When we first got our 3 acre parcel of land in the country it was nothing but a house surrounded by large towering maple trees and lilac bushes. The structure of the land was beautiful but it lacked so much to make it a hummingbird paradise. We had dreams of turning this piece of property into a dreamland for hummingbirds. They were large dreams and we had no idea how much work was ahead of us. When we bought the piece of property there was an agreement that it would be cleaned of all the junk that remained. When it was complete, he asked us if there was one last thing he could do to help. Our request was both a blessing and a curse. We asked if he could till the land that contained nothing but potatoes that had sprouted from the year before. Once tilled it was nothing but clean black soil. It was a clean slate ready for whatever we wanted to plant. Then came the curse. Two weeks later every seed of every kind of weed germinated. It was our worst nightmare. Three quarters of an acre grew faster than you could possibly imagine. If weeds were worth anything we'd be among the richest growers in the world. We spent countless hours weeding with a few hours mixed in of planning our garden. I wanted trails weaving in and out of the entire garden, with access to all areas, and slowly it started to take shape. We soon settled on a plan to only remove weeds when we had plants to fill the space. After 15 years it's still a work in progress, but looks entirely different from what it did at the start. After 15 years I've learned a lot, and here is the advice I would give to anyone about to tackle a project like we did - start with a small central area and work your way outward. This advice leads me to the point of this blog. Start in one small area, with a theme in mind. It doesn't have to be big, it just has to have one central theme. It can be a simple as a 4-foot square area in your garden containing nothing but succulents, then expand from there. Here are a few projects that we worked on over time. Some are just a few hours of work and some are several days, but don't get overwhelmed by the big picture. Plan the details of your immediate project and when you're done you'll feel the gratification. Do one project at a time, and over the years you will produce something worthy of your's and the bird's approval. In all of the projects shown, notice that there is one central theme. We have a fountain with a few antique items to complete that project, an iron drum and a matching iron wheel. A few flowers are planted around it along with some young seedlings that will be fully developed in no time.
In the next project we have a birdhouse. It doesn't seem like much, but within a very short time there will be flowers surrounding it to complete that small space.
Next is a rock path which was done by my wife in about 2 hours. Every flat stone or brick she could find was placed beautifully off our main trail to get to our garden shed. It cost virtually nothing and cleans up a space beautifully. Without this clean path the area would look unruly.
One of the most recent projects started was this little sitting area which is a short distance off the main path. Many lumber yards throw away the garbage tarps that wrap around the lumber. We cut a piece to fit the shape of the short trail leading to a sitting area with two smaller side tables which will contain annuals. The soil was scraped down just a few inches equal to that of the depth of the round stones to form the walkway. That old tarp was laid in with the edges punched into the ground with a shovel. The stones were laid to our satisfaction and then bark was placed between the stones. Perennials such as hostas and a few others were placed along the shape of the trail which are now starting to grow. Beyond those hostas are delphiniums. They are a hummingbird magnet like no other in my region. The delphiniums tower over most of the other perennials, but will surround the little sitting area perfectly. It will only improve on what we had last year with multiple hummingbirds constantly fighting for the nectar. This is our ultimate plan, to create multiple sitting areas around the garden, and then develop local areas condensed richly with flowers that the hummingbirds love. You'll be able to sit in any area of the garden and observe hummingbirds in their feeding, fighting and frenzies. Find out which flowers are big producers in your region of the continent and go heavy on them. Create one theme at a time in each little area, and eventually you will have a garden that no hummingbird will refuse.
Here are a few other small projects within our yard. This is another rock step path that leads down a slight hill to our raised garden of vegetables.
Next is a sitting area, one of my favorites that looks over the entire garden. It's a perfect sitting area located under a towering Maple tree for those hot sunny days.
This is the main path leading down into the garden. It was the start of all projects. It leads in and around all 3 acres of our property. And then we have a few views of the overall look into the garden. Every flower has its season, and as many of these start to fade, loads of others will begin. The ones that perform the best for hummingbirds are the ones we've loaded up on to be blooming just in time for when the young leave the nest.
It's quite remarkable how the bare grounds of Winter are quickly transformed into lush colorful gardens in just 6 weeks. In my zone 3 garden I'll show you a few flowers that brighten up the yard before the summer blooms. This is right in the city where space can be tight. You don't need a lot of space, you just need to take full advantage of all the space you have - No gaps between plants, just make sure you don't have an aggressive plant overtaking the smaller ones. Otherwise you may be doing a lot of trimming throughout the year to expose the smaller plants. Here is a view of my backyard. We have a small pond, a bridge to cross over to do a bit of maintenance and weeding, and another bridge at the far end going over a creek. All the rain we get goes into barrels. The overflow is not wasted, it goes into the pond which then overflows into a creek that runs to a dry bed at the far end.
Around the dry bed is where many of our Spring perennials are now starting to bloom. Columbine is a hardy zone 2 perennial in which there are many looks and colors to them. They oftentimes will cross pollinate and produce some magical creations. Here are just a few.
From the other end of the garden looking back, you can see our sitting area where we can get a clear multi-dimensional look from one end to the other. From this end, we have a gradual incline, and from the deck towards the dry bed it gradually slopes downhill. All the flowers are then visible from one end to the other.
Finally to make everything colorful throughout the season, Annuals. We place the annuals in pots on the deck. Annuals are continuous bloomers that give any garden an endless explosion of color. They will typically bloom right til frost and even after in some cases. All they need is a bit of fertilizer every few weeks and you're good for the summer. Happy gardening!
Much of the year I spend time attracting hummingbirds and other species to my garden. Please take some time to read and enjoy my blog. I hope it inspires you to build and create a beautiful place to attract birds of your own.