time from May through August. But the time that I focus on the most is when the first young hummingbirds leave the nest to the time they leave my region(that being Mid July to August 25th). Of course everyone's region will differ in times, but this is the best way to choose the right flowers for the perfect hummingbird garden.
I would suggest keeping a garden diary that tracks the blooming time of each and every perennial. Also, track the times and population of hummingbirds in your garden throughout the season. You'll soon find out which flowers are best suited for the peak hummingbird times, and plant heavily on those favorites the following year. Just understand that about 20% of the plants available will become their favorites. The others are just garden fillers, of which many simply act as attractors.
As much as I love Spring, I think I would rather have it arrive at the normal time. This would provide the most amount of flowering nutrition at just the right time for hummingbirds.
This young Ruby-throat had very few Delphiniums left in the garden to choose from, but every single one he remembered. When he did his rounds, he would lick up every last bit of sweet residue that remained on each flower.
July 2016, N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta.
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