The countdown has begun. For those migrant hummingbird residents heavily reliant on a hummingbird fix, we're only six weeks away from them starting to move north, and eight weeks away from them starting to appear on the Southern U.S. Coast. Right now I'm struggling with why I even live in a climate that reaches -30 Celsius and colder. This isn't the temperature where your tongue just freezes to the metal post, it's the temperature where your tongue falls off before it even reaches the post. So far it's been a very cold winter in my region, but Spring will arrive as it usually does, and many of us are just counting down the days.
It may seem a bit early to start thinking about flowers, but in reality many annuals require 12 to 16 weeks if you're starting them from seed until first flower. Depending on the type of system you have set up in your home, it may even take a little bit longer. Many wait until those April urges to start from seed, but then some of your plants may not bloom until well into the season. So right now is the time to consider which annuals need to be started in order to get a good head start for the upcoming season. All plants have their different growing speeds and may not even require starting them indoors. Some flowers shock very easily and don't do very well when transplanted. Personally, I've got a relatively small list that I repeat every year. With trial and error I've determined which annuals are proven hummingbird attractors in my region. I've selected them by how well they flower, how long they flower, and whether the hummingbirds love them. I no longer choose flowers for our benefit, but for the hummingbirds. I want every blooming flower in my garden to be worthy of return visits by our little friends. This is what will separate your garden from all the rest. You may have a garden full of roses, geraniums and poppies, but you'll have very few return visits. And while I talk about good choices of flowers, under no circumstances should you ignore the use of feeders. In springtime when the adult birds are moving north, flowers will get their attention, but feeders are their highest priority.
If you've collected seeds over the years, you'll understand the timeframe required in planting them, but if you're new to this you should read the seed packets carefully for planting instructions. Two types of seeds that must be started early are Million Bells and Petunias. They are among the smallest seeds and the slowest growing. It's also a good idea to start them early so that you have colours visible in order to coordinate some kind of planting theme, otherwise it may just be colour chaos, which sometimes looks good and natural.
Some seeds just require direct planting, such as Vining Nasturtiums and Scarlet Runners.
This young Ruby Throat found a few benefits to the Scarlet Runners. I was wondering where those beans were disappearing to. This was a distant capture of a young Ruby Throated hummingbird who thoroughly enjoyed these flowers. August 2016, N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta.
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.